Learning Korean in Japanese

Hey everyone!

I just bought the できる韓国語 series Korean language books and plan on starting to learn Korean on the 1st of January.

I wanted to ask if anyone has used the laddering technique to learn Korean with Japanese and what experience they had.

(the laddering technique with languages is when you use a previously studied language to learn a new one. This is beneficial when both of the languages are very similar such as Korean/Japanese or French/Spanish etc. Since Korean is closer to Japanese than English, it would be easier to learn it through Japanese)

Thank you for your help.

(Sorry if this was posted in the wrong section)


I haven’t done this, but I know that George Trombley (creator of Japanese From Zero and Korean From Zero) has done this. I’m sure he has talked about this on his YouTube channel at some point.


Oh nice! I didn’t know about him, I’ll check it out thank you


I think this might fit better in ‘Campfire’ since the target language is Korean, not Japanese. I think you can change the section even after posting since you’re the thread-starter. Don’t worry too much about it though. :slight_smile:

I guess I’m not really the sort of person you’re looking for. There are people on these forums who are learning Korean as well, but I have no idea if they’re using Japanese to do so. However… well, I learnt Japanese and German through French, and my native languages are English (primary) and Mandarin (secondary), so you could say I have some experience. I’ve also studied Spanish, but the course I used was written in English. (I bought it back when I was starting advanced French, meaning I wasn’t proficient enough to use French as a medium of study.)

In all honesty, I don’t know if this should even be called a ‘technique’. To me, it feels like a name someone came up with to make it seem like using an acquired language to learn another one should be seen as something ‘special’, whereas in reality, it’s just a matter of being sufficiently proficient in the acquired language. ‘Techniques’ are things that can be broken down into methods and applied, whereas learning a new language using a previously acquired one is simply a course of action that could occur in absolutely any fashion. There’s no doubt that doing ‘laddering’ is often seen as an impressive feat, but I doubt that the benefits only exist – or are maximised – when using a related language as a medium for acquiring a target language. I don’t mean to offend, but I’d like to know if you’ve seen evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) that ‘laddering’ using related languages is the optimal approach.

With regard to the advantages and disadvantages of using a related language as a medium of study for a new language…

  • Structural similarities are often obvious
  • Analogies are more easily drawn
  • Deductions and intuitive guesses are facilitated


  • Possible over-reliance on similarities to understand the new language
  • Danger of employing calques (direct translations of known expressions in the base language) in the target language due to a subconscious assumption that everything works the same way
  • Possible confusion and cross-language swapping when encountering similar words and expressions that exist in both languages
  • Particularly significant risk, though it may not apply to you: If you’re not yet sufficiently fluent in the acquired language, you may not notice nuances that native speakers would pick up on in explanatory text and translations, leading to an incomplete understanding of certain expressions in the new language and in the worst case, to inappropriate use of expressions that may be seen as awkward or offensive. (This is the reason I refused to study Spanish using French even though my French proficiency was rising quite rapidly at the time.)

These are factors that you’ll have to account for in the process. At the same time, using an unrelated language isn’t without its dangers: for example, calques can still pop up in your usage, if only because you used the unrelated language to help you think through how the new language works. I had some trouble with that after learning Japanese because I kept trying to use what I knew about tenses in other languages to help me work out things like 〜ていた, especially by association with the imperfect tense in French and the continuous tenses in English, particularly since my textbook included translations in French. The problem was that the Japanese 進行 forms don’t map perfectly to tenses in any other language I speak, so I was stuck for a bit. Reading a Japanese study about tense revealed that the Japanese concept of tense is different from the European concept of tense: the frame of reference in Japanese changes according to the person who’s picturing the action, whereas European languages use the present as an absolute reference point. I have a feeling that I might have been able to work things out using Mandarin, but I’m not used to translating between Mandarin and Japanese, so my Mandarin tense knowledge isn’t crossing the language barrier.

I have no idea if anything I’ve said is useful (I hope at least some of it is), but if I were to get to the point… I think it’s more important to do something that you feel works for you i.e. which allows you to learn quickly while enjoying yourself. As far as ‘laddering’ goes, I don’t know how many languages you’ve tried tackling so far, but I think – based on my experience anyway – that it’s more important to grasp the essence of how laddering is supposed to be beneficial: making learning new languages intuitive by building on past knowledge. I can read certain Spanish news articles with little help because I speak French and I know some Latin. Kanji combinations are often intuitive for me because I’m used to associating concepts with each other and deducing what they mean because of Mandarin. German sentence structure was easier for me to grasp once I started considering how sentences work in Shakespearean English, and I’m fairly comfortable with Japanese verbs being at the end of the sentence because both German and Latin have sentences like that, especially Latin. The key to using these ideas isn’t ‘laddering’ or actively referring to related languages: it’s pattern recognition. I have some sense of how pronunciation changes from Mandarin to Japanese on’yomi, and from Latin to modern Romance languages, so it’s not like I don’t use related languages to help me, but the fundamental force driving all this pattern recognition is a desire to structure things and to make knowledge intuitive. It’s about asking why a language works in a certain way and asking yourself if that sort of functioning exists in other languages. It’s OK to make guesses and come up with theories as long as they seem to match the facts and you’re willing to change them if reality proves them wrong. That’s how you’ll be able to make connections even if you’re not using a related language as a medium of study.

