If you haven't at some point been told, "We Japanese can read Chinese," you're probably in a small minority. Of course, such statements are not necessarily made as boasts, and are often qualified by "to some degree" and the like.

But can Japanese read Chinese? I choose to raise this subject because it has implications for foreigners as well. Will acquiring the ability to read Japanese give you "some degree" of literacy in Chinese?

Japan, lacking a native writing system, began importing Chinese characters from Korea, and later China, from the early fifth century, and the two-way exchanges continue even now. That said, it's important to understand that aside from their partly shared writing systems, the two languages are linguistically unrelated, differing considerably in such areas as grammar and syntax.