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From the contact I've had with (Mandarin) Chinese, the basic grammar has the same word order as English. You have to teach yourself to interpret tones as lexical information, instead of just emphasis/emotion/flow. You need to learn more characters in Chinese than in Japanese for equivalent proficiency. Deeper into the language, there are more "two birds, one stone" kind of metaphors that are widely used (basically, cultural points that you need to learn, even if you understand the literal meanings of the constituent words).

Those are a mixture of my impressions, and the opinions of friends who speak the language (both learned and native). Overall, I think the most difficult part of mastering Chinese and Japanese is the same: Lack of shared cultural context, if you come from an English-speaking or European country.




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