Learning Chinese Mandarin: is it difficult?

What you should know about Chinese language.

learn-chinese-mandarinChinese language is considered to be one of the oldest ones dating back about six thousand years. Therefore many people often are intimidated by idea of learning it. If we take into account statistics it is spoken by every fifth person in the world. The most widely spoken form is Mandarin, which is also the official language of China and used by about 800 million people. In addition it’s one of the main languages in Taiwan, one of the fourth languages spoken in Singapore as well as that it’s one of six official languages of United Nations. Standard Mandarin is based on the dialect mostly spoken in Beijing. Mandarin Chinese has the most native speakers compared with other languages.

Some of the most important dialects other than Mandarin are Wu, Min, Xiang, Hakka and Gan. Standard Cantonese is mostly spoken in Hong Kong and Macau. Due to some historic reasons most Chinese-speaking people in the United States speak also Cantonese. It’s very different drom Mandarin Chinese, actually it is as different as French and German languages. This is also the case with other Chinese dialects, however all of them use the same writing system. The communication between Chinese themselves might become quite difficult at times since there are so many different dialects and these dialects are quite different. To better imagine the situation you can think of China as a Europe where there are languages like Spanish, Italian, French and etc. Therefore even linguists sometimes can’t agree whether they are only different dialects of Chninese or even separate languages.

The difficulty of learning Chinese Mandarin.

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The most difficult part about this language is of course it’s writing system. It doesn’t have an alphabet like most languages, but it’s written with symbols, which are called characters. There are a total of about 20 thousand of characters, however in order to properly read a newspaper you need to learn about 3-4 thousand. In most cases people who try to learn it begins with learning how to speak and only later try learning how to write and read. When it comes to characters there are two types of them: simplified and traditional. Simplified characters are being used in China, while traditional ones are used in Macau, Taiwan, Hong Kong and in Chinese communities in other countries. The easier ones to write are of course simplified character since they have more strokes.¬†Due to the fact that Chinese characters are quite complicated there is pinyin, which is a romanized form of Chinese that helps learners to read and write. You can even find pinyin written on the street signs in China and Taiwan.

The easiest part about Chinese is it’s grammar. What makes it easy is the fact that there are no tenses, genders, plurals and cases, which is the main reason why it’s so difficult to learn some European languages. Instead of using tenses adverds like before, yesterday, tomorrow are being used in the sentence to show the tense. According to Chinese grammar a word is a word and it doesn’t change no matter what. So every word has a fixed form and no matter what it’s used for or where in the sentence it stays the same.

chinese-language-difficultMost learners find this language challenging, because it’s tonal. There are four basic tones in Mandarin Chinese: flat, rising, falling then rising and falling, however other dialects have even more. For example areas of North China uses 3 tones while in Southern China there might be as many as 6-10 tones. So what it basically means is that the innotation in which you say sounds can totally change the meaning of it. So it might look a little bit scary at the beginning, however you should keep in mind that there are context to a word, so even if you say something wrong there is still a great chance that a person can understand you.

If you would be able to learn how to write and read in Chinese, it would be much easier for you to also learn written Japanese or Korean. This is due to the fact that both of these languages contains quite a lot of characters from Chinese. The meaning of characters are quite the same, however there are differencies in grammar and pronunciation, so it can’t be said that it’s very similar languages.