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4 reasons Mandarin Chinese is not as hard to learn as you think

By LingoAce Curriculum Team |US |December 9, 2023

Learning Chinese
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How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese?

Learning Mandarin Chinese looks like a daunting task to most people in the world. This impression can be attributed to the peculiarity in the sound of the words and the language’s complex writing system. For people wondering why Mandarin Chinese is so hard to learn, this article is the perfect reading material. This article discusses and answers the popular question “is Mandarin Chinese a hard language to learn?”. Four reasons are discussed here that tell us why the Mandarin Chinese language can be learned more easily than you might think. 

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Chinese has Different Grammar 

Although Mandarin Chinese grammar is entirely different from other commonly spoken languages such as English, it is much easier and simpler to learn than various European languages. Although there are grammar rules that signify incorrect or correct usage, there is much that you can get away with initially as a beginner Mandarin Chinese language learner. 

Individual Mandarin Chinese words can be thought of as bricks that can be arranged to suit your idea of sentence formation without worrying about tenses and gender, as is the case with European languages. Within a few months of learning Mandarin Chinese, you can begin to construct sentences, which would be easily understood by the people reading or listening to them. For example, in the English language, you need to change the verb based on the tense; however, in Mandarin Chinese, you can use the same common verb form irrespective of the tense being used. 

Another subtle advantage of learning the Mandarin Chinese language is that foreign visitors in China are not expected to speak the local language, unlike what happens in European countries. Hence, you will probably not be judged even if your Mandarin Chinese vocabulary and speaking skills are not native. On the contrary, your efforts are most likely to be appreciated by the local populace. Nevertheless, if you are still left wondering how hard it is to learn Mandarin Chinese, you should give it a try and understand it for yourself.

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Chinese Characters Is Impenetrable

While it is true that there are thousands of characters in the Mandarin Chinese language, and it might look like a daunting task to learn all these complex and different characters, it is, in fact, a lot easier than you can imagine. 

The primary reason for this is the common collection of elements used to make these characters. These common elements are known as radicals. Once a person familiarizes themself with some of the categories of this collection, these characters will stop giving them the feel of being alien and start making sense. For example, as the characters showed below:

  • 菜(cài)-Dish, meal or vegetables

  • 茶(chá)-Tea

  • 草(cǎo)-Grass

  • 药(yào)-Medicine

you can see that there is a horizontal line with two minor vertical strokes at the top of each word. This radical is for grass, and it has a common meaning in each of the four words. 

Upon continuing your study of the Mandarin Chinese language, you will be able to recognize more such patterns and the elements making up the characters. Although reading a book or a newspaper in Mandarin Chinese would require learning thousands of characters, basic daily routine conversations with the Chinese locals can be made by learning just a few hundred well-chosen characters.  

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Chinese has different Pronunciation

Native English speakers will find numerous sounds in the Mandarin Chinese language that are alien to them and might even struggle to pronounce them. Fortunately for non-native Mandarin Chinese learners, this can be resolved by using some hacks, such as looking for English letter pairings or syllables that have similar sounds. 

Let us look at some examples below: 

  • In Pinyin, J occurs in words such as 几 (jǐ) meaning “a few”, and it is pronounced as it is done in the first three letters of the word “jeep". 

  • In the Mandarin Chinese word 休息 (xiū xi) for “rest”, X is pronounced similar to how sh is pronounced in the English word “sheet”. 

  • Words like 知道 (zhī dào) meaning “know” have the sound zh, which is pronounced similar to how ge sounds at the end of the word “strange”. 

  • Mandarin Chinese words such as 七 (qī) for “seven” have the sound Q in Pinyin that is like J as discussed in the first point but with an aspirated tone. You will have to exhale while saying this sound, and the pronunciation has to be more forceful. 

Is learning Mandarin Chinese hard? Not so much once a person begins to practice and gives it the time it requires to become fluent.

You Don’t Have to Go Solo 

The last reason in a person’s quest to find the answer to “how hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese” is that Mandarin Chinese, like English or Spanish, is another language. As with any other language, communication is the key to becoming adept at using the Mandarin Chinese language. While immersing yourself in text resources while learning Mandarin Chinese is quite useful, it is inadequate to become fluent in the language. 

You will need to go out and start conversing with people in a fun way. After all, if you visit China and need to eat at a local restaurant, it is best to learn the language fast rather than sit idle and stay hungry. You can find Mandarin practice groups in your local areas or lookup nearby small Chinese ethnic groups. Look for such groups on social platforms such as Meetup or Facebook. You can find some amazing language exchanges or language practice groups in your area.

If you are unable to find a local group, you can always go back to your 24x7 friend - the Internet. There are many tutorials and online communities where people can find an online language partner. 

Conclusion

It is true that learning a new language that is not native can be extremely hard as it will be challenging to comprehend and will also take a lot of time. You will have to immerse yourself in the culture, grammar, and vocabulary of a foreign civilization. However, in the end, it will be a truly rewarding experience. Learning Mandarin Chinese will allow you to communicate with over 1 billion people and give you the opportunity to know and understand them.  

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If you also want to introduce your child to the Mandarin Chinese language, LingoAce is your perfect partner.  

At LingoAce, each lesson your child takes with us is a product of over 100 hours of curriculum creation, courseware production, mock teaching, teacher training and quality control (QC) rounds. 

Experience a redefined Mandarin Chinese learning experience first-hand through a free trial lesson with us today. 

Our team members have backgrounds in pedagogy, educational psychology, and linguistics. Certain members have over 10 years of experience in teaching, research, foreign language learning, and educational theory. They understand the characteristics of children aged 3-15. They've worked with well-known Chinese education institutions and had experience with teaching and curriculum design. They excels at producing interactive and highly engaging content that is aligned to local learning needs.​