When it comes to trending languages, Korean and Japanese sure do snatch the top numbers on the list, but one of the common questions you might have is, ‘Should I learn Korean or Japanese?’
Both languages are rich in culture and history and open up many new opportunities for career and personal.
This article delves into the comparison of the Japanese and Korean languages, along with their benefits and some drawbacks. You will learn which language is easier to learn and also get insightful tips to learn Korean and Japanese.
So, let’s quickly get into the details.
Key Takeaway From This Article
Global Popularity: Japanese is spoken more globally due to Japan’s larger population, but Korean has gained worldwide popularity, especially through its entertainment industry.
Linguistic Similarities and Differences: Despite sharing some linguistic similarities, Korean and Japanese have distinct writing systems, alphabets, and pronunciation, making them different languages.
Learning Difficulty: Both languages have similar grammar structures, but Korean may be considered more challenging due to its pronunciation and the use of honorifics. Korean has a simpler alphabet with 24 letters compared to Japanese.
Pros and Cons of Learning: Learning Korean offers easier grammar and opportunities to work in Korean companies, while Japanese provides job opportunities, cultural insights, and potential university acceptance.
Choosing Between Korean and Japanese: The choice between the two languages depends on personal motivation, long-term objectives, and factors like ease of pronunciation, alphabet simplicity, and cultural affinity. Both languages offer unique benefits.
Korean or Japanese: Quick Comparision
Before we go into the details, here is a quick comparision of the Japanese and Korean languages.
|Total number of speakers
|Kana (hiragana and katakana), kanji
|More complex with consonant clusters
|Heavily influenced by Chinese
|Some Chinese influence, but more native Korean words
Which Language Is More Globally Popular– Korean Or Japanese?
When it comes to whether you should learn Korean or Japanese, one is bound to wonder which one of the languages is more popular. Japan has a population of over 125 million. On the other hand, South Korea has a population of only 51 million. Naturally, Japanese is spoken more than Korean.
Do you know Japanese falls under the list of most spoken languages in the world? Check our detailed post here to see the complete list.
When it comes to numbers and statistics, the Japanese sure do win the first prize in being more globally popular. However, Korea still has a powerful economy with a wide reach. The Korean entertainment industry has gained immense worldwide popularity thanks to idol groups like BTS and binge-watch-worthy dramas like Squid Game.
Bonus read: Check our interesting language statistics to learn exciting facts about different languages.
Are Korean And Japanese Similar Languages?
Since Korea and Japan are geographically closer countries, they share considerable similarities in their languages. However, they have an entirely different writing system. Many individuals even believe that both languages are somewhat identical. However, once you learn them, you can tell the difference effortlessly.
For starters, Korean and Japanese do not sound the same. English speakers may have difficulty differentiating at first, but you will soon realize how different they are.
Here are some of the similarities between the two languages:
Sentence Structure and Particles
Both Korean and Japanese follow the same sentence structure: subject + object + verb. It is one of the major similarities between the two languages.
Vocabulary and Pronunciation
Despite the many major differences between the two languages, most Korean and Japanese words are derived from Chinese. Chinese characters, known as hanja in Korean and Kanji in Japanese, are used in both languages.
The pronunciation of certain words is also somewhat similar. For example, the Korean word for library is “도서관” (do seo gwan), and in Japanese, it is “図書館” (to sho kan).
Use of Honorifics
The usage of honorifics is a crucial part of both Korean and Japanese. Honorifics are terms used in sentences to show respect toward the individual being spoken to. It is a cultural similarity between the languages, and a lack of honorifics is considered highly offensive.
What Are The Main Differences Between Korean And Japanese?
Despite the many similarities between Korean and Japanese languages, one cannot ignore the various major similarities between them. After all, they are different languages. In fact, native Japanese speakers may not understand Korean and vice versa.
Here are some of the major differences between Korean and Japanese.
The writing system is a major difference between Japanese and Korean. Korean is written in hangul, containing 24 letters (14 consonants and 10 vowels), while Japanese has hiragana, katakana, and kanji -three writing systems.
Katakana has 46 characters, Hiragana contains 46 characters, and kanji with around 2,000 Chinese characters in regular use.
