There are more than 7000 languages that the people in this world use and speak to communicate. The languages are divided into families after a certain assessment of the similar characteristics that they share. Each language is different from a certain perspective. However, many languages by the looks of their writing system and font look similar to people. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are a few of these. The English speakers might feel astonished at the language differences and the difference in characters and linguistics. These languages are poles apart from the Western languages as well as have differences from each other. However, there are certain and distinct features of these languages that make the people and speakers of each language recognize the font and script of the other languages. These are three important languages of the continent Asia which are also associated with the world’s finest economies as well.

The writing system of a language is what makes it easy for people to get through. Chinese Japanese and Korean are three important languages. Chinese language has a longer history and naturally, it is the one that influences the other two languages. The characters of the Chinese language also precede the Japanese and Korean languages. Hence, it is important to understand the Chinese font and writing system and scripts. For the uninitiated Chinese languages have enormous characters and there is a particular defined Chinese alphabet. Surprised? Yes, it comes as news for the speakers of Western languages particularly English that the world’s one of the most spoken languages Chinese exists without a regular font. Chinese is a tonal language and hence tones and pitch often decide for the people to understand others. 

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese – A brief introduction 

Before delving into further details and comparisons between Chinese vs Korean and Japanese, here is a brief introduction of each language along with a precise introduction of the country and culture.

Chinese language

Chinese represents a group of languages and dialects. One of the important and traditional variants of the Chinese language is Mandarin which is also known as traditional Chinese. More than 1.3 billion people speak Chinese languages and its different versions. Moreover, these total speakers contribute to the world’s population by 16%. The Chinese language is part of the Sintic branch and family of the Sino-Tibetan language. The languages that people speak are merely taken as the dialects of one language. However, mutual intelligibility often gets raised with these variants, and many times these are taken as one separate language. The Chinese language writing system is mainly based on the Chinese characters. They write it with imaginary square blocks and arranged vertical columns. They read it from top to bottom in a column. Moreover, the direction that they follow to read it is right to left across columns.

Japanese language

Japanese is the primary language, coming from the Japonic language family that Japanese people speak. It is the official language of Japan, which is the only country where it serves as a national language. There are up to 128 million speakers in Japan. This language family is somewhat considered a distinct and isolated language. Many experts have advised and worked on grouping this language with other mainstream language families however, this process didn’t get any formal acceptance. The prehistory of the Japanese language is quite limited and there is not much information about when it appeared in Japan for the first time. As history suggests, there were Chinese documents that had a few words about the Japanese language during the 3rd century. Japanese is an agglutinative language. The writing system of this language has been inspired by the Chinese characters.

Before that, there was no distinct writing system for the Japanese language, and they used the Chinese characters to write. And this system is known as the kanji. The numerical system in Japanese also uses Arabic numerals, and a few of these are from the traditional variant of Chinese.

Korean language

Korean is an official language of the south and north Korea. More than 81 million people speak this language as their native language. These countries have put the norms of native language into practice. The differences in the way the people of North and South Korea speak have become significant now as people in their regions have started to mold the accents to make a new variant. The Korean language is also popular and spoken in China and is a minority language in China. A few Chinese areas, such as Yanbian Prefecture and Changbai County, have speakers of Korean languages. Interestingly, the Korean language is said to have a great connection with the Chinese language too. As the historians report, Manchuria is the linguistic homeland of the Korean language. This place is said to exist in northeastern China these days. 

Therefore, this indicates a strong impact of the Chinese language on Korean. The speech system, its levels, and honorifics are somewhat similar.

The writing systems of the Chinese, Japanese & Korean

Chinese writing system dates back to 5000 years ago. Japanese and Korean have been connected to the Chinese language and region for a long. The Japanese writing system ‘kanji’ was made of Chinese characters. As for the Korean language, the existence of this language originated in Manchuria, which is present day in the northeastern region of China. A detailed analysis and comparison of the Korean and Chinese vs Japanese writing is mentioned below.

