Regardless of whether you know how to speak the language, you can probably identify the Chinese language when you hear it being spoken. With over 900 million native speakers, Chinese is easily one of the most spoken languages in the world, with an increasing number of people trying to be proficient at it.
The motivations as to why people learn Mandarin range from passing the HSK test, gaining admission to an esteemed university, all the way to landing a job that is based outside of Singapore’s jurisdiction. But apart from that, learning Mandarin can also deepen your understanding of the Chinese heritage. Before you embark on your journey towards becoming a proficient Chinese speaker, here are some things that you might not know about the language.
The language is considered as one of the most challenging ones to learn
Many have the sentiment that the language is very challenging to learn. Chinese has an extensive writing system, together with specific grammatical standards and phonetics. To be fluent in the language, you’ll need to learn approximately 3,000 characters. While this might seem like a large number, in reality, it is barely enough to let you breeze through the morning paper. You’ll need to take a more active approach to achieve Chinese fluency – be it finding a language speaker to converse with or consuming Chinese media daily.
Apart from the language’s technicalities, it also has five different forms of calligraphy, namely seal character, official script, running script, formal script, and cursive. Being able to tell each calligraphy style apart helps you understand the written language better.
The language is visual in nature
Just like ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphics, the Chinese language is visual in nature and stands as the only modern pictographic language. In history, the tongue was conceptualised through images – similar to a game of Pictionary!
If you aren’t catching on quite yet, most characters in the Chinese language resemble the items that they are referring to, which is an advantage for those who are trying to familiarise themselves with written Chinese.
The language’s influence on western culture, and vice vera
Over the years, simplified Chinese characters have been promoted over traditional Chinese characters to encourage literacy. But, besides evolving within the language, did you know that Chinese has influenced the English language as well? Everyday food such as ‘dim sum’ and ‘boy choy’ has been in fact, adopted by English!
On the other hand, you would’ve probably realised that chocolate and coca-cola, that is read as ‘qiao ke li’ and ‘ke kou ke le’, sound like direct translations across the two languages. As established as Chinese and English are, they continue to adopt vocabulary and are still growing as languages.
The history of Hanyu Pinyin
Since Chinese has a precise way of writing, a new method had to be conceptualised so that the language can be accessed by a larger crowd and aid in learning Mandarin pronunciation. Together with economist Zhou Youguang, a team of Chinese linguists created Hanyu Pinyin.
Yet, even though this origin is more commonly known, Hanyu Pinyin was actually developed based on several existing writing systems, as far as back as the Qing dynasty. This romanisation system was later used during the Cold War to offer a political statement and to identify with the Chinese communist regime.
Indeed, the Chinese language is challenging to muster, given its broad and complex nature. But for those trying to be proficient in it, it helps to know what makes the language unique or similar to the cultures that they have grown to know.
If you’re looking for more fascinating insights into the Chinese culture as you deepen your knowledge of the language, the most efficient way is for you to sign up for a Mandarin course in Singapore. With native speakers who are proficient in the language and hold a cultural lens in giving quality instruction, your language learning journey will pick up in no time.