Have you been wondering whether you should try to learn a new language? Have you been seeing the advertisements about French classes Brisbane or Spanish lessons? For those confused about which language will prove more beneficial for them in the near future, there is one simple answer: Chinese! The language with the largest population of speakers.
With China leading the world of business and commerce, more and more people seem to be gravitating towards learning Chinese in order to break into the vast market of the economic Asian giant. The fact that the US and China are increasingly becoming dependent on each other economically is another incentive to learn the language; it is as important as English now.=
The biggest hurdle that people face when deciding whether they want to learn Chinese is the general perception of it being a difficult language to learn due to its unfamiliar tones and intonations as well as the sheer number of characters. Is English easier than Chinese? You’ll find that Chinese is actually no more difficult to learn than to English.
The Case of Mark Zuckerberg
Who understands the online world and the realm of marketing better than the CEO of Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg started taking Mandarin Chinese lessons in 2010 and gained fluent proficiency over the language four years down the line, enough to be able to converse with President Xi Jinxing as well as give lengthy and elaborate speeches in the language with apparent ease. His example is something everyone should consider when evaluating the benefits of learning this language.
Not as Hard as You Think
Like the case with any other language, dedication of a few months is enough to converse well in Mandarin Chinese. What matters the most is to set aside any inhibitions regarding your inability to learn a language that looks drastically different from English. Getting used to the unfamiliarity is the key component here.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that all languages simply cannot be approached in the same way. Learning French is different from learning Hindi, and learning Chinese is different from learning English.
A point to keep in mind is that the Chinese syllable corresponds with respective Chinese characters. This means that Mandarin Chinese is much more permanent and less likely to change than English, which is constantly evolving and morphing new words. This certainly helps the process of learning. While reaching an advanced level of proficiency will certainly take months of commitment, simple fluency in the language is fairly doable.
Easier than English?
Due to specific factors, a lot of people surprisingly also consider Chinese to be an easier language to learn than English. Why, you might ask? Firstly, because Mandarin is not too fussed with tenses, which are absolutely necessary for fluency in English. There are also no verb conjugations to remember. Moreover, the Mandarin alphabet called Pinyin is entirely unphonetic and might prove to be easier to remember than the English alphabet.
While for most languages, sentence structure plays a very essential role, this is not the case for Mandarin Chinese. The language has a very flexible speech pattern where arrangement of words is not as important.
As opposed to thousands of sound combinations in English, Mandarin Chinese has very few combinations with the only tricky part being their unfamiliarity. Majority of words in Mandarin do not exceed beyond two syllables. The language also does not have any articles or plurals of nouns while also being gender neutral. It also has a surprisingly simple and straightforward grammar.
For those interested, the etymology of Chinese words is also quite simple to remember and understand in contrast to English. While English has words like ‘perfume’, ‘pneumonia’ and ‘leukemia’, their Chinese alternatives are simply ‘fragrant water’, ‘lung infection’ and ‘blood cancer’.
To sum it all up, it is incorrect to assume any language is more difficult than the other. English just seems easier due to its wide accessibility in the global world, not because it is inherently easier than Chinese in terms of learning. The only reason Mandarin has acquired a reputation as a hard language to learn is because it is deemed so by people in the West, whose language looks and sounds completely different from Asian languages.
As explained above in detail, it is actually easier and simpler to learn Mandarin Chinese in some respects; it is certainly not an insurmountable goal to set for yourself! Tackling hurdles is a natural part of the learning process of any language and Chinese is not an exception but it is also not the overly intricate and complex language it is often made out to be.
Ready to take on the challenge of starting your China journey? Start here! Or maybe you’re still not sure about your Chinese level and want to improve on the foundation, check out our Chinese Starter Kit series for pinyin, tones, grammar, and vocabulary.