How does a Japanese person learn Chinese?

I had an interesting chat this afternoon with one of our Japanese students enrolled in the Chinese language course. We don't have many international students, seeing 90% of our clients are Kiwis. I was quite keen to explore how a Japanese person approaches language learning, compared to a Kiwi.

I managed to extract some interesting insights. In response to my question of what's hardest with learning Chinese, he said that he had great difficulty pronouncing “he” (river Canadian pharmacy in Chinese). Differentiating between the 4 tones is difficult, and he can't seem to get it right. His advantage though, is that he can read kanji (Japanese script). This is very similar to Chinese script, and he can pretty much figure out what's written.

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I cracked up when my Japanese friend noted that when he was learning Chinese in Japan, the teacher told the class to start off with massaging the muscle underneath the ears, by the jaw bone, because Japanese people do not use that particular muscle when speaking, and the Chinese do.

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About The Author

Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.