Chinese is a rich and fascinating language. It has a completely different writing system to English, completely different phonemes, a tonal system and different grammar structures, but we could not recommend it more. It might be tricky but it’s also probably easier than you think and definitely worth while.
Let’s have a look at the Chinese language, and why you should consider learning it.
Chinese is the most spoken native language
Chinese has the most native speakers in the whole world, and more and more people are learning it as a second language each day. Meaning, you’re not going to run out of people to practise with and the world is not going to run out of Chinese companies to trade with, so your skill will always be a useful one.
Not only China speaks Chinese
China is an official language in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore, but is spoken all throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas within Chinese communities.
Meaning even out of China, you should still be able to find someone to practise with, regardless if you live in Asia or a small city in the USA.
And if you want to move to a Chinese speaking country, you have more options than just mainland China. Each of these places have typical Asian megacities, but all of them have their own distinct charm and appeal, which makes them all tempting locations to visit or live in while you try and learn.
Official language status
China (Mandarin) is one the the six official UN languages along with Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish and English. So if you’re looking for a job with the UN, then Chinese (Mandarin) would be a good language to learn, and would definitely put you ahead of a lot of native English speakers.
China has the largest population in the world
Largest population in the world with 1.3 million people and counting. Although in the next 50 years, the population in China is estimated to halve because of the one child policy when the current older generation dies off. This could also drop the number of native Chinese speakers, though Chinese will probably still remain the language with the highest number of native speakers.
Improve your career opportunities
China currently has the second highest GDP in the world, and there are those that think it could overtake the economy of the USA. This means that not only are there lots of job opportunities within the Chinese speaking world, but more and more western countries are looking for Chinese speakers for trade and business.
Chinese is a highly wanted business language, just look at Mark Zuckerberg learning Chinese to try and access the Chinese market with facebook.
China has an incredible rich history and culture that is very old
China has been around longer than pretty much all other nations. The nation of China has been in existence for over 4000 years old. To give you some perspective the UK became a nation in 1066, Germany in 1871, USA in 1776 and even Japan only became a country in 660 BC.
Learning Chinese opens you up to a whole world of history and culture that is accessibly through old books, texts, documentations and stories.
Now only that but the country is incredibly interesting with lots to offer and outside of the main cities, the level of English is relatively low. So if you want to visit China and get a real feel for the country, then I would definitely recommend learning Chinese. Otherwise, outside of the main cities, you won’t really be able to talk to anyone.
The grammar is easy
It really is! Chinese grammar is much easier than you would think. The tones might be hard, the writing might be difficult, even the phonemes are tricky, but the grammar isn’t. Which is a nice change if you’ve been learning romantic, germanic or slavic languages.
The best thing about Chinese grammar is that there is absolutely no conjugation. It might sound too good to be true but it really is. You learn the verbs, and they don’t change. You just add new characters to indicate plurality and tense; it’s brilliant and makes the learning process a lot quicker once you get over the initial steps of struggling with pronunciation and tones.
And if you want to practise easy grammar at your level consider reading graded readers to help you.
If you want to learn more about the Chinese language, then check out our commonly asked questions here.
Reasons not to learn Chinese
Although these are some reasons why you might not want to learn Chinese, we think that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. However, we still thought you should know some of the difficulties behind learning Chinese before you commit to the language.
Firstly, the tones are very difficult. Mandarin has four distinct tones and one neutral tone, but to a new learner they can be hard to distinguish and to pronounce. In the early stages of your learning process, you will have lots of experiences where you think you’re saying the right word, but a native speaker just can’t understand you, then they eventually repeat the word back to you in the correct tone and to your ears, it sounds exactly the same. This can be incredibly frustrating, but if you stick with it and make an effort to learn the tones relatively early on, then you’ll find you have the hang of them in no time. Just don’t give up with them, and don’t make the common mistake of thinking they’re not that important because they really are!
Secondly the writing system is relatively difficult and completely different to the roman alphabet. Firstly, because they don’t actually use an alphabet, they use characters that represent a word or an idea. Secondly, there is a way to write each character with specific stroke orders, just like letters in the roman alphabet. If you don’t make the effort to learn these strokes, your writing will always look a bit strange to a native. Although the characters are hard, there are wonderful things called radicals, which will help you to work out the meaning of most characters that you encounter, if you make the effort to learn them early on.
We hope we’ve helped to convince you to learn some form of Chinese, now you need to decide whether you’re going to learn Mandarin or Cantonese. and whether you should learn simplified or traditional characters. Or if you’re thinking about taking the HSK exam then read about our recommended HSK textbooks here.
If you’ve had any experience learning Chinese, or you’re thinking about learning then please tell us all about it in the comments below. We always want to hear about your experiences, especially if that helps us to change our approach to language learning too.
Good luck and keep learning.