Is it easier to learn Mandarin then Vietnamese, or Vietnamese then Mandarin?

I’m planning to add Mandarin in my language arsenal. I already have Vietnamese in my sleeve. Is there anyone learning the 2 languages of Mandarin and Vietnamese? What’s your take on learning Mandarin and Vietnamese together?

Is it easier to learn Mandarin knowing Vietnamese before hand, or vice versa? I see a lot of similarities: like both are tonal and Sinospheric languages, and there are a lot of words sound similar in pronunciation and meaning. What’s been your experience navigating both languages?


Ooo cool that you’re going for Mandarin Holly.

I tried Japanese and Mandarin together, I find sometimes it’s a lot of fun, others just quite overwhelming - depends on my mood and level of motivation!

Have you made any steps with Mandarin yet? I heard there are some fairly similar crossovers with Mandarin and Vietnamese regarding a fair number of vocabulary.

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There are a lot of similarities I would say. I was browsing for the community’s opinion, like this post SIMILAR WORDS - Vietnamese and Mandarin - #2 by Ian_Robin-Vietnamese-VN_Intro. It’s so fascinating. The other day I learned that in Mandarin, the day of the week is counting like Day 1, 2… like Vietnamese, but I had thought that it would follow the planets and the stars just like Japanese. That fact really blew my mind.

I really like to know if anyone in the community have a strong Vietnamese background like me and then studying Mandarin and what is their way of managing the time, especially with the characters. My previous experience with learning Japanese kanji has been… like an uphill battle :joy:

Cool @Holly-Le , so now you are adding Mandarin as 4th language.
I must say, prepare yourself for tones. I first thought that having a strong background in Vietnamese could be very beneficial for learning Mandarin, which is somewhat true. However, when I got started, I struggled with tones. It’s not difficult, but the second and fourth tones are kind of opposite to the tones in Vietnamese, so I often get confused. I had to take “Tones” lesson 3 times :rofl:

In Vietnamese, to form a sentence, we can simply combine words, but Chinese grammar is sometimes different. I sometimes translate it to English and then translate it again to Vietnamese, which mixes the grammar twice :smiling_face_with_tear:. I really should translate directly into Vietnamese.

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Oooh I see. I feel like those are the habits I would have too. So, def gonna take note of that. :hushed:

That was such a good topic! I love seeing similarities between languages, it makes me feel like I know more without the need to study too much :joy:

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If we’re speaking ‘officially’, Vietnamese is considered an easier language than Mandarin/Cantonese (but still very difficult for English speakers - it’s in the same category as Russian and Thai - FSI language difficulty )

But honestly, I think already having Vietnamese up your sleeve will make learning Mandarin a lot easier. In my Chinese classes, I was never able to keep up with the Vietnamese students. Culturally and linguistically they seemed to have a much easier time just ‘getting’ Mandarin, whereas I’d leave every day with my brain completely jumbled :skull: :laughing:

And as you’re already familiar with Kanji, you’re really off to a flying start, especially if you choose to learn traditional characters!

As for me, I thought Vietnamese would be easy to pick up after years of studying Mandarin. But after two weeks in Saigon I still felt absolutely tone deaf to Vietnamese :cry: but never say never!


In terms just listening to a language, for me Vietnamese and Cantonese appear the hardest languages. I can barely differentiate a thing :smiling_face_with_tear:

I’ve tried speaking both briefly and felt like an absolute idiot every time! :rofl:

I find the sound clarity of Japanese the complete opposite. The consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel combinations are so much easier to digest for a beginner.

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IKR it’s so fun, and it gives me relief too knowing I have one less thing to force my brain to remember :joy:

It’s also funny when I can spot the “false cognates” or “false friends” among languages. For example, 自己: tự kỉ, autistic, introverted (Vietnamese) - self (Chinese, Japanese)

Being Vietnamese a tonal language as Chinese, that will help for sure!

However, what I noticed from the very very simple Vietnamese lesson I took is that I tend to mix the tones. For example, there’re tones in Mandarin and Vietnamese that look exactly the same but they’re supposed to be pronounced in different ways and that is a little be confusing for me.

But I’m sure that with the right amount of practice it will become easier :slight_smile:



Thank you for your insights. I feel more confident knowing that. :smiling_face: