Are Kanjis like Chinese Characters?

< Previous | Next >

alexandro

Member
Italy, italian
Hi! if I learn the japanese kanji, am i also able to read them in chinese or are they different? can you please explain more about this?
 
  • lazarus1907

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Spain
    Hi! if I learn the japanese kanji, am i also able to read them in chinese or are they different? can you please explain more about this?
    The Japanese kanji have been taken from China (Han=Chinese dinasty, Ji = character), so most of them mean, if not the same, something pretty close. However, mainland China decided last century to simplify all characters, and you might not be able to recognize them all at first sight. In the south (Hong Kong, etc) they are still used in their traditional form.
     

    Cereth

    Senior Member
    Español
    Hello Alexandro...there are some kanji which express the same idea in both languages but not all the kanji share this particularity, besides, the pronunciation is very different...!!
    And also kanji in japanese are often joined by hiragana (another writting method of the three used for japanese people -hirgana, katakana and kanji).. you can read about those on Wikipedia..

    Greetings!
     

    Cereth

    Senior Member
    Español
    mmm maybe Alexandro...pero el asunto es que tu puedes leer mi español o escucharme e incluso entender más del 50%...pero en japonés y chino esto no sucede...además tienes que recordar que el chino puede ser mandarin o cantonés..
    ;)

    P.S. If you need a translation into English just let me know
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Even though I don't speak Chinese, I can understand all the restaurant signs in my hometown because of my experience with kanji. So my answer is, if you learn a lot of kanji, you might as well understand written Chinese, at least you'll get the gist of the message.

    Now simplified Chinese I have a hard time with.
     

    s_a_n_t_i

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Argentina)
    Don't think that you can always get the idea if you know Japanese and you read Chinese Handzi.
    One example is, that 新聞(しんぶん)which is Japanese for Newspaper, in Chinese means Toilette Paper.
    So be careful, because as this example there might be a lot, I guess.

    Correct me if I am wrong.
    Santi
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Don't think that you can always get the idea if you know Japanese and you read Chinese Handzi.
    One example is, that 新聞(しんぶん)which is Japanese for Newspaper, in Chinese means Toilette Paper.
    So be careful, because as this example there might be a lot, I guess.

    Correct me if I am wrong.
    Santi
    I am sure you mean "letter" (Japanese: 手紙 (tegami) - letter, Mandarin: 手纸 (simplified) / 手紙 (traditional) shǒuzhǐ - toilet paper), not newspaper 新聞 - shinbun, in Mandarin 新闻 (simplified) / 新聞 (traditional) xīnwén means "news".

    As for the simplified/traditional. Japanese have also simplified a lot of characters, about 30% of characters that were simplified on the Mainland. Below are some examples where Japanese modern characters match Mainland's simplified. On the right side I put the traditional, more complex form.

    国 國
    会 會
    点 點
    万 萬
    声 聲
    医 醫
    写 寫
    湾 灣
    号 號

    There's a number of characters where Japanese simplified them but differently from mainland China. These characters now have at least 3 versions: Japanese simplified (modern standard), Chinese simplified and Chinese traditional.

    Here are some examples of those:
    Japanese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional)
    気 气 氣
    楽 乐 樂
    帰 归 歸
    専 专 專
    満 满 滿
    図 图 圖
    録 录 錄
    処 处 處
    黒 黑 黑
    戸 户 戶
    単 单 單
    捜 搜 搜
    従 从 從
    雑 杂 雜


    Learned words, usually nouns very often match in both Chinese and Japanese, sometimes you need to take into account simplification and variants to find that match. Both languages are very different in grammar, word order and pronunciation. As S_a_n_t_i mentioned, you can't rely 100% on the match too, even if you recognise the characters, alos usage and importance differs. A common character in one language might be an ancient or hardly used in another. To read Japanese texts, you need to know 2 syllabaries (46 in each) + about 2,000+ characters. You are efficient in Chinese if you master 3,500 - 4,000 characters. (Of course, learning Chinese or Japanese is not just learning the characters but words, combinations, grammar, pronunciations, usage, etc.)

