Korean vs. Chinese – language similarities and differences

Korean and Chinese are two of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Though they share many similarities, there are also many differences between the two languages.

In this blog, we’ll explore how Korean stacks up to Chinese, what’s the same, what’s different, and what you should know when learning both.

Introducing the Korean language

Korean is spoken by around 80 million people, mainly in North and South Korea. The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, consists of 24 letters, including 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Korean grammar is similar to that of other East Asian languages, and is relatively simple compared to languages like English.

Looking at the Korean language’s history, it has been heavily influenced by Chinese and Mongolian languages, resulting in many similarities between the two. However, despite this influence, Korean has evolved to become a unique language with its own set of rules and features.

Introducing the Chinese language

Chinese is spoken by over 1.3 billion people, mainly in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. There are several different dialects of Chinese, but the two most widely spoken are Mandarin and Cantonese.

Mandarin Chinese is written using characters known as Hanzi, which represent both individual words and concepts. Chinese grammar is more complex than Korean grammar, with a greater emphasis on honorifics and formal language.

The history of the Chinese language is much older than Korean’s, dating back to the Shang dynasty (1700 BCE – 1100 BCE). During its long history, Chinese has been heavily influenced by other languages, including Sanskrit and Tibetan.

What’s the same between Korean and Japanese?

Korean and Chinese share a number of similarities. Both languages are tonal, meaning that the pitch of a word can change its meaning. Both languages also make use of word order to indicate grammatical relationships, rather than relying on inflections like English does.

Another similarity between the languages is the writing system. Both Korean and Chinese use a logographic system, where each character represents an entire word or concept. This makes it easier to learn the written language compared to languages like English, which rely on phonetic spelling.

What are the differences between Korean and Japanese?

There are numerous differences between Korean and Chinese. Perhaps the most obvious is the writing system. Hangul is an alphabet, while Hanzi are ideographic characters. This means that each character represents a word or concept, rather than a sound. This can make Chinese a difficult language for foreigners to learn.

Another significant difference is the way that Korean and Chinese grammar work. In Korean, the basic sentence structure is subject-object-verb, while in Chinese it is subject-verb-object. This can make it difficult for speakers of one language to understand the other.

Finally, there are some cultural differences between the languages. Korean has a strong emphasis on politeness and formality, while Chinese is more relaxed in terms of social etiquette. These differences should be taken into account when learning either language.


Despite their many differences, Korean and Chinese are both fascinating languages with a rich history.

Whether you’re looking to learn a new language or simply interested in comparing two of the world’s most widely spoken tongues, understanding the similarities and differences between Korean and Chinese is a great place to start.