Final thought: yes, Japanese and Korean are potentially related, and are at the very least grammatically similar, so you might be able to use Japanese to help you. My Swedish friend told me about a friend who had a great time picking up Korean during a school trip to Korea because she had already studied Japanese, allowing her to notice many similarities. You’ll have to look out for differences though: for example, if I’m not wrong, Japanese uses a relative honorific system, meaning you raise or lower the status of someone or something depending on who you’re addressing. Korean uses an absolute honorific system, meaning that status is fixed. I don’t know how exactly it works, but that’s an example of the subtle differences between related languages that might trip you up if they’re not clearly explained by your textbook. In any case, all the best! :slight_smile:


Thank you for taking the time to reply! I agree that the “Laddering technique” isn’t a technique at all, I simply used that word as that’s what is used to refer to using an acquired language to learn the next one.

I have already made the choice to ladder Korean with Japanese as that is what worked for me with English/Norwegian and I guess perhaps French/Spanish (French being my mother tongue).
I’m very confident in my level of proficiency in Japanese to be able to, like you said, find the nuances in the explanations. And if in doubt, I can further research on Google or through Youtube if a grammar point is not fully understood.
However, the main reason I wanted to ladder Korean with Japanese was so that I could still practice Japanese at the same time. If I had chosen the English textbooks route, I would have had to find time beside my Korean studies to keep my Japanese level sharp, which wouldn’t have been possible since I already study full-time and work part-time.

Anyways, the point of my question was to find the difficulties and confusions that people who have learned Korean through Japanese encountered. Perhaps false similarities, similar sounding vocabulary that has completely different meanings, wanting to speak with a Japanese intonation etc. :wink:

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I figured this might be it. That’s what I meant by doing something that ‘works’ for you. :smile:

For what it’s worth, I find that using Chinese knowledge to help with vocabulary and a certain portion of how Japanese works hasn’t caused me any major problems, although there are some words with a specific meaning in Japanese that doesn’t exist in Chinese. I guess there shouldn’t be any major issues doing the same with Japanese and Korean as long as you look out for differences. The only ‘similar-sounding word’ example I can think of now is daehwa: it sounds like では in Japanese, but it actually means ‘conversation’ (like 対話). I came across it in a YouTube discussion. Anyway, I hope someone with more relevant experience comes along soon. :slightly_smiling_face: It should be fun to compare the two languages and cultures.

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I’ve started doing it with Mandarin and Korean. I don’t really do it because I think it will make Korean / Mandarin easier. I do it because it will make my Japanese better while also allowing me to learn new things. A lot of times we lack opportunities to use Japanese for growth or understanding of topics outside of Japanese, but this is actually a very important part of mastering the language. Laddering is just a way to help me “live” in the language more.


Yes I wanted to ladder for the same reason! I feel like my Japanese proficiency will improve ten folds by being forced to understand and think in both Japanese and Korean.

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I recently started giving Korean a go, and I thought that I’d share a Japanese youtube channel that I found that seems promising: 楽韓_TanoKan.

I’ve only watched a few of the videos in the 超入門 playlist, but it’s already straightened out a bunch of things that had been confusing me when I was just learning to read hangul by my lonesome.

As for laddering itself, it’s not really a strategy I’m following as a rule (I started learning French using English a few years after starting Japanese), but when it comes to Korean in particular I think that there are a lot of aspects that’ll make a lot more sense if explained in Japanese (or at least from a Japanese perspective). Mostly due to the similarity of the grammar and the plethora of common Chinese loan words.

And also it’ll give me some bonus Japanese practice.


I think the same way! It’s a win win as you can start learning a new language without getting worse at the previous one. お互いに頑張ろうね!


I just bought the できる韓国語 books myself! I’ve been enjoying strolling through the contents and learning the new linguistic terms in Japanese (I only just got the books last night). Incidentally, does anyone know a good translation for 平音 , 激音, 韓鮮 or 古有語数詞? (you can tell I’m having a lot of fun with these OwO)

So, how’s your progress going? Has anyone else started doing this too? I’m hoping to find a lot of decent Korean language Youtubers. There’s so many for Japanese, but I’ve only found a few that are useful for Korean, like Minji. What else have you been using?

Very interested in this topic ! I also want to learn Korean later, but when I at least pass the N2 level in Japanese (taking N3 this december). So please keep us informed on how it´s going ! Cause if I learn Korean in English I won´t have anymore time for Japanese since I work and learn German after work. :slight_smile:


I’m writing N3 this December, too! All the best :slight_smile:

Also, @PlumeTone I’ve never heard of this before and I’m eager to try it now. I’ve wanted to learn korean too so I think I’ll give it a try after I write (and hopefully pass) the N3

I’m surprised this topic has been revived! I’m glad people are finding interest in learning Korean with Japanese.

As for my progress, I’m almost done with the second book in the できる韓国語 series and I have no reason to stop. The books are well structured and the grammar points are presented in a logical way. They also take great care in pointing out nuances with grammar, vocabulary, written language vs spoken language and 敬語.

I’ve been doing 2 new chapters a week, and doing all the exercises for those 2 new chapters every day of the week. If I haven’t mastered the 2 chapters by the end of the week, I keep doing the exercises everyday until I’m satisfied and ready to move on.

I also started working at a Korean supermarket, and I get a lot of input/output of the language so that helps a lot.


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