    電話 denwa telephone (Japanese); 电话 / 電話 diànhuà telephone (Mandarin)
    政治 seiji politics (Japanese); 政治 zhèngzhì politics (Mandarin)
    漢字 kanji Chinese character (Japanese); 汉字 /漢字 hànzì Chinese character (Mandarin)

    Japanese has borrowed a lot of words from European languages, which are written in katakana - one of the 2 Japanese alphabets. A normal Japanese text consists of both kanji and hiragana or katakana. Hiragana is used to write endings, grammatical forms, some other words, katakana is used to write foreign words, names of animals, onomatopoeia, etc. Chinese write everything in hanzi (Chinese characters), including all foreign words, the number of loanwords is much smaller in Chinese dialects and Mandarin.

    P.S. Pity, there's no Chinese forum here.
     

    zena168

    Member
    US
    ROC Mandarin
    The characters may look the same (or similar) but there are definitely differences in pronunciation and usage. When you borrow a language from another culture you are bound to make the word drift with your own culture. If you learn a lot of kanji it might enhance your ability to recognize more Chinese characters. But Chinese have a much bigger word bank used than the Japanese Kanji. As someone explained above, the ideographs in China have also changed. I think you’d find kanji still quite limited when reading Chinese signs. :confused:
     

    sneeka2

    Senior Member
    German
    I might add something a friend (working as Japanese teacher) told me:
    Chinese people taking the Japanese proficiency tests often do very well on the higher ranked tests, but usually have lots of problems with the lower ones. The reason being that the higher tests involve a lot more Kanji, while the lower tests are much more based on hiragana. :)
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Good job done by Anatoli here ! A little difficult to grasp for a beginner maybe, but very thorough .
    In short : kanji(s) are basically the same as hanzi (no s here) -chinese characters- but
    -there are pronounced (mostly) a different way (though simple kanjis like ai/love, min/people, san/three etc. are exactly the same, though japanese has no tone like chinese)
    - some kanjis have been simplified a different way in chinese (mainland) and in japanese (see Anatoly post), but the old writing is the same (though also, most young people nowadays can only read the simplified versions)
    - in some rare cases, japanese has developped some kanjis of its own, which do not exist in chinese (mostly geographical names or mountain related terms, limited number)
    - the combination of 2 or more kanjis /hanzi can produce different meanings in japanese an chinese, though the characters are originally the same
    - japanese, together with kanas , developped from calligraphical writing of chinese characters, uses kanjis for pronounciation purposes only (not meaning), these are called ateji(s) .
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Don't forget that many kanji represent Japanese words that have the same meaning as the Chinese word but have different pronunciations

    An individual kanji can have many different pronunciations, some based on Japanese words, some based on Chinese words. The Japanese pronunciations may sound nothing like the Chinese ones.

    e.g. 新た is pronounced arata.
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Yes, the borrowed Chinese reading is called on'yomi 音読み and native Japanese reading is called kun'yomi 訓読み. Most Japanese kanji have, at least, two readings.

    Example:
    Character 読 has 2 readings:
    Kun'yomi: 読む yo(mu) ("to read")- character 読 + hiragana letter む (mu) to show the ending

    On'yomi: doku
    e.g.読書 doku-sho (2 characters) - reading

    Compare with modern Chinese Mandarin 读书 / 讀書 dúshū (Japanese character 読 was simplified in Japanese differently from Chinese). In Cantonese it's "duk6 syu1"

    "dokusho" and "dúshū" have some similarity, even more similar to Cantonese "duk6 syu1".

    Of course, there could be more than one reading and one reading can be missing, that is only on'yomi or only kun'yomi used.
     

