Chinese is widely perceived as one of the most challenging languages to learn. Have you ever been intimidated by complicated characters, tricky pronunciations, or confusing tones? If you worry that Chinese is too hard to learn, this article is for you – let’s take a look at the truth behind these notorious myths!
Myth 1: Pronunciations and tones can be confusing
Pronunciations seem to be one of the biggest struggles for Chinese learners at the beginning. There are some ‘tricky’ ones that might not exist in your own language.
One way to overcome this obstacle is to learn by using English syllables to create similar pronunciations. For example, ‘c’ in Chinese is pronounced like ‘tz’.
Click here to download our Pinyin Chart which gives you the tried and tested English soundalikes.
To tackle those tricky initials, understanding the change of mouth shape and teeth position is very useful. We like to call ‘zh’, ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ the ‘kissing initials’ because when you pronounce them, your mouth shape is like giving a little kiss.
Tones are usually something totally new for a lot of Chinese learners. It is vital to get the tones right, as it can completely change the meaning (think of mā 妈 for mother, and mǎ 马 for horse). However, what a lot of people don’t realise is that in English, 3 of the 4 Mandarin tones already exist and are used on a daily basis. Moreover, Chinese native speakers are very understanding, and they can often get what you mean from the context of your sentence.
Myth 2: Characters are scary!
The Chinese writing system can seem impenetrable. However, if you learn the right way, it is far less challenging and very interesting as they are logical!
It is always good to build your foundation starting with pictograms – characters that look like real objects. Not only is it fun to learn, but also very useful as many of them are the basic characters that more complicated ones are based on.
Learning to form complex characters like lego blocks will take you to the next level of your Chinese learning journey. That includes knowing the common radicals, common shapes of characters, basic stroke orders, and individual strokes.
Click here to view our previous blog article: How to master Chinese characters easily in 6 ways
Myth 3: Grammar is complicated
Chinese grammar is different from many other languages, but it is indeed quite straightforward and simple. In terms of sentence structure, most sentences follow the golden rule: Subject + Verb + Object. If you want to form a more complex sentence with time and place, here is the rule:
Second, unlike learning European languages like French and German, you do not need to memorise verb conjugations and noun genders at all! Chinese verbs only have one single form and they never change regardless of the tense and the subject of the sentence. It saves so much time to get your head around the use of verbs.
Since there are no verb conjugations, tenses are indicated by adding tense particles like le 了 (past action) and huì 会 (future action). The position of these tense particles is pretty predictable while the verbs remain unchanged.
Myth 4: Learning Chinese is a solo journey
You do not have to do this alone. Joining a local language exchange group is the perfect way to practice your fluency, build up your confidence in using the language, meet cool people, and have fun! The Chinese learning community is very supportive with many people sharing learning resources and useful tips. Although speaking to a native speaker might seem intimidating, Chinese people are very friendly, encouraging, and patient with Chinese learners. They appreciate the effort you put in to learn their language and they always try their best to help you.
If you are based in London, check out China Unbound’s Language Meetup 中英语交流 for our weekly language social meetup.
Learning Chinese requires determination and effort, but there is no exception to learning any other language. It can bring so much joy and new perspectives to your life, help you to understand the people and culture better and open the door to amazing job and business opportunities.