This Question Came to My Inbox: “Is Korean a lot Simpler than Chinese to Learn?”

I don’t know if you could say it is “a lot” simpler, but it has a lot of basic concepts about language that are easier for a native speaker of English to master than Chinese as long as that person is creative and understands grammar.

The Chinese language has a kind of reading that is completely foreign to the minds of native English speakers. Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

To begin with, the alphabet is much easier to learn than the Chinese characters. For a native English speaker, we are used to letters having sounds, not just meaning. The idea of Chinese characters is extremely foreign to a native speaker of English. When we study and read, we want to know how things are pronounced. Korean provide the pronunciation, but Chinese doesn’t. The Korean alphabet is so easy to learn to read that I looked it up on the internet and learned to read it in one day. Each letter has a sound and combinations also have their sounds like in English. We are familiar with that kind of reading. As for the Chinese characters, it takes years to be able to master the Chinese characters. With each characters, there may be several different possible pronunciations. Each Chinese character has meaning, but not sound.

When your teacher was teaching grammar in school, if you caught on, Korean would make more sense to you. Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

As for grammar, the Chinese have borrowed the English word order, and that part could make it easier. However, they have also retained the post position particles that are found in Japanese and Korean. If you understand grammatical principles, Korean is full of blatant clues to which part of speech a word is even though it carries a different word order than English.

Another thing that is hared about Chinese is the “sing song” nature. Photo by Papa Yaw on Pexels.com

If you are talking about Chinese, you are talking about several languages. There is not one language that is actually just called “Chinese.” Mandarin is the Chinese language that is used in China more than any of the others. Each Chinese language has a different tonal pattern. Each word in these languages has their own tones. This is a completely foreign concept to English speakers. We have a tendency to call it “sing song” languages. When I studied Japanese, I was a bit scared it would be really hard because I thought it was a “sing song” language, and the concept baffled me, but I was relieved because Japanese is not a “sing song” language. Korean is also not a “sing song” language. Chinese is a “sing song” language. It is much easier for English speakers to get the intonation of a language that doesn’t change meaning by how high or low your voice is like you are singing. I like to sing, but I would always be afraid of getting the wrong note because the difference in meanings of words in a Chinese language is the difference in the notes often.

Putting your mouth around Chinese words seems harder than putting your mouth around Korean words.Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I began both Japanese and Korean, people would say things and I copied them, and they were different, but didn’t feel impossible to pronounce or remember the pronunciation. Japanese pronunciation is especially easiest of all three languages, but Korean is not as bad as trying to speak a basic Chinese language. I had friends in Korea who could speak Chinese, and at times, someone would say, “How to do you say thing is Chinese?” The word or words would be so strange that I knew if I were trying to copy them, it would be difficult. Everything you do is difficult in the beginning, but if you have trouble even wrapping your ears around what you hear, you know it would be really difficult.

Korean is not an easy language, but it has concepts that are easier to understand than Chinese for native speakers of English. Photo by James Lucian on Pexels.com

If you aren’t into grammar and reading, it may be easier to study Chinese. You may even feel artistic when you use the Chinese characters. However, it doesn’t matter how many times I have heard people say something, it really doesn’t stick well. Between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, the language that sticks easiest when you hear it is Japanese because of the arrangement of the sounds. In Japanese, each letter is either a vowel sound our a vowel and consonant sound. In Korean, one letter is one sound like in English, and you don’t feel like the words are tongue twisters or that you have to sing them. I would say that for people who understand grammar, Korean is easier than Chinese.

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