    Thomas F. O'Gara

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Congratulations to Anatoli and his extensive explanations. He's covered the subject in about as much depth as can be managed in a forum like this. I'd just like to add a couple of comments.

    I've always maintained that Japanese is perhaps the hardest language to learn to write in the world. Anatoli mentions the kun'yomi vs. the on'yomi. Actually, many kanji can have more than one of each. In the case of on'yomi (i.e., the borrowed "Chinese" pronunciation), the kanji were borrowed at more than one time in the last 1500 years, usually with different meanings. The major periods of borrowing were the Sung and Ming periods in Chinese history, and the pronunciation of Chinese changed considerably between those periods, which is reflected in the variant Japanese pronunciations. This also helps explain why so may on'yomi end in -tsu or -ku; when they were borrowed from Chinese, these syllables ended in -t or -k, which is no longer a syllable final sound in Mandarin Chinese.

    One of the curious ironies of this process is that in the Meiji period the Japanese coined a lot of new terms using multiple kanji, rather as European languages put together word roots to create new words. A lot of these new coinages were borrowed back into Chinese. "Shimbun", incidentally, is one of those combinations.

    As for the kun'yomi, there are occasions when one word in Chinese translated into two words in Japanese, and the same character was used for both. More commonly on a day-to-day basis, a kanji will have different kun'yomi than their "standard" ones when they are used as place or personal names.

    To my mind, it's one of the charms of becoming literate in Japanese. I hope you'll feel the same.

    PS I never heard "shimbun" used for toilet paper. Has anybody else?
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    PS I never heard "shimbun" used for toilet paper. Has anybody else?
    You mean the actual thing or the word ?
    I have never seen newspapers used as toilet paper in Japan (though, sadly, I have, many times, in other countries, even mine ...France)
    I have also (and am pretty sure no one has) never heard the word shimbun used for chirigami (or toi reto pepa-), I , myself, use the word shirigami ( a translation of the french papier-cul or p-cul ) ...
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    You mean the actual thing or the word ?
    I have never seen newspapers used as toilet paper in Japan (though, sadly, I have, many times, in other countries, even mine ...France)
    I have also (and am pretty sure no one has) never heard the word shimbun used for chirigami (or toi reto pepa-), I , myself, use the word shirigami ( a translation of the french papier-cul or p-cul ) ...

    I already answered this question, see beginning of my post #10.
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    I am sure you mean "letter" (Japanese: 手紙 (tegami) - letter, Mandarin: 手纸 (simplified) / :cross: 手紙 (traditional) shǒuzhǐ - toilet paper), not newspaper 新聞 - shinbun, in Mandarin 新闻 (simplified) / :cross: 新聞 (traditional) xīnwén means ":cross: news".
    :D
    Japanese/Traditional Chinese
    手紙/信
    新聞/報紙
    ニュース/新聞
    Toilet paper is 衛生紙。

    Japanese and Chinese are two different languages. For us, Traditional Chinese native speakers, we just take advantage in writing. Nothing is the same on grammar, pronunciation, and anything else. We have to learn Japanese language as other non-Chinese native speakers do.:D
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Japanese/Traditional Chinese
    手紙/信
    新聞/報紙
    ニュース/新聞
    Toilet paper is 衛生紙。

    Japanese and Chinese are two different languages. For us, Traditional Chinese native speakers, we just take advantage in writing. Nothing is the same on grammar, pronunciation, and anything else. We have to learn Japanese language as other non-Chinese native speakers do.:D
    Quite true, but to be nuanced by the fact that some rules exist (a little complicated) for pronunciation between japanese and chinese (for "chinese"reading of kanjis). It must also be noted that a chinese speaker will undoubtedly have an advantage over someone who is not, from the mere fact that he/she knows chinese caracters already.
    Sometimes the meaning between chinese and japanese can be completely different, sometimes close, sometimes exactly the same ...
    衛生紙 can be understood, word to word, in japanese as hygienical paper , not so different from the chinese original.
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    Quite true, but to be nuanced by the fact that some rules exist (a little complicated) for pronunciation between japanese and chinese (for "chinese"reading of kanjis). It must also be noted that a chinese speaker will undoubtedly have an advantage over someone who is not, from the mere fact that he/she knows chinese caracters already.
    Sometimes the meaning between chinese and japanese can be completely different, sometimes close, sometimes exactly the same ...
    衛生紙 can be understood, word to word, in japanese as hygienical paper , not so different from the chinese original.
    Exremely reasonable.
     

