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Japanese Vs Korean: 6 Key Points

July 20, 2022
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In this language article, we will compare the Korean and Japanese languages. Japanese and Korean are relatively similar languages largely because of their geographical proximity. The two Asian languages have a long history of interaction. 

Continue reading to find out more about the fundamental differences and similarities between the Japanese and Korean languages, sentence structure, and more. Find out which one to learn and why by reading all the way to the end.

Let's compare Japanese vs Korean in more detail.

Japanese: Chinese Influence

Japanese Vs Korean Language

Chinese has had a significant influence on Japanese in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary, and writing. Japanese was only ever spoken, not written, in ancient times. When Chinese characters started to be brought into Japan in the third century AD, things changed.

Historically, the Japanese closely observed the Chinese language and culture. To meet the needs of the Japanese language, the Japanese created kana based on the Chinese characters they had previously learned. Many Chinese individuals can read Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters) without learning Japanese because they are still widely employed in modern-day Japanese.

Korean: A Captivating Language

Japanese Vs Korean Language

Prior to the modern age, both Japanese and Korean were mostly written in Chinese characters. The removal of Chinese characters became widely accepted after World War II when the Korean peninsula was freed from Japanese colonial rule and national awareness increased. 

Hangul, the phonetic writing system created by King Sejong in 1443, was promoted and Chinese characters were outlawed in 1945 in both North and South Korea.

Because so many people are attracted to K-pop and K-dramas, Korean culture has experienced a surge in popularity over the past 20 years, that's why so many people are trying to learn Korean.

Are The Japanese And Korean Languages Similar?

Japanese Vs Korean Language

Japanese and Korean languages are frequently said to have many similarities. This is somewhat accurate, but don't forget that the Japanese and Korean languages have whole different writing systems. More significantly, they have different phonetic qualities.

Geographically speaking, Korea and Japan are fairly near neighbors. Many individuals believe that the two languages appear similar at first glance.

Cultural Similarities

Japanese Vs Korean Language

Learning Japanese and Korean can be fascinating because you'll discover the parallels and discrepancies between the two Asian languages. The bowing culture is one of the most glaring parallels, along with drinking habits, work ethics, and other factors.

Similarities Between Japanese And Korean

Japanese Vs Korean Language

When you hear someone use either of these languages, it is immediately clear that both Japanese and Korean sound quite different. Without some prior familiarity with the other language, speakers of each individual language would not be able to understand one another.

However, if you begin to examine the languages' constituent parts and structural elements more closely, you'll start to notice increasing parallels. It would be much simpler to learn Korean or Japanese if you already know one of those languages.

Sentence Structure And Particles

The sentence structure and word order of both languages i.e subject + object + verb sentence structure is the most prominent example of similarities between the two languages. 

Examples

In Japanese

私は毎週木曜日の午後8時に運動します

Watashi wa maishū mokuyōbi no gogo 8-ji ni undō shimasu

I exercise every Thursday at 8 pm.

If we breakdown this sentence it would be written as;

  • 私は (Watashi wa) = I
  • 毎週 (Maishū) = Weekly
  • 木曜日 (Mokuyōbi) =Thursday
  • の 午後 (No Gogo) = Of Afternoon
  • 8時 (8-Ji.) = 8 o'clock
  • に 運動します (Ni Undō Shimasu) = Exercise

Subject + Object + Verb

In Korean

나는 매주 목요일 저녁 8시에 운동한다

naneun maeju mog-yoil jeonyeog 8sie undonghanda

If we breakdown this sentence it would be written as;

  • 나는 (naneun) I
  • 함께하는그 (hamkkehaneungeu) every
  • 저녁 8시에 (jeonyeog 8sie) at 8 o'clock in the evening
  • 훈련한다 (hunlyeonhanda) train/exercise

Subject + object + verb

Particles

Particles are used in both Korean and Japanese sentences to offer context and illustrate the links between words. These include, for instance:

Japanese: は (Wa) means teeth、 が (Ga) means But、 and を (O) means of.

Korean: 은/는_silver / silver (Eun/Neun), 이/가/께서_this / this / this (I/Ga/Kkeseo), 을/를_to/to (Eul/Reul)

Korean offers more possibilities for the same particle, as you may have seen in the example. This is partially due to the fact that Japanese particles are universally applicable, but Korean particles vary in politeness.

