The Chinese language is often regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn, but this is an oversimplification. Indeed there are many challenges learning the language, just as learning any other languages. The truth is that Chinese actually may be easier than you think.
Chinese Grammar Is Easy
Chinese grammar structures are generally easier to learn than those of most European languages. There are no tenses, singular/plural, or gender in Chinese grammar. Chinese does not have subject-verb agreement, irregular verbs or conjugations. Dates and time in Chinese follow a straightforward numbering system. Chinese word order is relatively flexible, which makes it easier for beginners to construct sentences. An entry-level Chinese learner can easily conduct conversation and be understood after a few months of studying Chinese.
Unlike English verbs, Chinese words do not change forms. Let’s take a look at the English “to be” verb and compare it against its Chinese counterpart.
I am – 我是 (wǒ shì)
You are – 你是 (nǐ shì)
He is – 他是 (tā shì)
We are – 我们是 (wǒmen shì)
You are – 你们是 (nǐmen shì)
They are – 他们是 (tāmen shì)
Pinyin as A Pronunciation and Input Tool
Although Chinese language consists of characters, pinyin has been developed to help learning Chinese pronunciation. Pinyin, the official romanization system, is used to transcribe Chinese in a phonetic way. With this tool, learning Chinese, esp. spoken Chinese is not that hard.
Another great thing about pinyin is that pinyin is used to input Chinese characters. When you type pinyin into your devices and you’ll get character suggestions. This means that you can text or write Chinese words without needing to know the strokes of the characters.
You Don’t Need to Learn All the Characters
Although there are about 50,000 Chinese characters in total, the majority of them are rarely used in daily life. That means, once the most commonly used characters are grasped, it is easy to comprehend articles from social media or newspapers even with a number of several hundreds of characters.
Also, all Chinese characters are derived from a couple hundred pictographs and ideographs. And many Chinese characters share the same radicals which also indicate the general meaning of the characters. Learning Chinese characters is therefore not that hard as long as the basic characters and the system are understood.
Chinese Word Construction Is Logical
There is a misconception that learning Chinese requires memorizing thousands of completely unrelated characters. And it makes a lot of people shy away from Chinese as they view it as a mission impossible. Luckily, this idea is not true. The reality is that learning one character opens up a whole world of other logically interrelated Chinese characters.
For example, you know how to count in Chinese, and the character for moon, 月(yuè). When we put the numbers in front of 月, we come up with the 12 months: 一月 (January), 二月 (February), 三月 (March), 四月 (April), 五月 (May), and so on.
Let’s have a look at another example. You might already know the character for fire, 火 (huǒ), and the character for mountain, 山 (shān), but do you know what means when we put these two characters together? By adding fire (火) to mountain (山), we get 火山 (huǒshān), fire-mountain, or volcano! Isn’t it incredibly logical?
A whole host of Chinese words are constructed in this way. A good example is 车vehicle. Once we learn this character, we have easier access to large variety of words, such as,
火车 （huǒchē）- (fire + vehicle) train
汽车 qìchē – (steam + vehicle) car
电车 diànchē – (electricity + vehicle) tram
自行车 zìxíngchē – (self-moving vehicle) bike
三轮车 zìxíngchē – (three-wheeled vehicle) tricycle
In summary, although Chinese is viewed as one of the most difficult languages to learn, learning it requires time and commitment, it is not as hard as people believe and it is especially true for kids.
This article is one of the 10 Questions Getting Started to help kids learn Mandarin Chinese. If you find it useful, I encourage you to get the guide.
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