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Languages in East Asia

Languages in East Asia

East Asia's major languages, including the many "dialects" of Chinese, are not mutually intelligible. However, while the spoken languages are very different, written Chinese characters can be puzzled out by Japanese and Koreans as well ? although even these have wide differences from country to country. (The characters 手紙, literally "hand paper" and meaning "letter" to the Japanese, would be taken as "toilet paper" in China, for example.) Overall, English remains a traveler's most useful language, though outside the former British colony of Hong Kong, English speakers tend to be few and far between. When looking for English speakers, tourist areas tend to be a good bet and, in general, younger people or those around universities are most likely to speak at least a little. Outside of that you'll encounter many areas where no English is spoken, so patience and a good phrasebook come in handy. For longer stays picking up at least some of the local language is essential. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language (as are many other Asian tongues) so just because you say something does not mean you will be understood. However, people tend to be very patient or at least not rude when dealing with non-Chinese speakers.

The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about East Asia

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East Asia Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.

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