For a lot of new learners, learning Mandarin Chinese seems like a daunting task. There is a general notion that Mandarin Chinese is very difficult to learn, and learning it is an almost impossible task.
More than a billion people in this world speak Mandarin Chinese – it can’t be impossible to learn, can it?
Our primary focus here is on learning spoken Mandarin Chinese and not the script.
So, if your aim is to learn spoken or conversational Mandarin Chinese, here are the top 10 reasons why learning Mandarin Chinese is not hard:
Mandarin Chinese has no tenses
While in English or other European languages, we struggle to remember all the verb forms and tenses to talk about the past, future, etc., in Mandarin Chinese we can use the same word for all tenses.
There are some particles that are used to indicate the time of the action – but it is much easier than remembering verb forms for so many tenses!
So, while in English we say go, went, gone, going; in Mandarin Chinese, we just use Qù
Nouns do not have gender!
In spoken Mandarin Chinese, there is no gender distinction in personal pronouns:
the pronoun tā (他) can mean ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘it’
Nouns do not have plurals either!
You don’t have to worry about adding the -s or -es! The plural form of the word remains the same as its singular form in Mandarin! Mandarin usually employs quantity words or measure words to indicate plurality. Lets take an example:
1 Friend = Yīgè péngyǒu (1 = Yī)
3 friends = Sān gè péngyǒu ( 3 = Sān)
The words ‘friend’ and ‘friends’ both translate as péngyǒu. ‘gè’ is a measure word.
Mandarin Chinese has no articles
No need to worry about the ‘a’, ‘an’, or ‘the’. There are some measure words which are quite easy to learn
Things like days of the week, names of months are extremely intuitive.
These names use numbers extremely effectively. For example:
Month = Yuè
January = Yī yuè (1 Month)
February = Èr yuè (2 Month)
March = Sān yuè (3 Month)
Week = Xīngqí
Monday = Xīngqí yī (week 1)
Tuesday = Xīngqí‘èr (week 2)
Wednesday = Xīngqí sān (week 3)
Simple, isn’t it?
Vocabulary is also quite intuitive
Nationalities are simply country name + people (rén)
America = Měiguó,
American(s) = Měiguó rén (America people)
China = Zhōngguó,
Chinese = Zhōngguó rén (China people)
Electricity = Diàn
Computer = Diànnǎo (Electronic brain)
Telephone = Diànhuà (Electronic speech)
Verbs don’t conjugate in Chinese
I eat = Wǒ chī
He eats = Tā chī
Possessives are simple!
Just add ‘de’ and you are done!
My = Wǒ de, Your = Nǐ de, His = Tā de
The sentence structure stays standard for most cases – SVO (Subject-Verb-Object)
The characters themselves can be quite indicative of what they mean
A more detailed post on Mandarin Chinese characters is coming up soon!
Learn Mandarin Chinese logically, for free: CultureAlley Mandarin
There is no denying the benefits that learning a new language brings in. A broader perspective, cognitive benefits, expansion of your cultural horizons, a boost to your CV, and so much more!
Learning a language is not easy. It requires constant effort and dedication. However, it wouldn’t be wrong in saying that learning a language has never been easier. Today, you can learn languages from the comfort of your home!
A few things, if done right, can transform the way you learn your next language. If we were to summarize it – don’t make language learning a new ‘task’ – let it flow with your daily life-style.
- Why do you want to learn a new language?
Know your need before starting up a new course. Are you traveling? Are you taking up a new language with an aim to converse well? Is it for school? Is it for a professional reason? Are you dating someone who speaks another language?
Knowing the need is essential to pick up the right learning plan. For example: If you truly want to start conversing in the new language, then just memorizing a few phrases is not useful.
- How much time do you want to spend each day?
This is less of a question and more of a check point – plan to spend some time each day. Learning a new language requires continuity. Having bouts of learning followed by long breaks causes loss in efficiency.
- Get the essentials right
Memorizing a few phrases seems easy, but unless your purpose is just getting through a couple of days in a foreign country, just knowing a few phrases doesn’t help.
So, get some essentials right. It might seem easier to start at the wrong footing but in the long run undo-ing all the ‘memorization’ techniques will take much longer than starting with the right base from the beginning
- Know the grammar essentials to compose simple sentences yourself. ‘Maria want juice’ may communicate your purpose but sounds pretty unintelligent!
- Learn basic pronunciation peculiarities – Knowing all pronunciation DOs and DON’Ts takes time, but get some peculiarities right from the start. You don’t want to be wishing ¡Hola! as H-O-L-A in Spain
Alright, so now you have started your journey right…Great! The next step is to apply the learning in all possible forms – so listen, read, write, and speak!
- Listen – Rather than reading from a book and decrypting pronunciation – just grab some audio lessons and hear the pronunciations! Include listening in your practice schedule – solve at least a few listening based questions every time you practice!
- Write – Now you may question, I only want to learn how to speak the new language why should I write? Well, writing is different from ‘scripting’. Just ensure that your practice has some modules on listening and writing – you will catch so many of those small peculiarities while you write – something that are almost impossible in other forms of practice.
- Read – Comprehension practice is another great way to see the essentials being put to use. When you read real-life examples and the usage of the words in context, you automatically build your vocabulary. Mugging up 1000 words is easy but it is just as easy to forget them. Hence, learning with context is very important.
- And of-course speak! Speak, practice, make your mistakes and learn from them.
- Let it flow with your life
As we said earlier, while dedicated effort is important, let language learning flow with your daily life.
- Next time, try making your grocery list in the new language
- Pick up some music in the new language
- Watch a short movie
- Try reading a news clipping
- Talk to natives
- Go to a restaurant that serves the local food
Slowly, let the new language become a part of your routine and you’ll see how it grows on
- Embrace the culture!
We cannot emphasize enough on the importance of understanding the new culture. If you are going to be living in or traveling to a new country or even conversing with natives – knowing a little bit about the culture will go a long way!
Greeting norms, gifting norms, heritage, music, dance, movies – there is so much to know and why shouldn’t you!
So get on to the cultural voyage, pick up a new language and do it right!