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Should I learn Chinese or Japanese?
CaelK 
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Posted 7/21/14 , edited 7/21/14
If you like both, you should learn both. Why choose?
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46 / M / Bay Area, CA, USA
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Posted 7/21/14
There may be well over a billion (Mandarin) Chinese speakers in the world, but unless you actually go to China itself, you won't come into contact with the great majority of them. This isn't to argue with those who cite numbers to advocate learning Chinese, but rather to emphasize that that choice in learning a language should depend more on your individual circumstances. Chinese may well be the next great language for business (as Japanese was considered in the 80's or 90's, to my recollection, when I was growing up), but if a business career in a sector involving trade with China isn't part of your life's plan, it may not be worth your while. If you go into medicine (my profession), and you want a second language useful on the job besides English, that choice would most likely be Spanish instead (at least in many parts of the U.S.). For medical research, English is king nowadays. German was more useful in the past, and probably still is more useful even now in this realm than Chinese would be. (Lots of historical medical papers are in German.) It really depends on what you foresee yourself doing. If you just want to read manga (and absolutely nothing wrong with that), you might as well just go right to Japanese.

I'd also suggest picking something you enjoy or are motivated to learn. Learning a second language well is hard (at least for most people, I'd think, especially as you get older), and enjoying the process makes it much more bearable. Meaning no disrespect to parents, but that merely one's parents wants one to learn X probably won't go very far. That's what happened with me and Chinese school, which I attended for a year or two as a kid. Back then it was a chore, and I quit as soon as I could. Only in college and graduate school, when I decided to learn Chinese for no other reason than to re-connect with my roots, did I have a personal motivation to learn, at which point learning Chinese became fun. Doing the homework was actually fun, believe it or not! Despite it having nothing to do with my major or career plans, I took six college semesters of Chinese, and would have continued had I been allowed to (time consuming matter of doctoral thesis work got in the way...).

If all other things are equal, though, I'd be inclined to agree with those who suggest Chinese first. Chinese grammar is not that hard, and somewhat similar to English-- more so than Japanese is to English, in my opinion. Subject-verb-object. No particles. No verb conjugations. I think it'd be easier to learn. It's the writing system, of course, that is the most difficult. However, there is quite a bit of order in the seeming chaos of Chinese characters, and I think it might be easier to learn the characters in the context of Chinese, where each character has for the most part only one relatively invariant pronunciation (which is often somewhat related to how the character is written), rather than Japanese, where a particular kanji can be pronounced in many different ways depending on usage context. Once you've learned some Chinese, you've then a leg up in learning some other Asian languages, like Japanese or Korean, which have a lot of cognate words borrowed from Chinese. Knowing Chinese definitely made my own Japanese learning easier.
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Posted 7/23/14
Definitely learn Chinese/Mandarin. Its not very likely you will use Japanese, however there is a chance you could use Chinese.
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櫻府
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Posted 7/23/14
I would recommend learning Chinese. It's fun and should prove more useful. If able, try to learn both mandarin and Cantonese, as Cantonese is better if you aren't planning on visiting mainland China.

One thing about Japanese that many people seem to forget is that pronunciation is somewhat important as there are many words that are spelled similarly but how it is pronounced distinguishes them. Overall, it is easier to know Japanese pronunciation than Chinese.
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23 / M / Canada
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Posted 7/23/14
Personally, I chose to do both, haha. Of course, I took Chinese more seriously than Japanese, but that's only because it's relevant to my everyday life, and because there are more opportunities for me to visit China than there are for me to visit Japan. To tell you the truth, I'm actually going to China for university this September. I'm planning on taking full advantage of going to school with Japanese students, and using some of my down time to brush up on my Japanese.

