To English speakers, Mandarin-Chinese has a fame of being one of the most difficult languages to learn.
Back to many years ago, this statement might be true.
However, with the introduction of phonetic system-pinyin, especially with the popularity of typing characters with pinyin on screen instead of writing by hand, learning Mandarin-Chinese becomes much easier, not to mention the simplification of traditional Chinese characters makes Mandarin-Chinese easier to read and write.
Actually, compared to English, Mandarin-Chinese is simpler on many aspects.
1, Mandarin grammar is very simple.
Unlike complicated grammar rules in English, the grammar structure in Mandarin-Chinese is very straight forward.
Mandarin-Chinese has no conjugations, no tenses, no articles, no plurals, no cases etc. In Mandarin-Chinese, the sentence order is almost fixed.
It means, when we ask a question, we simple put a modal partical like 吗 (ma) at the end of the statement sentence instead of changing the order of words in a sentence as English does.
Let me give you an example.
This is a statement sentence in Mandarin-Chinese: 这是一个苹果。(zhè shì yī gè píng guǒ。) (This is an apple. )
This is a question sentence: 这是一个苹果吗？( zhè shì yī gè píng guǒ ma) (Is this an apple?)
For more information about Mandarin-Chinese grammar, please check out the link on Wiki: Chinese grammar.
2, Characters are easy to understand.
Unlike abstract letters in English, Chinese characters are much easier to understand.
Many of basic characters are developed from the drawing of subjects, even today, we can still get some clue of the object.
Below is two pictures showing the developmental history of the character “山”(shān)(hill) and “大”(dà)(big).
Besides characters developed from drawing objects, some Chinese characters express abstract ideas through meaningful iconic forms.
For example, “上”(shàng) means up, “下”(xià) means down.
Most characters are radical-phonetic compounds. One element indicates the meaning of the character, one element indicates the pronunciation.
For example, “妈”(mā) (mom), the left side of element “女” (nǚ )(woman) indicates the meaning of “妈”: a woman, the right side of element “马” (mǎ )(horse)indicates the pronunciation of “妈” (mā). The pronunciation sounds similar to “马”.
I don’t know why mom is related with a female horse, maybe we ancestors thought a mom always worked hard like a horse?
Anyway, it is interesting to guess what is the reason behind a character. In this sense, learning Mandarin-Chinese is really fun.
For more information, please check out the link on Wiki: Chinese character classification.
3, Mandarin-Chinese pronunciation is not hard.
During its history, English absorbed and adopted many words from other languages, which makes the pronunciation very difficult to English learners.
However, Mandarin-Chinese doesn’t have this issue. We do have very limited words from other languages like 沙发(shān fā)(sofa), but the pronunciation is not hard: It sounds similar to the pronunciation of original word.
In addition, pinyin helps you learn pronunciation in an easy way.
Of course, there are many characters sharing the same pronunciation in Mandarin-Chinese.
To a beginner, it might sound very confusing. However, you will find out soon, people have no problem to get the meaning of each word because of the context.
Some people complain it is hard to pronounce tones. It is because you don’t find a right way to pronounce these tones.
In my next post I will show you how to pronounce tones and sound like a native speaker.
Of course, there are some other hard parts to English speakers like the measure words.
There are no measure words in English and many people feel confused when it comes to use measure words.
However, there are some rules to follow. I will mention these rules in my future post.
Some learners feel overwhelmed for learning so many characters.
The good news is, you don’t need know all of them. If you know about 3,000 characters, you are free to go almost everywhere.
Luckily, in this era of Internet, it is not very necessary to learn how to write characters.
If you wish to learn how to write, there are some basic rules to follow. I will explain these rules soon.
By the way, writing Chinese characters is really fun. Many times it is like drawing an abstract picture. In this sense, Chinese is really an amazing language.