Why does Japanese have some Chinese words?

"When you come to a strange place, try to follow its customs." (chinese proverb)

Japanese is spoken by over 120 million Japanese who mainly live on the 4 main Japanese islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. But even in the formerly occupied areas, some people still speak Japanese (Taiwan, Korea, Mariana Islands, Carolines). Japanese emigrants who are very attached to their mother tongue and tradition can be found in Hawaii, North America, Brazil and other countries in South America.

Many think that Japanese and Chinese are related languages, but they are not. Also with the language of the native inhabitants of the Japanese islands, the Ainu, the language shows no similarities. In general, one can say that the origin of the language and the people of Japan is still unclear today. However, there are some guesses that unfortunately have not yet been proven. Linguists, for example, do not rule out a relationship to Korean. Critics argue with the close connection between the two countries and, when it comes to matches, do not rely on relationships but on borrowings from the other language.

Another theory assigns Japanese to the Altaic language family (Turkish, Uzbek, Azerbaijani, Mongolian, Manchurian). The structural similarities are particularly noticeable here. All languages ​​in this language family have z. B. no articles and no gender.

Another group of linguists sees the Japanese language as a mixed language of Altaic and Austronesian (Indonesian, Polynesian) elements, whereby the grammatical structures of the Altaic original language and the lexical structures of the Austronesian original language are said to have prevailed.

The Japanese language belongs to the agglutinating language type. Such as B. Turkish, grammatical functions are appended to the root of the word in Japanese.

Shimasu means to do, so it is the present tense of the verb. The past is formed by clinging to the stem instead of masu mashita, i.e. shimashita.

As a rule, there is no grammatical person who is practically integrated in the verb and must be derived from the context.

Miru is the infinitive of see. Mimasu is the present tense and means I / you / he / she / it / we / her / they see.

There is also no plural, this is determined by the number of things and if there are just two then that is already a plural. But there is also a catch here, namely the counting words, which can also be found in Chinese. These little words drive every learner on the palm, because you may not understand why you have to count a pen differently than a plate. It is also difficult to adapt the sound of the letter h, which then becomes a p or a b due to the sound harmony. (If you want to know more, email is sufficient)

Paper, plates, cards


Sticks, pens, trees, cigarettes

hon (pon, bon)

Books, notebooks



shark (pai, bai)

Cars, trains


Another peculiarity of the Japanese language is the abundance of particles. There are a total of 60 frequently used particles, which 188 can take on a wide variety of functions. So many particles are multifunctional and have to be learned in order to be able to speak understandable and correct Japanese. If the wrong particle is used, the entire meaning of the sentence can change.

First of all, I have to dispel a widespread prejudice here: the Japanese are able to speak a r, the Chinese cannot. The Japanese can't do that with an l, they turn into r.

The standard language in Japan is the Tokyo dialect. There are quite a few regional dialects in which pronunciation and vocabulary vary somewhat. Japanese pronunciation is very easy and easy to learn compared to Chinese, but it does require a bit of practice.

The letters i and u generally tend to fade, i.e. they are not fully pronounced and only "breathed in".

shimasu (to do) - is NOT pronounced as in raSUr, but even shorter than in soup, speaking the sh like a sh
watashi (I) - wa is pronounced like ua, i again swallowed halfway
tokyo - spoken like tokjo
fuji - j is spoken like j

Origin of the words
There are 3 different groups of words here.

1. Purely Japanese words that can often be assigned to everyday language. These words are called Wago (harmony + language). Examples of purely Japanese words are yama (mountain), ie (house), onna (woman) and sakura (cherry). Once you have the sound of the language in your ear, you can recognize these words by the syllables that are used in the word and that differ from the other word groups.

2. The largest group is that of the Kango (characters for Han Chinese and language), the Sino-Japanese words that came to Japan when the characters were adopted from China. Today they make up 60% of the vocabulary, but they have been adapted to the Japanese language and no longer sound in the slightest Chinese.

3. The smallest group (approx. 25,000) are the words taken over from European languages, but they are probably the "funniest" because some of them are still recognizable. Nevertheless, there are some words that are almost unrecognizable due to phonetic adaptation and which one can perhaps recognize with a lot of imagination. Most of the words that are used in everyday life come from Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch. These countries had intensive trade contact with Japan for a long time.






















Technical and scientific terms have English loanwords and are simply taken phonetically and integrated into the language.










It is also interesting that a lot of medical terms come from German, as Germany was initially the first address for Japanese students to study medicine. So there are z. B. herutsushumerutsu. (If you find out what it is, please report it !!!)

There are also words that have changed their meanings when they were adopted into the Japanese language, such as: B. arubaito (work in the sense of additional income, mostly student job) and karute (index card, medical).

Language levels
A peculiarity of the Japanese language, which turns out to be quite difficult for long noses, as one has to be familiar with the Japanese hierarchy and tradition in order to use the correct language level. That is why it is also advisable for foreigners to always be very polite and always use the neutral form .... well, ok for men that is another thing.

So there are 3 different main levels of language, namely the masculine, neutral and feminine level. The decisive factor is your position within society, the company or the family, but what always applies is the principle that you downplay yourself and honor others. It takes a lot of language skills and intuition to master something like that. However, the Japanese are quite indulgent towards the round eyes.

Well back to the three main levels. Not only do women generally have to be more polite (well better than barking around all the time), no, the vocabulary is also extremely different from one another. Here is the sentence "Please speak more slowly":

Neutral: Yukkuri (slow) hanashite (speak, polite form) kudasai (please)
Woman: O (polite particles) hanashi (speech, language, polite again) ni natte (slow down) ne (not true)
Man: Hanshite (rede) kure (short, request that is only used by men)

Even the little word "I" is different

neutral: watakushi
Woman: watashi
Man, boku, ore

It is quite interesting here that it is taken as a provocation when a woman speaks of herself as ore or boku.

There are 3 different writing systems in Japanese, so not just one type of character. These 3 scriptures are called Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Traditionally, it is written from right to left and from top to bottom. In newspapers, however, you can also see our usual spelling from left to right and from above to below, written in lines.

Of course it is also possible to write Japanese with "normal" letters, you only need 22 letters! But anyone who immediately says that they should write like us right away is probably not thinking properly. The writing belongs to the Japanese language and is part of the culture of the Japanese. I also find them fascinating and pictorial.

Example of a sentence with the 3 writing systems:

konputa de kanji o kaku (I write Kanji on the computer)
1. Katakana, 2. Hiragana, 3. Kanji, 4. Hiragana and 5. Kanji and hiragana combined (verb).