Learning both Chinese and Japanese at the same time!

Hi everyone,

I’m excited to join this language learning forum, and I wanted to introduce myself and seek some advice on a language learning goal I’ve set for myself.

I love learning languages, and I already speak 5 different European languages pretty fluently in addition to English. I thought that it’s time to dive into the world of Asian languages. I’ve always been captivated by the rich cultures, histories, and especially the food of China and Japan. I’m determined to learn both these languages next.

While I’m aware that learning one language can be a challenging and rewarding experience, I can’t help but wonder if learning two at the same time is a good idea. I’d love to hear from those of you who have experience with learning multiple languages or have insights into the challenges and benefits of tackling both Chinese and Japanese simultaneously. For example, is it recommended to learn the same characters (kanji/hanzi) for both languages at the same time and unlock that same knowledge for both languages?

If you have any tips, resources, or personal experiences to share, please feel free to do so. I’m open to any advice or guidance that can help me make the most of this ambitious goal :slight_smile:

Hey Tom, welcome to the polyglot community!

I think you will hear a myriad of advice surrounding this question, as it is a common dilemma among polyglots. Some will avoid “two-timing” like the plague, and on the other hand I know people who are simultaneously learning a handful of languages and manage just fine.

In the end I think it’s a personal thing and dependent on your own abilities. Some people are just able to pick up languages faster and maintain the boundaries between different languages. It also depends on your goals - if you are trying to expedite your way to a Japanese C2 exam, for example, then I’d say it’s wiser to put your energy into just learning Japanese!

In my experience I’ve been able to maintain multiple languages after reaching a decent level in each one. I am not able to start multiple languages at the same time, but after reaching a level where I can maintain a conversation, that becomes the turning point for me where I can pick up something else without mixing the two languages.

I think the point you raised about double-dipping on kanji/hanzi is an interesting one. I can speak Mandarin but cannot read hanzi so I cannot provide any personal anecdotes in that regard. However, I do know that many Japanese people pass the Chinese written/reading exam with flying colors, and then go on to fail the spoken/auditory portion of the exam. If you learned one writing system, I’m sure you could easily pick up the other.

Hi, as Steph says, I think it really depends on the person. I’d recommend you to just give it a try and if you feel uncomfortable, you can concentrate on one of them.

Chinese and Japanese share a huge amount of vocabulary, so simetimes if you learn a new word in Chinese, you can use it in Japanese directly and vice versa. Even if you decide to concentrate on Chinese or Japanese first, it surely helps you to learn the other one afterwards. Good luck!