Triangle relation of two languages
If you learn three languages, you may feels two of them are near, and, on the other hand, the lest is far from them in particular phrase.
Always, the triangle cannot become equilateral. There is near meaning as well as far one. As far as I know for the languages in advanced countries, they are mainly divided in two types: European and Asian.
This aspect is worth to remember when you use some auto translator like Google translation.
There are some structural reason of language why auto translator can work well for some combination of two languages while work bad for others. For example, the translation of English to French works well while English to Japanese not well by the same auto system. However, the translation of Chinese to Japanese works well while Chinese to English not well.
I think this phenomenon is based on two factors.
Let me review the difference between English from European and Japanese from Asian because I know well about these two languages.
- The objectivity and subjectivity
As you may know, most of scientific paper are written in English. Most of paper from famous Japanese professors would be written in English nowadays even though they are not good at English. English and other European language is very useful to think something objectively and logically. On the other hand, Japanese are more subjective compared with English. The expression of some Japanese phrase are vary from people to people though they are same Japanese. When I learn English at first, I used to be surprised at how few expression of “I” or “my” in English; men, women, children and old men use the same and common expression. Japanese people can express differently based on their character. That may be one of the reason why Japanese animation and role playing game make a grate hit all over the world. Cute or cool characters are expressed accurately by creators. The accurate expression is very effective to communicate with superior people. It include some respect and show some obeisance in particular situation. This points are same for Chinese and Korean. Various expression needs various counter phrase from the other language so Asian languages are near compared with European ones.
- Origin of grammars
The other reason is simple. To confirm if it uses alphabet or not is what you need to know. Alphabet is can be considered as the part of sequence. And, only one letter does not have any meaning. The pattern of sequence make the meaning so if you change the position of subject and verb for example, most of sentence get lost. On the other hand, Japanese especially “Kanji” has some meaning in only one letter. Even one letter can also be the part of the other letter sometimes to make a complex form to express more detailed meaning. We see it as if it were a picture of image. That is why if we change the position of sequence in some sentence, most of meaning can still be understood. That is why various letters have to have the various counter letters in the other language. In this respect, Asian languages are so closed to each other. Maybe, Chinese are more complicated than Japanese.
If you would like to confirm this, try to use Google translator. After you translate your language into the other one, translate back to your language from the other one. If you get the same meaning so often, two languages are near or they are far.