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Is Chinese Difficult? Things Before Learning Mandarin Chinese.

May 30th, 2009 - by Jason

There are more and more people learning Chinese these days. However many people said Chinese is difficult. It depends largely on how you learn Chinese. In choosing a Chinese learning strategy the following may help you.

1. Chinese (Mandarin) is one of the easiest languages to learn how to speak for a native English speaker.

  • The Chinese grammar is much simpler. Unlike many European languages, Chinese has no irregular verbs or noun plurals to learn, because words have only a single form, with no suffixes for tense, number, case, etc. (There are some particles which work somewhat like tense endings, but they always take the same form, no matter what they are added to.)
  • Chinese has the same word order as does English: SVO. There is a large use of placing verbs at the end with a helper verb, but we have similar structures in English too, example: please have something…. be/get done.
  • Mandarin’s learning curve is the opposite than for learning English. The more you learn the less you need to rely on dictionaries and everything explains itself. The opposite is true for English, once you’ve mastered the basics, you have to upgrade to an advanced dictionary to learn even more words. A example from a specific field like paleontology would be the names of dinosaurs: in English they’re hard to remember and spell, unless you’re a 6 year old boy, but in Chinese they’re actually quite easy and you’ll find a single 24 year old female office worker be able to recall many of the popular dinosaur names which would probably not be true for an American.

2. Chinese tones require extra care.

  • There are a few possible syllables (400+) and several tones. Distinguishing meaning by tone is absolutely necessary for Mandarin. Chinese is a tone language–that is, different pitch patterns do not just add emotional color, as in English; they actually distinguish one word from another. For example, once in China, an American tried to say “niu rou?”(Beef) but actually nobody could understand, because beef should pronounce as “niu2 rou4″. How much of this problem is depends a lot on the individual student. students with a good ear do not necessarily find this a difficulty.

3. Hard things:

  • The writing system may be hard to learn, though there is nothing conceptually difficult about it; there is just a lot to memorize. There are 2,500 common characters and 1,000 less-than-common characters in Modern Chinese. To read and understand 90% of Chinese article, you need to learn at least 1000+ common characters. Fortunately, Chinese is much easier to recognize. It means that the reading is much easier than handwriting. And if you can recognize Chinese character and master their pronunciation (Hanyu Pinyin), you will be able to easily input the characters into computer and print them on paper.
  • Chinese shares very little vocabulary with European languages, so speakers of these languages have to work harder than if they were learning another European language. But as mentioned above, Chinese has advantages on speaking and understanding words on a specific field.


Easy = Chinese speaking < Chinese listening < Chinese reading < Chinese handwriting = Difficult

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3 Responses to “Is Chinese Difficult? Things Before Learning Mandarin Chinese.”

  1. KattyBlackyard says:

    The best information i have found exactly here. Keep going Thank you.

  2. Schedule says:

    Maybe you should change the page subject title Is Chinese Difficult? Things Before Learning Mandarin Chinese. Chinese Language | Mandarin Chinese | Chinese Learning to more suited for your webpage you make. I liked the the writing yet.

  3. Joseph Skues says:

    This is very useful. I see it will improve my Chinese quickly. I can quickly review just like having my teacher beside me 24 hours a day. Grateful tanks.

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