Vocabulary

Despite the fact that all three languages are incomprehensible to one another, the majority of vocabulary in Japanese and Korean are derived from Chinese. This is another reason why Chinese characters, known as kanji in Japanese and hanja in Korean, are still used in both languages. Around the fifth or sixth century, Japan adopted kanji, and Korea had hanja even earlier.

Writing System

The other two complex writing systems in Japan are hiragana (used for grammar) and katakana. Kanji is one of these three systems (mostly used for foreign loanwords). Kanji is frequently employed in sentences and is widely used throughout Japan. Thus, studying kanji is an essential component of learning Japanese.

Since hangul 한글 (Korean), the current official Korean alphabet, is more extensively used these days, you must understand hanja.

By now you have already learned that the Hanja can only be used to write Sino Korean words but Kanji is different since it is used to demonstrate both Sino-Japanese words and native Japanese words.

Use Of Honorifics

In both Japanese and Korean, honorifics are crucial. Honorifics are used to express respect for people and to indicate your relationship with the person you're speaking to, this is as much a cultural feature as it is a language one. In any language, it's considered a significant social faux pas to not use honorifics.

There are numerous levels of politeness and a long list of honorifics in both languages. They are typically added as a suffix after someone's name. e.g. Mehran メヘラン.

Why Are The Korean And Japanese Languages Similar?

This might be somewhat attributed to the extensive historical interactions between Korea and Japan as well as the fact that both countries sent scholars to China in the past, but the mechanism underlying their coevolution has to be more complex than that.

Korean and Japanese sentence structures and particle usage are strikingly similar. Due to China's historical influence on Japan and Korea, there are numerous words that sound similar yet have different meanings in both languages.

Differences Between Japanese And Korean

Japanese Vs Korean Language

In spite of their historical and geographical similarities, Korean and Japanese are still very different from one another. It is crucial to recognize these differences in order to avoid confusion when identifying either of these languages.

Despite their many similarities, Korean and Japanese cannot be understood by one another. This is primarily due to the following distinctions:

Alphabets

South Korea utilizes the Korean alphabet, while Japan uses the Kana alphabet. Be aware that Chinese characters known as kanji are also commonly used in Japan, but as they originate from China, we won't include them in this article's definition of the Japanese alphabet. Unlike Kana, the Hangul alphabet is made up of letters rather than syllables. In this region, it is more similar to the Latin alphabet.

Spoken Language

The use of pitch is crucial in both Japanese and Korean and can instantly alter the entire meaning of a sentence. For instance, the Korean word 눈 can be translated as either "snow" or "eye." The only distinction is that the word "snow" is spoken with a longer vowel sound.

Writing

Chinese characters are incorporated into the writing systems of both Korean and Japanese, as was already mentioned. When it comes to written languages, the similarities stop there.

There are over 50,000 kanji, 46-syllable hiragana, 46-syllable katakana, and over 50,000 kanji in the language of Japan. All three could be used in the same statement, as in

兄さん、いつ東京にいきますか ?

Nīsan, itsu Tōkyō ni ikimasu ka?

Brother, when are we going to Tokyo?

A breakdown of the sentence:

  • 兄さん – nisan, brother
  • (さん – san, an honorific in hiragana)
  • 東京– “Tokyo” in kanji
  • にいきますか – the first particle is “ni’ which is used to refer to something moving and “ikimasu” is a hiragana word meaning “to go”

Do Koreans And Japanese Use Chinese Characters?

Korean still borrows many words from Chinese, despite the fact that actual Chinese writing is becoming less common in Korea. Hanja, for instance, is a word with Chinese roots that has influenced the Korean lexicon.

Let's look at one "인", which in Korean is pronounced "in," and signifies "person." Its equivalent in Chinese is 人-, which is pronounced: "ren."

Chinese words are also borrowed from Japanese. The Japanese equivalent of our "人" 'ren' example is じん. The pronunciation is "jin." Thus, "ren," "in," and "jin." Even if these three words aren't all pronounced the same, you can probably still make out their similarities.

Which One Has The Hardest Grammar?

