Learning Chinese or Japanese for go

Hello everyone, this is my first post!

Currently there is already plethora of different go books in English so we have enough learning materials, but because the eastern languages is still the primal source of go materials I was thinking about starting to learn one of those. This would be a new way to get into beauty of go and because I really enjoy learning the languages this combination of two interests would additionally motivate me to stay committed to it.

I am pretty sure some of you have learnt one of the eastern languages to be able to follow the multitude of different eastern resources to improve at go. Could you recommend any resources for learning Chinese or Japanese to be able to start (after year or two) with websites such as weiqitv? Particularly for go?


There’s a series of books called “Just enough Japanese” that are available through SmartGo books for instance by Richard Hunter.

This is the sensei library page for the first volume


I’m enjoying bits of the first one so far, kind of focused on things you might need to understand some of the things that might be in a tsumego book for instance


Welcome to the forums!

A similar question was asked in this thread, so the responses there may also be helpful:


Thanks a lot! I have also found in SmartGo books “A Dictionary of Japanese and English Go Terms” from “The Go Player’s Almanac” by Richard Bozulich, which is not as good as “Just enough Japanese” because it doesn’t have any links to the website with pronunciation and strokes, but maybe some of you will also find useful.


This is kind of crazy, committing to learning one of the Asian languages that takes many years to learn properly only for go.

But in terms of resources I don’t think you need any for go specifically. You need to learn the language first and only then learn those very few go expressions, I’d think. If you like learning languages you probably already have preferred way of learning.

If you manage to do it, come to the chat and teach us too!

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Compare studying a language like Japanese or Chinese to studying the game of go. The game also demands years to learn properly, but it’s a much narrower part of East Asian culture, and learning a language is probably much more practically useful.

I suspect that the original poster may have other motivation and interest in learning an East Asian language in general. Learning a language does really open oneself up to a whole new culture. I don’t think it’s crazy to pick which language one learns next based on one’s other interests.

I envy those who have the motivation and ability to pick up new languages. Unfortunately, I don’t think that drive and talent is so easily transferable.

Japanese subtitles word frequency list

Just remember pronunciation and translation of the first 1000 words and you will understand 80% of anything you hear
Easy explanation:

I’m inclined to agree with @S_Alexander. If improving your go game is your main motivation for learning one of the languages, you’re going to have a really rough time and I’d guess not be very likely to succeed.

With that being said, there are many many excellent benefits to learning a language. Learning Chinese was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. I would like to emphasize that environment is extremely important when learning a new language. You need to force yourself to use the language. This is especially true if going from a non-tonal language like English to a tonal language like Chinese. It’s likely not practical to move to China or Japan for most people, but you could seek out native speakers in your area and practice having conversations with them.

Good luck with your language learning journey, and keep us posted on your progress :slight_smile:


If you want to learn the language just for studying go, you’re definitely better off studying the game itself instead. Note that both Chinese and Japanese use a huge number of characters to write, thus being able to read an average book will require you to learn at least about a 1000 characters for Japanese, and double that for Chinese (and even then you’ll regularly encounter ones you don’t know).

In that regard, Korean would be the language you should go for, since it has an alphabet and is therefore a lot easier to read. But then there is the second part of learning the language: you need to learn the grammar and the vocabulary, which will also take a lot of time. It is not like learning a Germanic or Roman language, where many words are similar to English ones and where the grammar has a roughly similar structure. It’s completely different!

However, you say that you enjoy learning languages, so then I 100% recommend learning an East-Asian one. It’s a lot of fun and something totally different than other languages.


I also only realised that the Nihon Kiin has a go books app on the Apple App Store. (Maybe someone else can check android?)

The app is free and it allows in app purchases of books and monthly/weekly go articles. There is a beginners book in English for about €1, and what seems to be the same book but split into two parts in Spanish for free. Otherwise the rest is in Japanese. (Well the menus are in English for me)

You can preview the first page or cover/table of contents of each book/issue.

It seems to give you a free article from 2011 to start off with in your library.

It has links to news and Go news on their website.

It was supposed to do a Kifu a day to look and play through but that might have stopped in 2018, at least it hasn’t updated for me.

Just thought it might interest people.

Oh and I just noticed what look like pdfs have playable playable diagrams in them, like back forward arrows etc.


Apparently the app has been discontinued but instead they sell books through the Kindle store, and there’s a kindle app. It seems like from the Amazon site that various go books and magazines in Japanese are available “free” with a Kindle Unlimited subscription, that is they’re included. It seems to be like weekly and monthly go magazines from what I can see.

Anyway I have a feeling the one go book I got through that app I’ve lost access to.


Well I think it’s true but doesn’t cover the advantages of learning a bit let say Chinese because that’s what I did.
There are like 400 characters specific to weiqi. Even if you learn 200 of them it’s a big help.

Then you can count a few hundreds common hanze which come again and again: black white good bad to play dead live etc…

It’s clear that you will not know enough to translate a weiqi book but enough to navigate it and get some precious required information (not always ofc).

The main difficulty is to find a kind of specialized teacher (or book too). Taking the weiqi hanze, only weiqi players know them and not always in a extended way.
Which language to chose is up to you and your interest in different cultures.
Looking only on the learning to get better at weiqi one of the reason I’ve chosen Chinese was the prices of the books much much cheaper. Go check how much is just a good Japanese English dictionary you’ll see.

A last word on efficiency. Studying in some kind of exhaustive way the weiqi hanzi will bring you more concepts as what is the common knowledge and by sharing this accumulated but half lost memory you may get more inspiration in your games. (My guess is this is not restricted to Chinese ofc)


Actually just to give an update on that, the Nihon Ki-in are dead sound (that is they’re very nice and helpful) and they sent me a pdf of the book since I can no longer access it.

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Chinese grammer is so easy and it is very similar with English. But I know it will be difficult to learn to read. I know so many foreigners can’t learn to read in Chinese. Japanese has very hard grammer too, it is backwards from English and Chinese. That’s just my oppinon. Every person can have a different experience.


I don’t think it’s similar to English that much. However, I do think that grammar is Chinese and Japanese is very logical and in certain aspects a lot easier than European languages, such as lack of plural or verb conjugation, pretty easy rules for the order of words and grammatical function of words.

For example, some difficult parts is the concept of a grammatical ‘topic’, of counter words, dependent clauses, politeness and there’s certain verb forms that don’t translate properly to English.

But grammar isn’t the hard part of the East Asian languages.


Listening is the hardest part. All Japanese words sound samey like a Morse code, and they speak as fast. Chinese has tones. I don’t know what Koreans have.

So listen to the languages for a while before trying them. When I was trying Chinese a little, I was lucky to realize (before I put significant time into it) it doesn’t sound good to my ears.


Politeness levels in chinese? That’s something in japanese only.

That’s very true. Especially the tone system which exist in many asian language (especially in south west asian countries where it gets even harder on this side)

Politeness is a major part of Korean and Japanese grammer, so then I guess Chinese is lucky in that regard. I guess we can offset that to the number of characters needed.

Well that’s exactly what the post you answered said. Chinese is easy like english to speak, not to read.