Chinese writing system 

The Chinese language is said to have the world’s finest writing system which is logographic writing. As they consider Semitic writing significant for the Western languages, Chinese script was also important in the Eastern region. According to statistics and history as much as half of the total books of the Chinese languages were written in Chinese language. These may include speculative, historical books, novels, and writings on the government and law. There is no exact date known for the Chinese inscriptions. However, the Chinese characters earlier were inscribed on the bones.

Most of the Chinese documents that we get to read in the modern day have come from the formal ones and they have been created to use the grammar and syntax of the traditional Chinese variant. They replaced the old writing of the language even before the 20th century. However, over the centuries, decades, and years like all other languages and writing systems Chinese writing system has also evolved. These have diverged and the new changes can also be observed and assessed in the written Chinese language.

As the linguists and experts look at the Chinese logographic writing system, they believe it is more tough and asks for a lot more dedication and memorization. However, when it comes to the Latin alphabet, it goes well with the analysis and synthesis.

A few distinct features of the Chinese language are:

Logographic writing 

It has a logographic writing system that implies that every character comes with a word and a concept. This goes against the alphabet system which is rather to indicate the sounds and characters.

Character stroke order

There are certain stroke orders for the Chinese language. An arranged and proper stroke order is important to follow as it helps with correct character formation.

Tone based phonetics 

Another feature that makes the writing system unique and distinct is the tone-based phonetics. Mandarin Chinese, the traditional variant of the language, is one they speak most popularly and is a tonal language. The tone can even change the meaning and a word’s significance. Hence this language has four tones and the speakers differentiate between these with the pitch contour.

No alphabet

It is quite obvious and clear now that the Chinese language functions without alphabets, unlike English and other Indo-European languages. Some characters and morphemes represent words. This emerges as a great challenge for new language learners to read and write language especially when they know all about the alphabetical languages.

Japanese writing system

While we explore the connections between Chinese and Japanese writing and make a comparison between Japanese vs Chinese writing, modern-day Japanese writing works on the combination of the logographic kanji. These have been adopted from the Chinese characters. This also works by combining with syllabic kana which is another collection of Chinese characters. All the loanwords, names, and scientific names, every word is a combination of kanji and kana. It is important to mention here that the Japanese writing system is among the most complicated writing systems in use in the modern world. Thousands of the Chinese characters are in use as part of the kanji format. All these originate from the Chinese characters. However, the constant and regular use has made the people also work on the writing system that they consider as the Japanese kanji. Many people also refer to it as the country’s kanji. 

All these characters come with the meaning and many times with a range of meanings. The Japanese people in the journey of using the Chinese characters-based writing system also started to develop their own writing system. During this process of borrowing, Japanese people even made the change and modified the original Chinese pronunciation as well to integrate the Japanese language sounds. Even though Japanese people use kanji a writing system made of Chinese characters the oral Japanese language is quite different from the Chinese language in terms of morphological, syntactic, and phonological features. Interestingly, due to the differences between both languages, the process of borrowing Chinese characters was somewhat complex. This further led to a mixed system with partly logographic and partly phonographic writing systems. Moreover, both languages are also mutually intelligible.

Korean writing system

Hangul also known as the Korean writing system is a writing system that people of the Korean use for modern and official writing. There are five basic letters which are consonants and reflect the shape of the speech organs. These have been worked on phonetically for clear pronunciations. There are vowel letters that are also modified making Hangul the featural writing system. Moreover, it is also called the syllabic alphabet combining the features of the alphabets and syllabic writing. Sejong the Great, one of the greatest leaders in Korean history is the founder of the Hangul writing system. He put this system in place to increase literacy in his region and reign.

Interestingly, the chinese characters had influence on the creation of Hangul, hence making the Chinese vs Korean and its relation even clearer and stronger. Initially, Korean people used the logographic Sino-Korean Hanja as their primary writing system. Later Sejong with the help of classical Chinese and its characters developed the Hangul alphabet.

There are 24 basic letters in the Hangul orthography along with 14 consonant letters and 10 vowel letters. Moreover, 27 of these are complex letters that they have formed with the help of basic letters. A few of the letters are becoming obsolete in Korean writing. The Korean speakers write these letters in syllabic blocks and they arrange these in two dimensions.

