Japanese & Chinese = CONFUSION!

Japanese and Chinese are so similar, i have to remind myself that ‘toe’ is ‘toe’ and not ‘bo’ which is what ‘toe’ is in chinese. But learning chinese, has made kanji so much easier, with a few exceptions(like ‘toe’). I just started Japanese, so I was wondering if anyone has some tips to keep my Chinese and Japanese separate?

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Interestingly enough the people I know who know both all have said it wasn’t a problem at all.

It sounds like you’re still very new so maybe the two will separate naturally in your mind.


I’m not an expert but in college, there used to be a rule, they won’t let you study two languages under level 3 at the same time, (that is at least a year of study)

if you’ve already been studying Chinese for more than a year, then the differences should pop up by themselves the more you get into Japanese.

I wish you the very best in this journey of yours

I hope to learn Chinese myself someday

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Sounds like Pinyin and Romaji problems? For Japanese, it’s pretty easy to use Hiragana instead. You might have to read and listen for a while to activate the sense for new symbols. Hiragana pretty much appears in every materials now or in the future, anyway.

Another thing to do to separate Hanzi and Kanji is, thinking in vocabularies first, rather than characters.

I don’t think grammar has that much overlap, but having energy and attention to learn both or not is another question.

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I feel your pain. Trust me, you’ll start to get much better with it as time goes on. Definitely start using hiragana instead of romaji if you aren’t already. But yeah, exposure exposure exposure! Your mind needs to adjust to another language, but with hiragana & katakana mixed in with kanji your mind should HOPEFULLY start to distinguish the two once you get into the swing of things. Good luck!

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I feel like @Jonapedia may have some insights to share here ^-^

While I’m here…

\textcolor{pink}{\huge \textsf{WELCOME! ^-^}}

welcome gif - crabigator

Take the time to check out the FAQ and GUIDE if you haven’t already.

There’s also a lot of good stuff on the forum to help you, like:

The Ultimate Guide for WK
The Ultimate Additional Japanese Resource List
The New and Improved List of API and Third-Party Apps

I hope your Japanese learning journey goes well and that you enjoy your time with us on the forums.


Hello! Thanks for the tag!

If you’re talking about this

Then yeah, it’s ‘bo’ (neutral tone) or ‘bǔ’ (third tone) depending on what word you’re using it in/what meaning it has. But thing is… in Japanese, it’s only ‘to’ as the katakanaト. As a standalone kanji, it’s not read that way at all (and ト as katakana is actually a fragment of 止 – again, not a kanji, just a bit). It’s ぼく (sound like bǔ? Because that’s the reading – for the meaning ‘divination’ – it’s related to) or うらなう (a verb meaning ‘to divine’).

My tip – which also makes learning Japanese readings significantly easier – is to see how Chinese readings transform into Japanese readings. For example, a lot of fourth-tone words in Chinese end in some sharp-sounding sound in Japanese, like く, き or つ. I wrote a whole post about the similarities, so take a look if you want:

This stuff only applies to on’yomi though, because those are the readings related to Chinese. For native Japanese readings (kun’yomi)? Doesn’t matter.

The other two things you should keep in mind about Chinese being different from Japanese:

  1. Chinese has tones. Japanese doesn’t. There’s pitch accent, but that’s not the same. You will never have to learn a Japanese reading with a specific tone in mind. In Chinese, you must remember the right tone in order to sound correct, even if people will be able to understand you with enough context, even with the wrong tone. (We also have lots of common incorrect tones though, so don’t sweat it if it’s wrong.)
  2. Chinese sentence structure is closer to what you have in European languages. Chinese is still subject-verb-object, though it also has particles and tends to be topic-prominent like Japanese (as a native Chinese & English speaker, は’s function was intuitive for me). Japanese is most like Latin (subject-object-verb), and not any of the most famous modern European languages.

In essence, more often than not, you’ll find that your Chinese and Japanese kanji/hanzi knowledge are interchangeable. The main things to look out for are (on’yomi + pure kanji) words that don’t exist in both languages, but rather only one, and nuances that don’t exist in both languages (e.g. 適当 in Chinese only means ‘suitable’, though it can be euphemistic, whereas in Japanese, 適当 can very regularly mean ‘bare-minimum, irresponsible’). Other than that, the two languages are different enough that there shouldn’t be too many issues. They share quite a lot of history and culture (even if neither side really likes to admit it), so actually, you can use one to understand quite a lot of the ideas of the other (the number of Chinese proverbs I’ve seen translated into Japanese…). So yeah, it’s more an advantage than a disadvantage to learn both. Granted, I’m a native speaker of one of the two, so maybe it’s easier for me, but I don’t think you should worry too much. Ganbatte!


I’m a simple man:

I see a Chines+Japanese question an I tag you, hehe


Japanese + Chinese = CONFUCIUS


(I’m sorry, but my younger brother used to tell me these jokes aaaalll the time)


I am not sure if 訓読み or 音読み is the Chinese reading of a kanji

The Chinese reading is 音読み, the ones that are merely “sounds” (音) with no inherent meaning, from the perspective of the Japanese people borrowing them into the language.

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I keep forgetting which one is which

That’s why I tried to include a means of remembering the difference.


I understand

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