The Korean and Japanese use different alphabets. The South Korean alphabet is known simply as the Korean alphabet, while the Japanese one is called the kana alphabet. Kana is made up of syllables, while the Korean alphabet contains letters.
Between Korean And Japanese, Which Language Is Harder To Learn?
Whether Korean or Japanese is harder to learn can be determined using a few major factors, such as grammar, pronunciation, etc. Let us look at each factor, and you can decide for yourself.
The Japanese and Korean follow somewhat the same grammar. As we have already stated, they both follow the subject + object + verb pattern. Both languages have particles in everyday use. Sentences in Korean and Korean can be translated word for word.
Here’s an example:
English: You will go today.
Korean: 너는 오늘 갈거야 (neoneun oneul galgeoya)
Japanese: あなたは今日行きます (Anata wa kyō ikimasu)
Therefore, Korean and Japanese are on the same difficulty level in terms of grammar.
Japanese and Korean have completely different pronunciations. It may sound the same to people who do not speak the languages but are poles apart.
Due to the difficult sounds in the Korean alphabet, the language is considered more difficult than Japanese. This is especially true for English speakers. Some of the sounds in the Korean language system may sound similar to each other when, in reality, they are different things.
Here’s an example:
The Korean letter for “D” is “ㄷ,” but it often comes off as “t.”
Again, the Korean letter for “S” is “ㅅ,” but it may sound like “ch” to English speakers.
Which One Is Easier To Learn, Korean Or Japanese?
The one thing you should be on the lookout for whenever learning a new language is the difficulty level. The difficulty level also depends on the learner’s learning potential. Some learners want to learn difficult languages, whereas some want to learn easy ones, which is the case with both Japanese and Korean. Here are some facts about both languages that will help you choose between them:
- The Korean language doesn’t depend on the tone. Some languages depend on the tone and accent of the words, whereas you can speak Korean in any accent you want; the meaning of the word will be the same.
- Korean has 24 letters in the alphabet, whereas Japanese has 46, so it is easier to remember the letters of the Korean language.
- There are many different sounds in the Korean language, and most of the sounds are similar to the Japanese language; it is difficult to differentiate some sounds in Korean, so it would be best to learn Japanese instead.
Pros And Cons Of Learning Korean
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the pros and cons. Below are some good and some not-so-good sides to the Korean language.
|The grammar is easier to grasp.
|A variety of honorifics can be confusing.
|Easily make friends with Korean natives.
|Pronunciation is very difficult.
|Access rich Korean literature in its original form.
|Work in big Korean companies like Samsung.
|Get easily accepted to Korean universities.
Pros And Cons Of Learning Japanese
|Massive job opportunities.
|Takes longer to learn the characters.
|Learn about Japanese culture.
|Difficult to identify and differentiate characters.
|Watch your favorite anime without translations.
|Lack of spaces between words makes the language difficult to learn.
|Get accepted into Japanese universities.
|Has easier pronunciation.
Resources For Learning Korean And Japanese
Thanks to the advancements in technology, you can find almost all study material online. Whether you want to learn Korean, Japanese, or any other language, there is an ocean of paid as well as free resources available.
For a quick guide, you can check these two posts:
Besides, here are some top online websites and apps to learn Korean and Japanese.
Duolingo is a language learning app teaching various languages, including Korean and Japanese. It has a fun and game-like learning process.
The lessons are neatly organized, and you only need 5 minutes to complete one. You can only progress to the next lesson if you complete the previous one. Additionally, the engaging characters and exercises make the learning process less boring.
You can get 50% off on Duolingo Plus. Grab the working Duolingo promo code!
LingoDeer is not very well-known in the language-learning world, but it is a worthy app. It has good exercises and explains grammar in detail. You will never forget your lessons because they make you practice repeatedly. They also make you review what you have studied.
If you are looking to travel to Korea or Japan and need to pick up some phrases quickly, Rocket Languages can help you do so. While it may not be very effective in teaching you the scripts, you will surely get around a foreign country with less trouble. That being said, it provides rich resources for reading and writing a foreign language.
Tip: You can also check out some of the best language learning methods we have mentioned.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Korean?
If you have ever wanted to learn Korean, the question, “How long does it take to learn Korean?” must have popped up at least once. After all, it is an important question to ask. If you are going to learn something, you want to know how much time you need to invest.
