Korean vs. Japanese vs. Chinese: What are the similarities and differences between these three languages, and how should we learn them?

If you’ve never studied an Asian language, it’s easy to mix up Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Despite some similarities, these three languages are very different, and each one has its own set of challenges that may differ from the next. You might be wondering what the distinctions are until you’ve managed to study all three. We’ve put together this brief tutorial to clarify the fundamental linguistic differences between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to help you distinguish between the three.

How to Distinguish the Three Languages

At the risk of repeating the obvious, the Chinese language is extremely complex, but an easy method to distinguish Chinese characters is that they are square rather than curving. Japanese letters appear rounder and curvier.

Japanese and Korean visuals are likewise more open and expansive than Chinese, which is denser.

Another way to identify the Korean alphabet is through its basic circular shapes, which are unique to it and not present in Japanese or Chinese.

Simplified Chinese:



クリエイティブ トランスレーション


크리에이티브 트랜스레이션


Speaking and pronunciation will take some getting accustomed to if you come from a non-Asian language background, regardless of which of the three languages you choose to learn. The Chinese language is based on four tones, which can radically alter the meaning of a word or sentence if they are pronounced incorrectly and can be perplexing at first.

While Japanese grammar is difficult, speaking is not as hard. Once you get beyond the notably higher pitch of native Japanese speakers, you’ll find it simple to understand due to only having 5 vowels, all of which are utilized in English.

The Korean language is made up of sounds that are radically different from those of Japanese and Chinese, making it relatively easy to recognize for the untrained ear. Korean is easier to learn because it is not a tonal language, but its guttural sounds, such as “eo” and “er,” can be challenging to master.


Chinese, Japanese, and Korean all have highly varied grammatical structures, some of which are more challenging than others. Mandarin grammar is significantly more simple than that of European languages, and word order is extremely similar to that of English, which will delight Chinese learners.

There are very few exceptions to grammatical rules, and there are no verb conjugations or complex tenses (happily).

When it comes to grammar, Japanese and Korean, on the other hand, provide additional difficulties. One of the most challenging aspects of learning one of these languages is their higher level of politeness, as both feature honorific forms.

Mandarin Chinese is the most straightforward grammar system of the three, giving learners more time to focus on the more difficult components of the language.

The variations and similarities of each language excite us at K&J Translations. After all, this is our area of expertise! Language is a vital tool for expanding your business to or from Asian countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in expanding your business into new markets and reaching new consumers. Send an email to info@kjtranslations.com, and we’ll gladly assist you!