There is a common misconception that Chinese is harder than any other language to learn. But as the popular saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. Some of the variables that affect your language acquisition are your native language, other known languages, etc. For example, people who are native Spanish or Italian speakers will generally have a less difficult time learning French than a German speaker while a German speaker could learn Dutch or Norwegian easier than a Spanish native speaker.
Of course, there will be a learning curve for English speakers and other westerners to learn Chinese but it is not impossible. This article examines essential parts of the Chinese language to highlight the areas where a lot of people tend to struggle. You will be surprised at how easy to learn Chinese!
When you look at the intricate, beautiful, confusing written Chinese characters, intimidation can set in from not being able to read anything at first. Some Chinese characters are more than 2,000 years old. Westerners are not familiar with the Chinese characters so using a system called pinyin will help which is a completely phonetic system.
The Chinese language does not have a lot of syllabi so tones are used instead. There are four different tones in the official Mandarin Chinese language. There is also a fifth neutral tone that is not used often in conversation. The purpose of these tones is to assist with word pronunciation and to help differentiate meaning between words.
It will be a challenge to hear and pronounce the tones at the beginning of your learning especially for individuals who have never studied languages that use tones.
At the same time, you do not want to obsess yourself with perfect pronunciation of every tone. Once you have achieved middle (neither a beginner nor an expert) level language abilities, even if you mispronounce or cannot fully hear a tone properly, people will understand what meaning you are going for and you will be able to understand the nuances in the sounds much better.
In the beginning or if you find yourself really struggling with differentiating between different tones:
Remember that although characters are not important for correct pronunciation of the Chinese language, they are still a very useful creation. Initially, there was a huge amount of homonyms in the Chinese language that needed to be resolved. Homonyms are words that are pronounced exactly the same but have totally different definitions or meanings. The establishment of Chinese characters was mandatory to help limit the excess of homonyms to help tell the difference between them since an alphabetical method would be too restricted.
Chinese grammar rules are very different from what you know now as an English native speaker and pleasantly lack a lot of the complexities we are used to. If you recall the days of having to remember which verbs are regular or irregular, memorizing plural noun forms, deciphering between masculine or feminine verbs, you will be happy to know the Chinese language does not have those grammar rules!
First, there is no verb conjugation in Chinese meaning there is only one form for each verb making them all regular, do not worry about irregular verbs, there are none in Chinese! Second, you do not have to regard tenses because, in Chinese, you use particles to show which place in time an action is taking place in, the verb form is independent of the tense. There are no articles in Chinese the way there are in Spanish. This means, the verbs are not given gender qualities, so you can disregard using words like la/el, le.
Another unique grammar rule that differentiates Chinese from other languages is the fact that you do not make words plural that meaning the context of the sentence will be sufficient to indicate if something is spoken of in plural or singular ways. There are no cases since articles are not used, adjectives do not change since there are no declinations by number or gender, and with no inversion, there is a fixed sentence pattern with the subject-verb-object.
Letting go of the myth that Chinese is difficult to learn also comes as a result of the fear people have with learning the Chinese vocabulary. When you are first starting out and learning a few words, you will see that there is a very rational system. You will be glad to know that once you get some essential words under your belt, your learning will start accelerating. As your learning continues to progress, the foundation of knowledge you acquired will begin to build on itself with the new things you learn. This is because many words in the Chinese language stem from one another and some are even combinations of other simple words you have learned.
There are countless examples of how the Chinese language uses single characters with meanings that people know in order to create new words. Combining characters with simple meanings to form new words makes this language straightforward and pretty transparent.
There is no doubt that Chinese characters are arguably the most frightening part when beginning your language journey. Though it is not critical right away, learning the characters will be an important part of the advanced development of your skills. Generally speaking, there are three groups of Chinese characters can fit in: pictograms, ideograms, and radical-phonetic compounds. Pictograms are more like the visual symbol for a certain object, ideograms convey theoretical ideas, and radical-phonetic compounds which most characters fall in involves an element of definition and one of pronunciation.
Like with any new thing, you will make mistakes in the beginning. If you put your fears aside and follow our tips, you will be proud of yourself and surprised at how easy to learn Chinese!
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