Learning Chinese in China
What is easy for westerners?
- no subject/verb agreement
- no plurals
- no conjugations
- no tenses
- simple numbering system which is applied to dates and time expressions
- simple conditional sentences
- simple prepositions
- word order is very similar to English
- no articles, and certainly not masculine and femine as in French
What is difficult for westerners?
- Writing and reading the characters is challengin to be sure
- The tones (speaking) are difficult for second language learners to master
- Challenges with tones also affect listening on some level
Some pretty good reaons to study Chinese:
- The rise of China presents new economic, political and social realities that demand greater U.S. engagement at every level. As the foundation of that engagement, we urgently need to raise the number of Americans who can demonstrate a functional proficiency in Chinese.
- As a business person you do not want to have to rely entirely on a translators work. Have some idea of what is being said before turning to the translation can make you a smarter person.
- There are approximately 873 million speakers of Mandarin (or Pu-tong-hua, the primary dialect of Chinese) compared to Spanish, the fourth most widely spoken language in the world with around 400 million speakers.
- You don’t have to learn Chinese characters to learn to speak Chinese. Pinyin is a method of writing Chinese in the roman alphabet. Hanyu pinyin spells the sound, and includes tone marks to help give the correct pronunciation.
- Although you do not need to learn to read Chinese characters to speak the language, by doing so you open the door to an enormously diverse and rich literature. In fact, the earliest record of writing was in Chinese characters although very different in form from modern characters (of which there are many thousand).
- The Chinese economy is the fastest growing economy in the world and if only because of the sheer size of the population, it will become the world's largest economy in a matter of years. So in the work environment even speaking a little Chinese will give you a competitive edge, if your company invests in China or is considering doing so.
- Language and culture are linked and learning something of the Chinese language will help give an appreciation of the cultural heritage of China.
- China is accessible to the foreign visitor in a way that it has not been in the past and travel to and within China is becoming easier, but to make the most of this opportunity for travel, language at a basic level is important. Mandarin is spoken throughout China.
- Food. You can eat in the tourist restaurants in hotels but for a genuine experience you need to try local restaurants for a culturally different and sensory eating experience.
- Like any other language, it is possible to learn a few words and phrases in Mandarin, enough to be polite without spending years in further education.