A Study on the Mutual Similarity Between Japanese and Chinese for Simultaneous Learning


The number of candidates appearing for Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) has increased in this time of accelerated change. Moreover, since Geneva University requires two majors for the bachelor’s degree, students’ interest in East Asian languages has encouraged them to take two Asian languages as their primary subjects. However, the result of a survey conducted in 2013 elucidated that learners from non-kanji background experienced difficulties in learning Japanese and Chinese simultaneously. To help these students, the present study investigated the graphic resemblance between Japanese and Chinese by creating a list of 1078 kanji included at different JLPT and HSK levels that appear in the two volumes of the Japanese grammar textbook (2e edition, 2013) used in our department. According to the list, the textbook covers not only 100% of the kanji in JLPT5 and 4 but also 70% of the Chinese characters in HSK1 and HSK2 as well as 60% in HSK3. In addition, the analysis of the degree of mutual similarity in the list indicated that 76% of the Chinese characters are identic (or with a slight difference) between the two languages. The high rate of graphic resemblance highlighted in this study will not only reduce learners’ fear of interference between the two languages but also provide an elaborated list of Chinese ideograms that are most used in Japanese and Chinese, simultaneously. However, for the completion of this study, an analysis of phonetic and semantic resemblance (particularly, false friends) is required.

Author Information
Yuji Obataya, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Paper Information
Conference: ACEID2018
Stream: Languages education and applied linguistics (ESL/TESL/TEFL)

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