For instance, 꿀벌 is the Korean word for ‘honeybee’. Also, such words start with the consonant letter.

How to differentiate between the writing of Chinese Japanese and Korean?

Now, as we have delved into Korean vs Chinese vs Japanese writing we need to be clear on certain aspects of the writing system of each language. Latin language speakers and people speaking the European language often stumble through the writing and words of the Asian scripts. As Chinese, Japanese, and Korean all use Chinese characters to write, the ambiguities are evident. All these Chinese character systems that they call hanzi in China are kanji and Hanja in Japanese and Korean respectively. Despite the similar origin of the writing system, the character formation and shape in each language differ from each other.

For Chinese writing 

While you can scan the complex, square, and dense characters, it indicates that you are looking at the Chinese characters. These could be either simplified or traditional ones. All these Chinese characters should be stroked and aligned well within the square of each character. This should leave a consistent and unfirm line.

For instance, while you see these blocks 你好吗, a Chinese is probably asking how are you? 

For Japanese writing 

While you want to get the Japanese script, you need to pay attention to those curvy lines. Japanese writing consists of loose and curvy strokes. The characters of the Japanese language are quite simple and easy to read in Chinese and Korean. also comes as a curvy character and within a glance, you should get that it is none other than Japanese. Japanese characters are often catchable, even when they are used in Chinese writing.

For Korean writing 

As for Korean writing, you need to look for the ovals and circles that they embed in the text. They use open circles, ovals, and squares which Chinese and Japanese writing systems lack.

Here is an example. 중요한 These ovals and circles are a Korean word for ‘importance’.

Text formation for all three languages 

If you are an ardent language learner and have a thing for the comparable analysis of all these languages and their writing system, you should be able to sort out differences in the text formatting of all three languages too. To analyze the Korean vs Japanese vs Chinese writing and text you have to look at the orientation of the script.

A Japanese script comes with vertical writing. While going through the column text you should be reading from top to bottom after starting from the top right corner. It is interesting to mention that this feature was particularly adapted from the ancient Chinese writing.

Another tip that can help you to differentiate is the presence of spaces between words. Among Korean vs Japanese vs Chinese, the Korean language uses spaces to separate the words. However, there is no trend of space between Japanese and Chinese writing. Hence,this feature can also help identify the relevant writing in no time.

For instance 

English  Chinese Japanese Korean 
How are you?  你好吗 元気ですか? 어떻게 지내세요

In case you fail to identify the writing system with the help of the tips provided, this one should not go in vain. Punctuation marks can help you navigate through this challenge of getting the writing system Chinese vs Korean vs Japanese. Commas and periods are commonly used in the Korean language, just like other Western languages. However, the modern-day Chinese and Japanese mostly use period marks and commas differently in their case.

Chinese has, and Japanese use  “、”. Moreover, the Chinese language also uses question marks and exclamation points occasionally.

Translation practices to opt for CJK 

Now that we know that all three languages are a tough nut to crack. Certain practices can help in the quality translation of these languages. The sentence structures, writing systems, and the shapes of the fonts of CJK are quite different from each other. Hence, hiring CCJK can help in this regard. It is a professional translation company that deals with every variant of the Chinese language and has native speakers of Japanese and Korean as well. Not only these three but the competent team of translators that they work with can help to get through the translation of any language and language pair. The experts also advise you to opt for native translators and a local translation agency that can help you navigate through the translation challenges of the Chinese Japanese, and Korean languages. 


Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are three important Asian languages. Chinese among these three has an ancient and longer history, and hence its influence is vital on the rest of the two languages. Also, the Chinese writing system works on the tones, and there are no Chinese alphabets that exist in Western and Indo-European languages. The foundation of the Japanese writing system lies on the basis of Chinese characters, and they call this system kanji. Whereas Hangul, the Korean writing system came into being with the help of the Chinese character kana. Due to the complexities that these languages involve, it is important that you only hire native speakers to deal with the translation.