This is a question that many people approach before beginning Japanese. They search online for the answer to this prevalent question that has been asked thousands of times before this, and analyze the comparisons between the 2 languages that people provide on discussion boards.
Now I could do something similar. I had spent a good amount of effort learning Chinese before I realized that I was dividing my time too thinly with a 3rd language. However, the problem with this comparison is that it would be based on factors that vary too greatly among individuals to serve any real purpose.
If you’ve never asked yourself this question before choosing a language, it is probably because you had more interest in the country, culture, people, and media of the language, making the choice obvious.
If you are one of the people who is asking this question, you probably are after an answer to a more particular question, and that is the question I will answer with this post:
Which language will result in the greatest economic rewards (aka which will make me more $$$)?
China has the world’s largest population, has already surpassed Japan as the world’s 2nd largest economy, and is on it’s way to number 1 in the next few decades. China is the future of industry, jobs, and the international scene. If you want to have an edge in your career and start bringing in the bucks, you need Chinese.
Japan has a shrinking economy and population. Large companies are being sued left and right, they are falling behind other countries in areas of technology they used to dominate, and there are not many jobs that require Japanese. Learning Japanese is fun, but will not result in any real money, so do it only if you love it.
If the above is true, which it mostly is, Chinese seems the favored champion. But why isn’t it?
1. China has the largest population in the world. You are competing with a lot more people who speak native Chinese.
2. Chinese like to immigrate. Japanese, not so much. Same problem as #1.
3. Chinese are better at English than Japanese are at English. I’m sure there is some in depth reason behind this due to the educational system and a variety of factors. This leads to #4.
4. Chinese people conduct way more business in English than Japanese people do. This is due to skill, pride, and preference.
5. An extremely higher number of people are studying Chinese over Japanese.
The answer is Japanese. Remember, Japan still has a massive economy, is at the forefront of the technology sector, and has no shortage of career opportunities for foreigners proficient in Japanese.
Trust me, you will stand out where it matters.
*Remember though that the real answer is to not choose a language based on how much monetary value you think it’ll provide you.