From Chinese to Japanese – Conquering Both Together — 11 Comments

  1. I think I have you beat in the age department– my seventeenth birthday is next month. (^^♪
    Thank you for your inspiring story! I especially resonate with your point about Anki being a good tool for grammar and vocabulary, but not the end-all for language learning. When I last went to Japan in July of 2015 (I was approaching level 30, but not quite there), I only did Anki and little to no reading or immersion. My introvertedness doesn’t help, but I remember stumbling over saying 「うどんをひとつください」or something like that at the little corner noodle shop at our gate in the Sendai Airport. 恥ずかしい〜

    As you pointed out, character appearances can be different across Mandarin and Japanese without changing the inherent meaning, but are there any kanji or jukugo that you can think of off the top of your head that look the same in both languages, but have different meanings?

    • I think I have you beat in the age department- my 15th birthday is 再来月 (in English it sounds awkward)

    • Biggest one I can think of is 娘 – means ‘daughter’ in Japanese but ‘older woman’ in Mandarin. Also, 安 usually means ‘peace’ in Mandarin, but the first time you see it in Japanese it means ‘cheap.’

      There’s also a striking similarity between 売 (Japanese, to sell) and 壳 (Mandarin, shell), but that’s just a coincidence.

      Extending to more than one character, 勉強 (to struggle/to study), 手紙 (toilet paper/letter), and 大丈夫 (great man/alright) stand out.

      Sidenote, I wish Japanese were consistent in its simplification like Mandarin. You have things like 龍 simplified to 竜 but not 襲, 壽 simplified to 寿 but not 躊…

      • That’s crazy how major some of those differences are! I can understand why something like 大丈夫 has different meanings. 手紙 as toilet paper, that’s pretty funny.

        It’s fascinating to look at the differences and similarities between languages which use Chinese characters!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it’s been very inspiring! I like what you said about quitting from the bottom up. Recently I’ve been watching my second j-drama and I found it very boring (Buzzer Beat, not my cup of tea really), but since I didn’t want to quit it because I need more immersion material, my j-studying started to slow down and get boring as well. I finally quitted it after 6 episodes and everything is good now n_n.

  3. This story was AWESOME, especially since you have 2 languages under your belt. Despite this being a Japanese learning site, I find myself feeling how you do about Mandarin when it comes to Japanese; I recently picked up Korean as of last week. I am 27 now and have been in a rather noncommittal relationship with Japanese since I was 10. My seeds were planned and poisoned in classrooms from age 10 to 22 and despite improvements I’ve made, I lack any real gusto for attaining even fluency in Japanese.

    I am laddering from Japanese into Korean and it is such an enjoyable experiment right now. It doesn’t seem like you went back to Mandarin, but I am hoping that Korean will change my relationship with Japanese. I got my degree in the language and it just feels like a thorn in my side more than anything. Koreans live in my area en mass compared to Japanese and well… here’s to hoping I get my glimmer for the rising sun again and FINALLY get to and breakthrough level 40!!

    • You have a degree in Japanese? I’m also not sure how studying Korean will make you want to study Japanese… I guess you think that a break is the best thing to do?

      Whatever you decide to do, find media that you want to watch. The main reason Japanese stuck while Mandarin didn’t was that I found media. If you go with Japanese, the hardest part will probably be swallowing your pride and watching things that are ‘too easy’ for you… which I failed to do with Mandarin.

  4. Very wise advice- I think everyone should read it. It’s so easy to become Anki obsessed- and equally as easy to become Anki-phobic. Anki should work like an internal organ- something running automatically in the background, allowing us to focus on engaging with the real language.

    我也学习中文。 Luckily I did it the other way around (started Mandarin when I was Lv.50 Japanese) so it’s Mandarin that I see as weird!

    I’m not planning on taking Mandarin far. I’m really interested in Kanbun (how the Japanese read Classical Chinese) but when I started looking at it decided a basic idea of modern Mandarin would probably be useful. So I’m just doing a basic 1000 Mandarin sentences then going back to Kanbun :)

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