Chinese, as it is now, is one of the worlds most useful languages, but depending on the field of work you choose to go into afterwards, some languages may be even more important to learn. It's really all about what you feel like doing. One of the best things for Chinese though, are[b] scholarships. The Confucius Institute, and a few other groups offer scholarships to further your studies in Mandarin Chinese in a Chinese school, as well as during intensive summer camps. I think the best thing for you to do is to decide which one you think is the best, based on whichever evidence you gather, and just go for it. Just make sure to keep in mind that you can learn more than one language, and that you'll have an even easier time since Japanese and Chinese have so many similarities.
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15 / F / A state of content
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Posted 7/26/14
I'm learning Japanese, and it can be fun and easy, but can also be hard and mundane at times. I have never studied Chinese though, but it seems pretty hard to me. Chinese is a very tonal language, so if you get a tone wrong in a word, it can mean something completely different. Although with Japanese, you have to stretch out words a certain or else it will mean something else. Well, it's your choice, but I'm going with Japanese.
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Posted 7/27/14
I'd say Japanese. But I'm biased because I'm about to go into my third semester of Japanese in college haha :P

But from what I've seen, Japanese is a lot easier to learn than Chinese. I'm not sure about job prospects & such though.
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28 / M / Sandwich, IL, USA
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Posted 7/27/14
to be honest, you should follow your passion, but as my father is a taiwanese citizen and has been working there for many years now...it is easier to learn japanese AFTER Mandarin...at least so far as his biz partners have told me...and I have been told by my father that were i to learn mandarin he would immediately hire me so he can get rid of his private security and interpretor and use me for both...so...buisinesswise mandarin is the best choice, and a big commitment...one should not learn a language however if one is not passionate about it...cultivating language skills is like raising a child
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19 / M / 堺市
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Posted 8/6/14
Only learn Japanese if you really want it and know that it takes a lot of time and effort to learn.
As for Chinese, they will take over the world soon so do it as fast as you can!
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F / Toronto, Canada
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Posted 8/10/14
Like many people suggested, Chinese is probably more useful.

BUT, because learning a language is still a commitment and requires a lot of effort, you should choose to learn the language you think you will consistently work hard towards to.

To be very honest with you, unless your future career involves communication with the Chinese or you plan on working in China, it doesn't matter a whole lot that you speak Chinese. Don't only listen to what your parents say; listen to yourself as well.
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Posted 8/25/14
I would think long and hard about which one you will benefit the most from. Unless you need to speak a particular language for your career, it doesn't really matter how many people speak it. Spanish is used as a major language in more countries than any other, and I spent some time learning it in school. I was encouraged to continue with it, but I didn't because it's not a significant language for my career.
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22 / M
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Posted 9/17/14

TheChowster wrote:

I'd say learn Chinese first because of the amount of people that speak it.

You could learn traditional Chinese and kill two birds with one stone because kanji is made up of traditional Chinese characters.


Not always.


Insect:
Japanese: 昆虫 (こんちゅう)
Traditional Chinese: 昆蟲 (Mandarin pinyin: kun chong)
Simplified Chinese: 昆虫

Country:
Japanese/Simplified Chinese: 国
Traditional Chinese: 國

There are also some kanji that are unique to Japanese.

Actually, Chinese and Japanese aren't related to one another. Chinese is a Sino-Tibetan language (along with Burmese, Tibetan, Bhutanese) and Japanese is Japonic, which is occasionally classified as Altaic.
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25 / F / Rhode Island
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Posted 9/18/14
You should learn Chinese
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25 / M / NYC Metro Area
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Posted 9/19/14
Learn the language of the culture you are most interested in. It's that simple, why I choose Spanish: Cheap vacation spots, gives me an edge at interviews and not going to lie a foreigner who can carry their own in the foreign language in a foreign country is hot property
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23 / M / Philippines
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Posted 9/21/14 , edited 9/21/14
I might actually have to learn both, for a few reasons. One, almost all of my travels abroad have been in Chinese-speaking countries, so learning a basic fluency in Chinese can come in handy to blend in with the locals (which I would enjoy as a tourist, but one which will become significant as I go there to work). Second, I'm pretty much aiming to start a career in either Singapore or Japan as a professional illustrator or concept artist (Hong Kong isn't bad either), depending on the opportunities and circumstances by that time.

Lastly, I'm deeply enamored with Japanese culture. I have watched as many documentaries about Japan as much as I've watched Anime, heck, I watch NHK WORLD more than my local news channel or even CNN. At this point, I know a little fraction of basic Japanese thanks to the books and dictionaries I've bought, but someday, I will apply to that Japanese Language institution just close where I live, and eventually take the JLPT tests. So yes, I plan on tackling Japanese first, before Mandarin Chinese.

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