Should I Learn Chinese or Japanese?

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Deciding what language to study next is, in our humble opinion, one of the most joyous dilemmas that a person can face. So, when someone asks something like “Should I learn Chinese or Japanese?”, we are always willing to help.

If you’re debating between learning Chinese or Japanese, two of the most sought-after languages in today’s global world, you have come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be pitting the two languages against each other in different categories, so that, by the time you reach the end, you have a clearer idea of which one is the right fit for you.

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Round 1: Number and distribution of Chinese speakers vs number and distribution of Japanese speakers

One of the most common misconceptions in the language-learning world is that English is the most widely spoken language on Earth. Sure, English may be the more commonly used n business and diplomacy, but when it comes to the sheer number of people who speak a language, Mandarin Chinese takes the top spot.

Chinese: A Global Language

As of 2022, there are an estimated 1.4 billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese in the world, with the vast majority of them – around 1.2 billion – living in mainland China. But that’s not it. There are also around 10 million Chinese speakers in Taiwan, and a further 6 million in Hong Kong, as well as other countries with large Chinese-speaking populations such as Malaysia (24.6 percent of the total population), Singapore (48%) and Indonesia (10%).

And then, of course, there are smaller Chinese-speaking communities in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, which means it won’t be hard for you to find Chinese speakers where you live!

Japanese: Number and distribution of speakers

Japanese, on the other hand, is ‘only’ spoken by around 128 million people worldwide. As you may have guessed, the vast majority of these speakers – around 125 million – live in Japan. But there are also small Japanese-speaking communities all over the world, especially in countries such as Brazil (the world’s largest community of Japanese descendants outside of Japan, with 1.5 million people), the United States (0.46 million speakers), and Canada (70,000 speakers).

However impressive these numbers may be, it is evident that Mandarin Chinese has a significant advantage over Japanese when it comes to the number of people who speak the language both in China and in other countries.


So, should I learn Chinese or Japanese?

If you want to study a language that will allow you to communicate with more than one billion people all across the globe, Chinese is the best choice.

Should you choose to learn Mandarin Chinese, it may be easier for you to find a language exchange partner, a tutor, or simply people who are willing to have a nice chat with you in their native language while you travel the world.

Round 2:  Chinese vs Japanese: Which one is more useful for business

In our increasingly globalized world, being able to conduct business in multiple languages is becoming more and more important. And while English may be the language of international business, knowing a second or third language can give you a significant advantage over your monolingual counterparts.

So, should I learn Chinese or Japanese?

Well, as the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, China is a major player in the global business world. And as Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, knowing how to speak it will undoubtedly give you a leg up when doing business in the country.

Just think of all the Chinese companies that operate in other countries:  Huawei, Alibaba, and Lenovo, to name a few. Naturally, if you want to do business with these companies, or any others based in China, being able to communicate in Mandarin Chinese will give you a major advantage.

What are the most thriving industries in China?

The most thriving industries in China are automotive, technology, and retail. The Chinese automotive industry, in particular, is booming at a breakneck speed, with new players such as Geely and BYD challenging the dominance of international brands such as Volkswagen and General Motors.

The country is also a major player in the global technology industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE becoming leading players in the telecommunications sector. And finally, the Chinese retail market is growing rapidly, with an increasing number of international retailers setting up shops in China’s major cities.

What about Japanese? Is it also useful for business?

Absolutely. Being the third largest economy in the world, Japan is home to a number of major multinational companies, such as Toyota, Sony, and Honda. And while most Japanese businesses are happy to conduct business in English, knowing some Japanese will give you a significant advantage when doing business in the country.

Besides, Japan is one of the world’s leading exporters of electronic goods, with major multinational companies, such as Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp leading the market, and there are a number of different jobs you can do for these companies, depending on your skills and qualifications.

For example, you could work as an engineer, designing new products or improving existing ones. Alternatively, you could work in sales or marketing, promoting the company’s products to consumers. Or, if you have experience in management, you could even work your way up to a senior position within the company.


So, should I learn Chinese or Japanese for business? The answer is both. Depending on the type of business you’re in and the countries you’re looking to do business with, either language could give you a significant advantage.

Round 3: Chinese vs Japanese: Which one is more difficult?

We are not going to lie to you. If you are an English speaker looking for an easy language to learn, Chinese and Japanese may not be the best choice. While not impossible to learn, they’re both definitely challenging…

…And totally worth it!

The challenges of learning Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, meaning that the same word can have different meanings depending on the tone in which it is spoken. Take the word  ‘ma’, for example. This one word can mean ‘mother’, ‘horse’, or ‘scold’, depending on the tone in which it is articulated! As you can imagine, this can make it difficult to know how to pronounce words correctly, and also to understand what someone else is trying to say.

The Japanese writing system(s)

Japanese, on the other hand, has a complex writing system made up of three different scripts: kanji (Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system), hiragana (simplified versions of kanji characters), and katakana (another type of simplified Kanji character typically used for writing foreign words).

While this may not seem so difficult at first, it can be very confusing when trying to read a sentence, as you will often see a mix of all three scripts.

In addition, Japanese, has a relatively simple grammar system but a very different way of expressing ideas and concepts. For example, in English we would say “I am going to the store”, whereas in Japanese this would be expressed as “The store, I go”.


So, which language is more difficult: Chinese or Japanese? The answer is that they are both fairly challenging languages for English speakers to learn.

However, with dedication and hard work, it is certainly possible to become proficient in either language.

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So, should I learn Chinese or Japanese? The answer, of course, depends on your individual needs and goals. If you want to learn a global language that will bring you lots of opportunities for practice and interaction, Mandarin Chinese is a great choice. However, if you’re looking for a language that will give you an edge in the field of technology and electronic goods, Japanese is also a good option. And, if you’re up for a rewarding intellectual challenge, both languages are definitely worth learning!

At LovLan, we have a comprehensive directory of both Chinese and Japanese tutors, so whatever your objectives and your learning preferences, we’re sure you’ll be able to find the right tutor to help you achieve your goals in no time.

Visit our website today, browse the profiles of our native tutors, and pick your best match!