Learning an entirely new language with a new alphabet is a time-consuming task. Even though you can learn the alphabet in a day, it takes regular practice to remember them. Additionally, you would require at least 3 months to be able to have a proper conversation with a Korean native.
You can effortlessly converse in Korean if you invest 7-10 hours per week. It would take up to a year to become fluent in the language with regular and consistent practice.
However, this is only an estimate. Every person is different and has a different pace of study. While it may take a year for someone, quick learners may excel in it within 6 months, and slow ones may even take 3 to 4 years.
You can read our complete guide here.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese?
If you are keen on learning Japanese, one thing you should know is that the journey won’t be easy. Japanese is difficult to grasp and even more difficult to become fluent in. While it may take you only a year to become fluent in Korean, you can expect a commitment of 3 years or more for Japanese.
You can achieve basic proficiency in Japanese within 1-3 years if you study every day or every other day. The learning process is even more difficult for English speakers since Japanese has an opposite writing structure to English. Moreover, there are three different writing systems that use a complicated hierarchy of politeness.
Then again, how long it will take to learn the language depends on the individual and how much effort they are willing to give. With the right Japanese lessons, study methods, and consistent practice, you will achieve a resembling fluency before you know it.
We have discussed how long it takes to learn Japanese in detail. You can check out our post!
Tips To Learn Korean And Japanese Fast And Effectively
No matter what language you wish to learn, the key to fluency is to have a plan. Without following a proper plan, all you will ever gain are a few words and phrases in your target language.
Learning a new language is not rocket science, but it is not easy either, especially in Asian ones. Fortunately, following a few tips will lead you to success.
- Create a schedule.
Just like you have a study schedule for school, you also need one for your foreign language classes. How much time do you want to dedicate to Korean or Japanese every day? Depending on your schedule, decide on the duration and make sure you invest that much time daily.
- Choose the right study method.
The biggest mistake people make when learning a new language is choosing the wrong study method. Some are audio learners, others are visual, and others are okay with both. Determine your best learning method for an effective experience.
- Incorporate learning into your daily activities.
Who says you can only learn Korean and Japanese during your study hours? You can make learning fun by incorporating it into your daily activities. For example, if you are in the mood to watch Netflix, you could watch Korean dramas or Japanese anime. Platforms like Netflix also provide subtitles that can help you improve your skills.
Which Language Should You Learn (My Verdict)
Whether you should learn Korean or Japanese is a very personal choice and should not depend on the difficulty level of the languages. Ask yourself what motivates you to learn either of the languages, and you will probably get your answer.
If you are interested in Korean culture, you may try Korean, and the same goes for Japanese. Both countries have boosted economies, and learning either language has countless benefits. No matter which option you choose, you can never go wrong.
The biggest factor is your long-term objective. What do you hope to achieve by learning Korean or Japanese? Do you want to move to Korea? Or do you want to study in Japan?
Other interesting reads:
- Easiest Languages To Learn
- How Many People Speak English
- How Long Does It Take To Learn Sign Language
- Longest Word In The World From Different Languages
Wrapping Up: What Should You Learn?
Korean and Japanese are both similar and different from each other in certain aspects. Both languages share Chinese characters but have different pronunciations and vocabulary. It is easier for people to learn Korean if they already know Japanese and Chinese.
That’s it for our article today. The options are abundant if you wish to expand your horizons and learn a new language. We hope our article helped you gain the extra insight you need to choose for yourself. Please share your suggestions or questions in the feedback section below.
Korean is considered to be much easier than Japanese. There are more letters in the Japanese alphabet than in Korean. Japanese also contains more complicated Chinese characters and difficult grammar.
For an English speaker, Korean is easier to learn. Japanese has a different writing system and grammar than English.
Both Korea and Japan have boosting economies. Thus, learning their language proves beneficial for business owners and people looking for jobs.
Both Korean and Japanese are somewhat difficult to learn for English speakers. Learning one of the languages can take more than a year. It is not recommended to study both simultaneously, as the content can be overwhelming and confusing.
One thing that makes learning Korean difficult is that it is a hierarchical language. This means you need to change your sentences depending on who you are speaking to. Using one wrong word could be severely offensive to the other person!