~Reading Confusion~

November 05, 2009, 11:10 PM posted in General Discussion

I want to learn Chinese but I speak and read Japanese so I often confuse the meanings of characters in my head. For example in Japanese 勉強 or 勉强 (simplified Chinese) means to study, however in Chinese it means to manage to do something difficult or force someone to do something. While there might be an amusing relationship between the two ideas (for those of us who hate studying) the meanings are pretty different. I love finding the differences and similarities between Japanese and Chinese characters and since Japanese ones are much closer to the traditional Chinese characters I can read them without much effort. However for simply studying Chinese on its own and trying to read is difficult and I'd imagine the difficulty will only increase once I get above a beginner level. Anyone have a similar problem or advice? I'd greatly appreciate any feedback!

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November 06, 2009, 01:15 AM

Hi ichikawamakoto, as a fellow Japanese my experience is--it helps first of all that the sound of the word is often so different; you can't not become aware at that point, when you learn how to read it. How familiar are you with pinyin? Not too seldom I hear of Japanese learners who don't bother to get pinyin down properly, apparently because they're lazy and try to read everything in 音読み on-yomi which are based on the 吴?(not sure about this) pronunciations, which of course is bogus and completely self-defeating.

But yes, it is endlessly interesting for me too. I find that I have been learning a lot about Japanese through Chinese. Good luck in your studies!

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November 06, 2009, 02:37 AM

Hi zhenlijiang

Most currently-used Japanese onyomi-sounds (音读) are called "汉音" (kan-on), and they are based on middle/late Middle Chinese sounds (中古音) mainly used in 长安 (= 西安) in Tang dynasty (唐朝, 618-907).

On the one hand, Japanese go-on sounds (呉音) are originated in early Middle Chinese sounds, which were used in southern Chinese regions before the 6th century. 呉音 are often used in "old words" and Buddhist terms.

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November 06, 2009, 02:45 AM

See? I learned about Japanese again. And of course it would have to be from the Tang dynasty, duh. Thanks as always Changye!

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November 06, 2009, 01:24 PM

Hi Ichikawamakoto-san

Don't worry. Learning simplified Chinese characters is just easy for us Japanese. At least, it may be said that learning 简体字 is easier than learning Japanese kanji. Basically 简体字 has only one (or two) readings (of course there're some exceptions), while almost all the kanji characters have several readings, which is just a  nightmare for foreign learners (and even for us native japanese).

As for words such as a "勉强/勉強" thing, actually they are absolutely NOT obstacles for learning Mandarin. On the contrary, that is one of the most interesting parts for Japanese when learning Mandarin. As you might already know, 愛人 means "concubine/mistress" in Japanese, and "husband/wife/lover" in Chinese. That's just surprising and interesting, which enables you to easily remember the difference and proper usage.

On the other hand, one of the most confusing things for Japanese learners should be some words that have similar meanings in both languages. Let me take "変更" as an exmaple. This word means "change" both in Chinese and in Japanese, but unlike Japanese "変更" (hen-kou), Chinese "变更" (bian4geng1) is a rather formal word. Chinese people usually use "改变", like 改变计划, instead of "变更".

You can do it ................ perhaps.