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On the other hand, some Japanese words and word endings are easier to read than Chinese ones as they're written phonetically with hiragana or katakana, whereas all Chinese words are written with hanzi. If you don't know the pronunciation of the hanzi, you can only guess it based on similar hanzi you do know. Chinese word order is closer to that of English, and other European languages to some extent, whereas Japanese word order has a closer resemblance to that of Korean, Mongolian and the Turkic languages.

So for English speakers, Chinese is easier than Japanese from this aspect. Chinese grammar is generally considered a lot easier to learn than Japanese. Chinese is an isolating language, even more so than English, with no verb conjugations, noun cases or grammatical gender. Moreover plurals are only used to a limited extent and are often optional.

Japanese is a agglutanative language with numerous verb, noun and adjective conjugations.

Fix Your Chinese Grammar in 60 Minutes

Japanese pronunciation is probably easier to learn than Chinese. Japanese uses a limited number of phonemes and has no tones. Japanese words do have different intontation patterns though which need to be learnt to ensure that people can understand you. Only a few Japanese words are distinguished by intontation though, so if you get it wrong, you'll probably still be understand. Chinese has a larger inventory of phonemes and each syllable has its own tone. Pronouncing a syllable with the wrong tone can change its meaning.

Most varieties of Chinese other than Mandarin have more phonemes and tones - there are six or seven tones in Cantonese and eight in Taiwanese for example. It depends on how much time you're able to put into your studies, how often you practise using the language, and the degree to which you are immersed in it. It is possible to acquire basic conversational fluency, i. To acquire native-like fluency in a language is likely to take longer.

If your aim is to read a new language, you could learn to do so within a few months, if you are able to do plenty of regular study and practise.


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However acquiring the ability to read the new language as comfortably as your own will probably take quite a while longer. Learning to read Chinese or Japanese takes considerably longer than other languages as there are many more symbols to memorise. To acquire native-like abilities in understanding, speaking, reading and writing a language, as well as an understanding of the culture of those who speak it, could take anything from five years to a lifetime. Listed below are the languages with the most speakers.

If you choose to learn one of these, you will have plenty of people to talk to! These figures show the approximate total number of speakers for each language, including native and second language speakers. They do not include the numbers of people who have learnt them as foreign languages. Please contact me with your suggestions for other questions you'd like to see answered here.

If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free. If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donation , or by contributing in other ways. Omniglot is how I make my living. This is also related to the previous question. Depending on your profession, it could be quite daunting to learn Cantonese as a language.

To top that off, knowing two to three languages really well, maybe even to a near native level, is much more achievable than knowing six, seven or more languages equally well to a near native level. This means that if you know how equivalent words are pronounced, you will be able to learn cognates very quickly. This also means that your time spent learning will be considerably shortened compared to learners who do not speak one of these languages.

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So if you have an Asian language under your belt, it can be considerably easier to learn Cantonese. I say this because Cantonese is a tonal language. Unlike most other languages in the world, every word that you learn in Cantonese will consist of four parts: 1 the characters; 2 the romanization; 3 the tones; 4 the meaning. And getting the tones wrong can sometimes prevent other people from being able to understand you correctly. That said, this represents an extreme minority of learners.

Difficulty 1 — Chinese characters are not phonetic

Everyone, to a certain extent, has musical ability, and the stronger your musical affinity, the better you will fare with tonal languages. So these are the seven questions I recommend you consider before taking on the commitment to learn Cantonese. If you feel that you are capable of doing more, then by all means, please do so!

Just understand that my intentions are to give you a realistic picture of what the journey looks like in the long term, based on my learning and teaching experiences, with the hopes that this guide will serve as a realistic roadmap for you. Picking a language for success. Essential questions before learning a language. Why learn another language. My personal belief is that the first thing technical wise we need to do when learning a new language is pronunciation.

There are two parts in Cantonese when it comes to pronunciation: romanization and tones. Fortunately, for English speakers and possibly for speakers of many other languages , Cantonese is fairly easy to pronounce, because most of the sounds in Cantonese that can be produced already exist in English. Tones, however, can be a bit tricky. Any work you add on top of that will be a huge bonus that native speakers will surely come to appreciate.

The initial stage of learning a language is communication.

Chinese for Beginners

And it only stands to reason that our accent should accurately reflect the increased depth in our knowledge. At the higher levels of language learning, I feel having a decent accent becomes more important. Even if someone were to be very eloquent, a strong accent can give the false impression that the person is not as accomplished in that language, which is a shame.

I believe that pronunciation practice comes in stages:. And it means that in a very literal sense — you literally copy word after word, or at a higher level, phrase after phrase after the native speaker. I apologize for the inconvenience, but in the meanwhile, please consider visiting this chart with a desktop browser.

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Nowadays, the most popular systems in use are Jyutping and Yale. While you might find many older textbooks using Yale, more publications are adopting Jyutping as the de facto romanization system.

Hopefully, this will serve as a gentle, but comprehensive introduction to romanization and how Cantonese tones work. When it comes to language learning, I think the common view is that grammar is one of the most boring and tedious things to wade through in the process. That means that you can rejoice in the fact that you can say goodbye to conjugation tables, gender agreements at least while learning Cantonese.

It does have certain rules, but these rules are simpler and fewer when compared to other languages. For me, I recommend gaining a basic understanding of grammar. I understand some people are opposed to studying grammar. My views are a bit more conservative. An incorrect understanding of those basic rules mean that sentences degrade to a collection of words, and we as learners are prone to making the same basic mistakes over and over again. I reckon that to read through 20 — 30 explanations on different structures, it should take about 2 months if you read at a fairly leisurely pace and get a bit of practice.

It seems like I went on a longer tangent than I thought. So, with a grammar resource, I recommend tackling structures the following way:.