Learning a new language isn’t easy. But mastering the Chinese language is even harder. The Chinese language is arguably one of the most foreign languages to anyone whose first language is of English or European origin.
Why is this so?
This is because the characters of the two languages differ so much and have little to no similarities. This means that people with an English background will have to start from scratch if they were to learn the Chinese language.
What Makes Learning Chinese So Difficult?
The tones of the Chinese language is not one that is easy to learn, let alone master.
There are a total of five different tones for the Chinese language. They include the first four basic ones and a fifth with a neutralised tone. The specific tone that you use dictates the meaning of a particular word, making it crucial to learn the differences between the five sounds. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself being misunderstood by others most of the time when speaking.
2. Writing Chinese characters
The thing that makes Chinese unique, unlike other languages, is that it is made up of characters and not alphabets. However, these characters are also the reason why it is so hard to master the Chinese language. There are over 50,000 characters in Chinese for one to learn and master. As a new learner, you are already facing an uphill climb.
However, the good thing is that out of the 50,000 characters, you will only be using 10,000 most of the time.
10,000 may not a small number, but in comparison to 50,000, it is far lesser and a lot more manageable.
Another point of contention and difficulty for new Chinese language learners is the difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters.
Some countries use Traditional Chinese characters, while others use the Simplified version. Therefore, it can be a challenge for even those who have learnt the basics of Chinese to interpret the language even in Chinese-speaking countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is because these countries use traditional Chinese characters.
Chinese is a tonal language, thus pronouncing a word accurately is arguably the most important thing.
As mentioned above, not knowing the appropriate tone for specific words can cause misunderstandings. However, do not let this deter you. Misunderstandings are relatively common in any language, especially if you’re still trying to learn.
Try not to be too hard on yourself should someone misunderstand what you’re trying to say. Instead, use it as a learning experience, and if you want, you can ask a native speaker to try and correct your tone.
The secret to improving your comprehension in the Chinese language is to immerse yourself in the language constantly. The more exposed you are to native speakers, the more you’ll pick up on the different sounds of the Chinese language. Eventually, you’ll learn to pronounce the differences yourself, and very soon, you will be able to speak just like a native Chinese speaker.
However, do keep in mind that this would not happen right away. Hard work, practice and time are needed to achieve that goal.
There is no fixed timeframe on how long it should take someone to learn the Chinese language. It can be a month, a year, or even years. It all depends on the individual who is learning it. Factors such as their motives for learning as well as the amount of time they are dedicating to learn the language, would affect one’s learning speed.
While it is indeed difficult to master the Chinese language, it is not impossible.
As long as you put in the time and effort, and immerse yourself in the language, you will be able to write, read, and speak Chinese fluently in no time. Taking up a business Chinese class is also highly advisable. The class will help you communicate professionally and provide you with industry-related content applicable for your profession needs, as well as enhance your Chinese reading and writing skills.