Is it easy to learn Chinese if you know English?
All the Chinese languages share a common literary language (wenyan), written in characters and based on a common body of literature. This literary language has no single standard of pronunciation; a speaker of a language reads texts according to the rules of pronunciation of his own language. Before 1917 the wenyan was used for almost all writing; since that date, it has become increasingly acceptable to write in the vernacular style (baihua) instead, and the old literary language is dying out in the daily life of modern China.
English speaking countries often consider Chinese as a difficult language. This might be mostly because of the uniqueness in Chinese characters and tones, as well as the writing style. The different dialects of the Chinese language differ from one another, making it difficult for one to understand it. Learning Mandarin Chinese has its own benefits. It can help a person grow both personally as well as professionally. It also helps one to gain a better understanding of Chinese cultures and values.
In this blog, we’ll discuss if it’s easy to learn Chinese for the English speakers:
- It’s not easy: The hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet. In addition to the usual challenges that come with learning any language from scratch, people studying Mandarin must also memorize thousands of special characters, unlike anything seen in Latin-based languages.
- You might find Grammar easy: Chinese grammar is in many ways similar to English grammar. A simple Chinese sentence structure consists of a subject, a predicate and an object. For instance, the Chinese language does not have different forms based on gender, or singular/plural. There are some differences between Chinese and English, but it is not hard to trace the clue and bridge the gap. A major difference between the two languages is that there are a lot of measured words in Chinese. The place and use of measure words in Chinese are similar to how the English word ‘piece’ is placed and used in the phrase ‘a piece of paper’.
- Pronunciation is not a problem for British students: Over the 60 freshmen I’ve been teaching are beginners. None of them has trouble pronouncing Chinese (those whose mother tongue is French or Italian often have more difficulties). What most British students may find difficult are the four tones, which they don’t have in English. But you can solve this problem with practice, and I believe it can be done within the first semester at university.
- You Don’t Need to Go It Alone: If you’re feeling like you’re fighting a solo battle against the Chinese language, then of course you’re going to find it hard. Language is, after all, about communication. Sitting alone with your textbooks is useful, but insufficient to attaining fluency. If you really can’t find anything locally, the internet is your friend. You can find a Chinese language partner online or try these options for conversation practice.
While any language is worth learning because they open different windows of opportunities for you, the Chinese language is unique. The advantages of learning Chinese and being able to speak fluent Mandarin can help you be in contact with billions of people in the world. Soon Mandarin is set to become ”the language of the world”.
So, get right to it!