How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean?

I’ve been teaching Korean people Mandarin Chinese for more than 1 year. On weekdays, many people would ask me: “Is it difficult to teach Chinese?” This seems a simple question, but I can’t answer it. It is a question similar to “How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean or other language”.

I could say it is simple, but sometimes students’ problems or mistakes are really hard to explain and to teach. I could also say it is difficult, but some hardworking students can learn Mandarin Chinese well.

Other similar questions:

Advantages & Disadvantages for Korean students

Many years ago, when I was in the UK, I taught Chinese in a senior high school. It’s actually easier to teach Korean students. After all, Korea and China share the same culture, so it’s not difficult for Korean people to understand Mandarin Chinese.

Almost 70% of Korean words are Chinese words, so the important thing to teach Korean students is to distinguish the rules of pronunciation. This is a big advantage for them in learning Chinese.

While for Korean students, Chinese is also difficult for them. Many words are written in the same way as Chinese characters, but they have different meanings between that in Chinese and that in Korean. For example, in Korean the phrase “报纸” has the same sound as “新闻”.

So, it’s easy for them to mistake the “新闻” for “报纸”. When things like this occur, I would not say they say it in a wrong way, but I’ll gently tell him that’s not accurate.

hard to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean

Difficult Points of Learning Mandarin When You Know Korean

These days, there is a growing number of Korean people learning Mandarin Chinese. In some Korean companies, Chinese proficiency will be an important condition for promotion and salary increase. So how hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean?

Here are some difficult points.

  • Pronunciation
  • Tones
  • Words
  • Grammar


As is known to all that there are “z, zh, r, lu, hui, f” in Chinese, while there are not these syllables in Korean. Even though Korean and Chinese are both Asian languages, there are still many differences between them. Korean people are not used to speaking these syllables.

So, it might take them quite a long time to learn and to practice it. If you are a Chinese beginner, you can ask yourself how hard it is to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean.


There are no tones in Korean. In other words, Korean people can talk to others with any kind of tones, which is very casual. Chinese people are born with a sense of tones, while Korean people are not. They distinguish words by the length of their pronunciation.

Not knowing or confusing tones might cause misunderstandings when having conversations with Chinese people, though sometimes Chinese speaking people could understand the meaning.

How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean? Maybe you should be good at speaking with tones.


Koreans also use Chinese characters. Sometimes a certain character has the same meaning in the two languages but has different usages. So when Koreans learn Chinese characters, they find it both helpful and confusing. There are various examples to support it:

In Chinese, the phrase “温暖” could both express the feeling and weather conditions. While in Korean, the very phrase can only be used to express weather conditions.

The phrase “安宁” in Chinese is a polite expression in Korean, which has the same meaning as “再见” in Chinese. It is used when people meet or depart others.

How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean? The words are barriers for you to break through.

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Koreans usually learn English before learning Chinese. Therefore, the differences between Chinese grammar and English grammar often confuses Korean learners of Chinese.

——They Koreans are a little confused about the placement of adverbs in sentences with auxiliary verbs. For instance:

我要先去     我先要去

最多一次可以打死500只羊。    可以最多一次打死500只羊。

——In some sentences, what appears to be the subject has been placed in the object’s place. For instance:


——In Koreans and English, there are conjunctions like “and”. But there are no such words in Chinese. So, when they need to express things with conjunctions like “and”, they would sometimes feel helpless.

——The Chinese character “了” is also a difficult point for Koreans. They can’t understand the detailed usage of it. Thus, they would feel confused.

And about the question how hard it is to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean, maybe now you have your own answers. I can tell you that the grammar is a very significant point that everyone should not afford to ignore.

It is like the bone of the body, supporting creatures to do various things.

Korean share similar culture with China, thus Chinese is close to them. Some Koreans are determined to learn Chinese, partly because they want to travel in China, partly because they want to study in China, partly because they are interested in Chinese history, partly because they want to work for a company that has business relationship with China.

Every Korean person learns Mandarin Chinese with their own purpose. And it is also a trend to learn Chinese for foreigners, since China is flourishing day by day.

How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean?

It would be hard if you are not interested in it.

It would be not so hard if you have a willing heart.

Nothing in the world is difficult for a willing heart.

Hope everything will go on well.

Thank you!

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