Let's also compare the grammar of each language in terms of its difficulty level.

Japanese Grammar

Japanese grammar might be the most intricate in the entire world. Each Japanese verb, for instance, has 13 different forms, and when the tense is added, many more forms are produced.

Additionally, the Japanese honorific system can be rather challenging for Japanese speakers because it requires them to adjust their level of politeness in response to various listeners and circumstances. Even many native Japanese people struggle with this.

Korean Grammar

Korean grammar is quite similar to Japanese grammar in terms of sentence form and the use of honorifics. Korean has a simpler linguistic structure than Japanese, nonetheless. For instance, there aren't many different verb conjugations.

Overall, native speakers of Korean and Japanese may learn each other's languages quite readily because of the similarity in grammatical reasoning.

Are Japanese And Korean Easy To Learn?

When learning Japanese, kanji must be learned. This makes learning writing significantly more challenging. However, having knowledge of Japanese can be beneficial if you choose to learn Chinese in the future because you will be able to recognize many of the Chinese characters.

Are you wondering if Korean is hard to learn? Modern Korean is written using the Hangul script, which consists of 10 vowels and 14 consonants that blend to form syllables. Because of its clear and simple alphabet, Korean is simpler to write than Japanese. If you know the alphabet, you can read any Korean word; whether you understand it or not is another matter.

Pronunciation

In terms of pronunciation, Japanese and Korean are very distinct languages and they don't have the same pronunciation. Many would contend that Japanese is simpler. Due to the language's complete phonetic nature, words are spoken exactly as they are written.

Although there are subtleties to Japanese pitch, most people will still understand you even if you don't say things just right.

Korean is slightly more difficult to pronounce than Japanese since it includes more Korean sounds. In general, native English speakers may discover that many of the sounds are extremely similar to one another.

Syntax And Grammar

Japanese and Korean share a lot of similarities in terms of syntax. Every word and every sentence in Japanese and Korean have an equal in the other, making them frequently interchangeable.

We may see the similarities by comparing a few sentences written in Korean and Japanese side by side:

English: You are a lawyer

Korean: 당신은 변호사입니다 (dangsin-eun byeonhosaibnida)

Japanese: あなたは弁護士です (Anata wa bengoshidesu)

These sentences can be translated word for word, as you can see. Each word in the first statement has a direct translation in the second sentence because it appears in the exact same place.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary of the two languages is strangely varied, despite the fact that their grammar and sentence structures are surprisingly similar.

A Japanese speaker would probably not be able to understand many words in Korean. They may occasionally learn a term that sounds familiar, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Korean word has anything to do with their language.

In a nutshell, there are many Korean words and Japanese that are similar but not the same.

Which One Should You Learn?

Japanese Vs Korean Language

This is a very personal choice that shouldn't be taken merely on the basis of how Japanese and Korean are related to and different from one another. It is preferable to use a holistic perspective when making this decision because each language has characteristics that make it easier or harder to learn than the other. 

This entails thinking about your long-term objectives and what you hope to gain from this experience. Is it your goal to reside in Japan or Korea and work there? Would you like to travel and visit locations that are off-limits to tourists?

Important Information

Korea and Japan are very similar to one another in terms of societal organization, workplace culture, and thinking. But they are also diametrically opposed in many other respects, including tastes in food and fashion and basic psychological prejudices.

In both nations, the standard of living is excellent. Generally speaking, South Korea has cheaper living expenses than Japan.

In A Nutshell

Korean and Japanese grammar and sentence construction are extremely similar. They both share a number of Chinese loanwords, but their original vocabulary and pronunciation are very different, rendering these two languages mutually incomprehensible.

Additionally, with the advent of modern writing, their writing systems have undergone a full transformation. Chinese letters are now fully avoided by the Korean System. My own hypothesis is that Japanese and Korean did share a common ancestor long ago, but when they diverged over the course of approximately 2000 years, they developed into extremely distinct languages.

Wrapping Up

Japanese Vs Korean Language

That's it for this blog post. For all the people who already know Japanese and Chinese, learning the Korean language might be easier. If you want to expand your horizons and learn the Korean language then you should definitely opt for the Ling App since this app provides you quantity and quality.

So download the Ling App now and start learning the Korean language like a pro!

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