For Europeans it's easier to learn English than Japanese. Is the the same true for Chinese? As far as measuring difficulty I would propose the amount of hours that you need to study the language to get a comparable level in it.

  • My gut feeling would be English. Japanese has picked up some features of Chinese due the Japanese idolization of the Chinese over 1000 years ago. English is quite different from either Japanese or Chinese. Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 21:31
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    Spoken English has a lot more in common with spoken Chinese than either does with Japanese. No cognate vocabulary, of course; but their syntax is very similar. Chinese speakers adapt well to English sentence order (and vice versa), but Japanese is a standard SOV language and quite different from either in structure.
    – jlawler
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 22:12
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    Should we consider social factors? English is the international language of business and there is already a huge push to teach English in China. Beyond that, US cultural exports like TV, music, and movies can be found around the world. I don't know if it's easier but English is probably more accessible than Japanese.
    – acattle
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 0:22
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    @jlawler I personally find that vocabulary is a much bigger issue than grammar. Do you know of any language acquisition studies which attempt to compare vocabulary differences against syntax differences? I'm curious to know if my experience hold in the general case.
    – acattle
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 0:34
  • On my recent one month trip through China I met several young people with very good English who told me they learned English by watching TV and having an interest in American pop culture. I found this surprising but took it as proof that "one way immersion" works, at least for young people. Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


Syntax isn't a huge factor when it comes to language learning difficulty. Turkish shares a similar syntax with Japanese but Chinese is probably a whole lot easier for the Japanese to learn. Of course Japanese grammar is tricky for the Chinese learner, but when you see the grammar mistakes made by Chinese learners of English, you can't say that English grammar is easy for them. Syntax and grammar are two different things really.

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    Without some references all I see here is some hunches. I've met at least one Turk in Japan who tells me it was easy for him to learn Japanese. Despite working in hospitality with a lot of foreigners his English was very poor compared to his Japanese. Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 12:32

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