So say I finish RTK, and get decently fluent in Japanese. For those of you who also happen to study/speak chinese, how difficult would it be to learn written chinese after? I know there is RTH, but if I've already done RTK, is it at all necessary?
Edited: 2013-01-06, 5:05 pm
I took a year of Chinese for fun after doing RTK and I did really well in it. (I was learning traditional Chinese, since I find it more similar to kanji) We used Integrated Chinese Level 1 Parts 1-2 (3rd ed) in class. imo, I don't really think going through RTH is necessary, if you've done RTK. Anyway, I had a much easier time in beginning Chinese than I did in beginning Japanese for a couple of reasons:
1. I was using SRS for vocab right from the start.
2. Instead of learning hanzi one by one all I had to do was remember how it differed from kanji. Ex: instead of 属 it's 屬, 壊 it's 壞, etc.
3. Learning Chinese was helping me remember things for Japanese. Ex: Before, I always wrote kawaii as かわいい, but now its kanji is easy to remember from the hanzi 可愛.
4. Some words sound similar. Ex: 図書館 and 圖書館.
Of course, the grammar is different. Some vocab is, too. For example, Chinese 湯 means soup, not hot water like お湯. Also, I'm terrible at differentiating tones, so I still suck at listening comprehension & speaking. =/
I started Reading the Hanzi after RTK, but found it wasn't necessary. There are a few more characters to learn, but not many, and some new usages. There's a list somewhere, if you're interested, of the characters not in RTK 1 but in RTH 1..
I did half of RTK while studying Japanese a few years ago, then i switched tracks and did a few years of Chinese in university. Having been exposed to about 1000 Chinese characters going through RTK, I found it really easy to remember most of the characters I came across. I thought about doing RTH but after experiencing success with just a basic kanji background, I figured it would be a bit of a waste of time. My biggest problem now is finding the time in the day to work on both languages to my hearts content.
From what I've read, Chinese has way more kanji that Japanese.
I read an article that said you need to learn 3000-3500 kanji for daily use.
For professional writing, you need to learn 7000 kanji.
So I don't think RTK would be enough, but it would be a great start.
So maybe you do need RTH. Also, i don't think all the kanji necessarily have the same meaning.
7000 kanji sounds terrifying, but when I took Chinese class for a semester, there was normally only one sound per kanji (as opposed to the many onyomi/kunyomi per character in Japanese).
Edited: 2013-01-09, 8:58 am
Frequency studies on Chinese texts actually produce results very close to what you get for Japanese texts. 7000 is likely to be a gross overestimate of the same type that results in people claiming you need 5000 kanji to read Japanese or 15000 to read "classical" stuff. Maybe 7000 represents the number of kanji used in every piece of writing published in China, but obviously you wouldn't need to know 100% of those.
When you think about it, there's really no reason why Chinese would use vastly more kanji than Japanese. Chinese has to use some kanji to cover grammatical elements that would be represented in kana in Japanese, but there certainly aren't thousands of those, and many of them are already used in other ways (e.g. 了, 譲, 被). There's not a complete overlap in the common kanji in Japanese and Chinese because of different usage patterns (e.g. 我 is the standard "I" in Chinese, which makes it used far more often than Japanese), but there seem to be a fairly close correlation in the numbers.
Edited: 2013-01-09, 9:15 am
As far as I can tell from people who actually study and produce numbers, the 7000 figure is far too high. Something closer to Japanese is far more commonly quoted. I actually am not interested in the opinion of some person, however intelligent, unless he's done the work of analyzing texts.
One important factor is that most Chinese publications don't use any sort of phonetic guide like furigana in Japanese, so it's more important to know the rare, seldom used characters when they do pop up.
I've actually just started studying Mandarin and I'm making wicked progress. I've got N1 for Japanese, can read novels and such know roughly 3000 ~ 3500 kanji i'd say. Seriously... if you have that much knowledge it actually makes learning Chinese so much easier.
I knew Chinese and Japanese had a lot of shared vocab but I'm continually being surprised at how much. So that's one aspect that makes things easier. Secondly, hanzi only have 1 yomikata (there's actually 500 that have 2 and 12 that have 3 but that's it)... so learning to read Chinese is (if you know kanji already) MUCH easier than learning to read Japanese.
I also think 7000 is too high... for every day life at least. 7000 I think would be that level where you can pick up any novel you want and pretty much not be able to find something you don't know... plus hanzi have a very strong system of "radical + phonetic component" much more so than Japanese which has phonetic component only sometimes... so you can often guess the reading (minus the tone) enough to look it up in a dictionary.
Mezbup, I've been pretty impressed with how well you learned Japanese, and I'm just judging that from your blog posts--especially getting to really advanced levels without actually living in Japan. Would you care to update your user study methods entry at some point with the benefit of hindsight and experience?
There won't be a definitive number, because they're not even sure how many characters are in existence. Not only that, but do you count multiple possible pronunciations in classical literature too? So 說 can be shuō, shuì, and yuè (at the very least). And how about the 通假字? Well then 魚 needs to have wú added as a possibility, because it was sometimes borrowed for 吾 because their pronunciation was identical or nearly so at one point. 邦 and 封 can also borrow each others' readings for the same reason, and so on. At some point you realize it just isn't possible to count.
Besides that, not counting characters outside the HSK list sounds pretty stupid to me, to be honest. That's a very limited subset, sort of a bare-minimum requirement for learners to measure basic competency in modern Chinese, rather than any useful measurement of what Chinese is actually like, as used by native speakers. In my experience such standardized language tests rarely represent the actual language anyway, but rather an idealized, simplified version of it made by educators (or in China, made by communist propagandists), reflecting their bias of how they wish the language was.
It isn't any better in Taiwan, mind you, it's just a different bias (specifically from the KMT, it's "let's preserve the way Mandarin was spoken 50 years ago," and native speakers recognize the style immediately).