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Chinese VS Korean

April 30, 2012

I just wanted to do a quick language comparison between Chinese Korean. Shockingly, my journey with Chinese has bless stressful than with Korean. Being so, I want to go over a few reasons why Chinese is easier than Korean. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese is not easy. In fact, learning any language is difficult.

1. Hanzi and Hangul

This is one of the main reasons I think Chinese is easier than Korean. In Chinese, you are able you learn the language while learning the writing system. After you learn a character, you’ll be able to know the meaning and how to say it – thus, expanding your vocabulary and writing/reading skills at the same time. Korean, on the other hand, you have to make the effort to learn external vocabulary because the writing system is phonetic and requires the basic reading skills rather than continuos effort to learn it. Being so, most beginner/intermediate learners are able to read Korean, but not understand the actual meaning.

2. Easier to translate

Don’t get me wrong, Chinese can be difficult in terms of translating as well – but it’s definitely easier than Korean. I speak Dari, which is an SOV language, so Korean isn’t entirely new in terms of sentence structure. Although, I find that the combination of an existence of a SUBJECT with the SVO sentence structure makes it easier to translate to English.

3. No conjugating

Unlike Korean, verbs in Chinese do not have to conjugated. In Korean you have some conjugation rules such as 아/어/여 etc. In Chinese, verbs are left untouched.

4. Simpler sentence structures

I don’t know if it’s me, but I view Korean as sort of a tetris puzzle. You have set-in-stone words, with flexible options set between rules such “저는 한국말 좀 어려운(ㄴ) 것 같아요.  In this case there is a particle and a certain sentence structure. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the rule that 것 같아요 has to be placed after a ㄴ or ㄹ.  See what I mean? Being so, Korean has certain spelling/pronunciation rules that have to be followed in order to preserve the grammar. In Chinese, there maybe certain grammar/sentence structures that have to be left unchanged (such as 虽然。。。但是) – but that’s just like almost every other language.

5. Pronunciation

In my experience, I have learned that Chinese speakers usually pronounce words more clearly than Korean speakers. I think it is a language difference, but really does affect me. I do not immerse myself in Chinese audio/media like I do with Korean, but for some strange reason, my Chinese listening skills definitely surpass my Korean. Because Chinese has tones, pronunciation and clarity is really important. Korean, on the other hand, is more open to “slurring”, so it makes it a little difficult.

Anyways, those are my reasons. I love Korean and Chinese and I think both are extremely hard, but I think that Chinese does have some advantages that Korean doesn’t. And of course, I’m sure Korean also has advantages as well, but I wanted this post to focus on Chinese.

What are your experiences in studying Chinese/Korean?

One Comment leave one →
  1. New Korean Learner permalink
    January 11, 2013 8:29 pm

    Great post!
    Thanks for focusing more on Chinese. I also found pinyin easier to understand than the Korean Hangul. I’ve learned Japanese, then Mandarin, and now Korean (I’m 3 months into a 101 class with a tutor). So far, as a native English speaker, Korean is the hardest to pronounce.
    I always hear people say how Korean is so easy, but I think Mandarin Chinese is much easier in some aspects. That’s why I’m puzzled when people claim Korean is easier than Chinese.

    Grammatically, Chinese is crazy simple and is closer to English than Japanese or Korean.
    Pronunciation, easier to imitate. And it’s consistent, something Korean is not. There are quite a few Hangul irregularities, making it a bit difficult to learn to read fluently.
    There is no need to learn two sets of vocabulary, formal and informal, with Chinese. For the most part, it doesn’t matter.
    And only one set of numbers in Chinese.
    Only one word for “that”, “thank you” and other words.
    No topic or subject markers.

    Many argue that Korean vocabulary is easier to remember because many words sound like English words. But many, such as hello, thank you, goodbye, all the ones you need to use the most, are nothing like English. Chinese tends to have shorter words. And most words are made of two or more characters (other, actual words), that hint at it’s meaning, like in English, goldfish. Delicious in Chinese is good+eat. It’s rare for a Chinese word to have several syllables like Korean.

    When learning Chinese, the things that are hard to learn are the tones and the characters. I can’t defend how hard the tones are, because that was my biggest problem and took me months with a tutor to finally sound fluent. But I’d like to debunk a myth that prevents some from learning Chinese. I learned to recognize about 2000 characters in 3 years (that’s only 1 or 2 per day), but I can read near fluently. It’s NOT true you need to learn 5000+ characters, probably 3000 at most.

    I like how Korean doesn’t have the tones that I so struggled with. I still love Chinese characters, but Hangul is a really neat challenge and I could almost read everything after a week! Both are great languages. I’m worse with the grammar and speaking aspects of languages, so I think Chinese is easier, but for some, it’s harder when it comes to the writing and reading aspects. In that case, Korean rules.

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