I read an article from Chosun.com about learning Chinese. It is a Korean newspaper. The article basically encourages Koreans to learn Chinese. It would be easier for Koreans to learn Chinese since Korea was heavily influenced by Chinese language and culture in the past. Actually most of the ancient Korean documents were written in Chinese. Many Korean literature and history scholars can read Chinese if they can not speak it. I know this because my father, a Chinese classical literature professor, has had several post-graduate students from Korea.

The article gives some information regarding the difficulty for westerners to learn Mandarin,

The U.S. State Department categorized Mandarin as one of most difficult languages to learn along with Korean, Arabic, Japanese and Cantonese. Ordinary Americans must learn the language for 2,200 hours — 40 hours a week for 13 months — to become fluent. They need only some four months to speak French and Spanish fluently.

It emphasizes the zeal of learning Chinese around the world. Some points are interesting to be noted:

In France, the number of applicants for the Chinese speaking test (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) increases 20 percent every year. In Britain, Chinese nannies are paid twice the wages of ordinary English-speaking nannies. In New York, nannies speaking both English and Chinese earn US$50,000 a year. The Thai government encourages young students to learn English and Chinese at the same time, saying that they will be defeated if they don’t speak Chinese.


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