    Eso

    Member
    USA / Native Languages: English, Cantonese
    I am sure you mean "letter" (Japanese: 手紙 (tegami) - letter, Mandarin: 手纸 (simplified) / 手紙 (traditional) shǒuzhǐ - toilet paper), not newspaper 新聞 - shinbun, in Mandarin 新闻 (simplified) / 新聞 (traditional) xīnwén means "news".

    I'd like to add a small note to this. There are several kanji that may resemble a certain word in Chinese, but means something different in Japanese. A simple example is 非常口 (hijouguchi), which is "emergency exit." This doesn't really make sense in Chinese and would literally read as, "extreme mouth."
    This reminds me of the time I was in Narita airport and a bunch of Hong Kong people were commenting about the emergency exit signs, and laughing.

    NOTE: If you write 非常 by itself, it DOES retain the same meaning as Chinese ("extreme", "very", "exceedingly"), but this usage sometimes gets clouded as it's coupled with another kanji.

    There are more examples just like this, but I can't think of any off the top of my head right now. Anybody care to follow up on this?
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    :confused: Is it here a Chinese language forum?:D

    Before commenting the Kanji and Hanzi, one should learn the Chinese and Japanese languages well. Don't be too politicized. Here is a language forum. Just to tell the truth of every answer for your native language.

    非常口 (hijouguchi), which is "emergency exit.
    Not exactly. If you translate it word by word, like "非" "常" "口" and it makes sense in Chinese.

    "口" doesn't have only one meaning like mouth in Chinese.

    NOTE: If you write 非常 by itself, it DOES retain the same meaning as Chinese ("extreme", "very", "exceedingly"), but this usage sometimes gets clouded as it's coupled with another kanji.
    Also,非常 means unnormal like 異常, sometimes.

    Sorry, I have to do it again for the following wrong answers to Traditional Chinese.
    I am sure you mean "letter" (Japanese: 手紙 (tegami) - letter, Mandarin: 手纸 (simplified) / :cross: 手紙 (traditional) shǒuzhǐ - toilet paper), not newspaper 新聞 - shinbun, in Mandarin :cross: 新闻 (simplified) / 新聞 (traditional) xīnwén means ":cross: news".
    ======

    Here is a Japnese forum. Let's remember!!:)
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    Typo.

    非常口 (hijouguchi), which is "emergency exit." This doesn't really make sense in Chinese and would literally read as, "extreme mouth."
    Not exactly. If you translate it word by word, like "非" "常" "口" and it makes sense in Chinese.
    "口" doesn't have only one meaning like mouth in Chinese.

    I am sure you mean "letter" (Japanese: 手紙 (tegami) - letter, Mandarin: 手纸 (simplified) / :cross: 手紙 (traditional) shǒuzhǐ - toilet paper), not newspaper 新聞 - shinbun, in Mandarin 新闻 (simplified) / :cross: 新聞 (traditional) xīnwén means " :cross: news".
    ====

    Again, Here is the Japanese language forum. Let's remember.:)
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    We all know that this is a japanese language forum, but discussing the semantic relationship between japanese (language) and chinese, induced by the original question : "are the kanji like the chinese signs? ", is NOT, to my humble opinion, off the mark.
    The question could be rephrased and placed in a different thread, like :
    do chinese caracters used in japanese have the same meaning as in chinese ?
    A long debate, for sure .
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top