Don’t Think about Others’ Study Advantages

Going into studying Japanese, we all wish we had a jump start. Something that gives us an edge that others don’t have. Something that would allow us to accelerate faster than others. And good news. Without ever having to do anything, you fall into one of three groups that has a built in advantage for learning Japanese.

Who Has The Most Unfair Japanese Study Advantage

1. The Kanji Advantage

Are you native Chinese, half-Chinese, or even fluent in Chinese? Can you read Hanzi?

You know that the Japanese writing system came from the Chinese writing system. You already know all the characters, can write them, and know their meanings.

Imagine starting Japanese already knowing Kanji.


Japanese characters and the compounds they make often have completely different meanings and nuance than their Chinese version. Even where the meanings are the same, the pronunciation is almost always different.

This means that whenever a Chinese person sees a Japanese word, that is also a Chinese word, they have to break the habit of thinking to the Chinese meaning, and then break the habit of thinking to the Chinese pronunciation.

2. The Katakana Loan Word Advantage

Is your native language English, or are you fluent in English?

You know all those thousands and thousands of foreign loan words Japanese uses? You know them. And katakana is easy. So not only can you read the katakana, but you have a Japanese vocabulary in the thousands before you ever even start studying.

You even have a technique where if you don’t know how to say a word in Japanese, you say the English word with Japanese pronunciation, and you have a chance on hitting the actual word.


The pronunciations are often very different, making you have to willingly say a word the Japanese way, which goes against your initial impulse.

Many words completely change their meaning when turned into their Japanese version. Many words also come from other languages like French, German, Spanish, etc. You sometimes see a word you think that you should know but it turns out to not be of English origin.

3. The Fresh Advantage

You don’t know Chinese. You don’t know English (okay, you probably aren’t reading this website).

While this seems like you have no advantage at all, this also means you don’t have any of the downfalls.

No kanji habits to break. No meaning habits to break. No pronunciation habits to break. Everything is seen for the first time, and there are no connections to your own language holding you back.

The moral of the story?

Don’t be jealous of perceived advantages that others have that you don’t. All of them come with a cost.

Out of three groups above, ignoring all other implications and focusing solely on the effect it would have on your Japanese, which would you rather fall into?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Don’t Think about Others’ Study Advantages — 14 Comments

  1. I’d take the “katakana loan word advantage,” but if I could choose something not in this list, I’d want the “in love with Japanese culture advantage.”

    • I think anyone would be happy to have the love Japanese culture advantage. But have you ever really met anyone who didn’t?

  2. The best advantage is the person who already has very strong self-discipline ;) that way he doesn’t need to build it for japanese, it’s already there! Haha, that’s something you can improve though, but it’s the only advantage without any downfall I would say. That and it’s not something that is decided the second you are born, although it can be very influenced by how your parents raised you.

    • Yea I would say that is something you earned, which of course is way more important than a default advantage you are already provided with.

  3. As for the “very strong self-discipline” advantage, there is no such thing. We have to exercise our self-discipline every day. It’s the only way to build it and keep it. But I agree with you, Darkskilling, it helps if you have made a lifelong habit of self-discipline, even thought it takes daily work to hold onto it.

  4. There’s also the Korean speaker advantage. Korean grammar is mostly the same as Japanese which makes it easier to learn for native Korean speakers.

  5. For the Kanji advantage one, native Chinese people/anyone fluent in is has an obvious advantage. I’m not sure, since I’m not Korean myself, but native Korean WRITERS (speaking has nothing to do with this) know some Chinese characters. (Called Hanja in Korea) I believe that students learn some Hanja in school, but the use of Hangul is becoming more popular as the years go on.

    • I also have heard from friends that grammar-wise (sentence order) is similar in Korean so there is also that advantage.

  6. Unrelated to the article but does anyone know who the man is in the picture? What tv show he might be from or whatnot? I saw him for quite a long time, always in the same spot and position but never could see cameras or anything. And I was never around to see him leave. He remains a mystery.

  7. I’m pretty lucky because I get to be in both the first and second categories! But kanji has a lot of both traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese so writing will still be a problem as I don’t know both

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