I saw a sign at the back entrance of a Japanese restaurant (in Gordon, Sydney, Australia) "Kashin 가신 Japanese restaurant". The word written in hangul, "가신", sounds similar to the Japanese word "kashin", with the Korean edition of Wiktionary describing three romanization schemes of hangul as giving it "ga.sin", "ka.sin", and "ka.sin".

I assume that "kashin" is 嘉辰 (lucky day) and not 家臣 (vassal) (which is what the Korean edition of Wiktionary refers to).

I know that some words derived from European languages have similar pronunciations between Japanese and Korean, such as アルバイト in Japanese having a similar pronunciation as 아르바이트.

However, I assumed that with non-European words, what would happen is that the different languages would faithfully preserve what Chinese characters are being used, and then choose to pronounce it however they like to pronounce the Chinese characters.

Is it common for non-European words to share similar pronunciations between Japanese and other languages that have or had Chinese characters such as Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese?

  • 1
    There's a vast gap between words "non-European" and "preserve what Chinese characters are being used", and the expected answers would be likewise different. Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 7:00
  • @broccoliforest I assume that non-European, non-Chinese-character-using words would be unlikely to be shared between languages. Is that wrong?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 7:39
  • 1
    Languages that have borrowed words from Chinese have borrowed words from Chinese, and thus those words will sound fairly similar (due to having been the same word at one point) modulo adaptations to the target language and subsequent changes.
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 16:44
  • 1
    Adding onto Sjiveru's comment, Japanese has a more limited set of sounds (namely vowels) compared to other languages that have imported Chinese words, such as Korean or Vietnamese, so more distinctions have been blurred. Not to mention a lot of different sounds have merged from historic Japanese to modern, so it makes even more difficult to see similarities.
    – user11589
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 6:28
  • 2
    I cannot understand what the actual question is. Was it already answered in comments? Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


As a person who speaks Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese, I find it pretty amazing and interesting how the these 3 languages share such similar pronunciation when it comes to words with Chinese origin. What amazes me more is how they sound more like each other than they do to the original Chinese words.

Although each language has their own distinctive alphabet system, thus different pronunciation:

  • Vietnamese syllables have 6 tones, which creates the intonation of the language

  • Japanese syllables are comprised of only 1 consonant plus 1 vowel (ka, ki, ku, ko)

  • While Korean syllables have patchim (the final consonant in a syllable block), so they can pronounce such syllables as han, kil, kak, which, if Japanese want to pronounce, they must separate them into 2 syllables: ha-n かん, ki-ru きる, ka-ku かく

However different as it may sound, if you know how to derive all the words from their original Chinese characters, you can yourself develop a formula how to pronounce a syllable in each language, or guess the word in another language if you already know that word in one of those languages.

For examples:

目的 (purpose)

  • Japanese: もくてき mokuteki
  • Korean: 목적 mokjeok
  • Vietnamese: muc dich

準備 (prepare)

  • Japanese: じゅんび junbi
  • Korean: 준비 junbi
  • Vietnamese: chuan bi

家族 (family)

  • Japanese: かぞく kazoku
  • Korean: 가족 gajok
  • Vietnamese: gia toc

They sound much similar, right? It is simply because they all originate from the same Chinese characters.

I hope this helps answer your question, although the "non-European" part in the question made me quite confused at first.

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