Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting to Know Asia: Chinese vs. Japanese vs. Korean Writing

Even if you don't speak any Japanese, you can learn to tell at a glance if a comic book, photograph or other Asian item is Japanese or not if you can find writing on it.

The big three Asian countries have three separate writing systems (as do other Asian countries, of course, but we'll focus on these for today), allowing you to tell at a glance if the item is Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

The most different one in terms of appearance is Korean. Korean is a pretty cool written language in that centuries ago the king got together a bunch of scholars and experts and had them create an exception-free, easy to learn alphabet. In print it is fairly simple and angular and looks like this: 감사합니다

Chinese uses more complicated characters that are not just sound, as Korean and English alphabets both are, but meaning as well. 美女选手大熊猫劲爆滑雪实拍

Japanese looks similar to Chinese because it also uses those characters but with two exceptions: ひらがな and カタカナ, simple but curvy hiragana and simple and sharp katakana respectively. These two additional alphabets are often mixed in with the more complicated Chinese characters. So Japanese will usually be a mixture of at least two of the three and look like this: 日本航空のカウンター. The first four characters are Chinese characters, then one hiragana, then five katakana. Occasionally, long formal company or organization names will be Chinese characters only, but never entire sentences.

So to put all three closer together for a better look(bonus points if you can read what all three say ;) ):




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