Chinese might be a notoriously difficult language to learn. The tonal system is alien to most speakers of Indo-European languages, and Chinese character is yet another daunting challenge, even for native speakers themselves! However, in this article, we will debunk some of the myths surrounding learning Chinese and the impressive amount of benefits you will obtain from this rewarding process. Who knows? We might talk about Chinese court dramas and food with crazy names along the way.
Learning Chinese is easier than you might have thought
Despite what I just said and what everyone keeps saying, Chinese is not as difficult as people make it out to be. For starters, you do not have to worry about verbs! There is no verb conjugation whatsoever.
Imagine a Romance language like French or Spanish. You will need to remember hundreds of sets of verb conjugations if you want to master these languages. In Chinese, verbs always appear in the infinitive (i. e. fancy linguistic term for “original” ) form. Besides, you do not have to worry about plurals, masculine and feminine nouns or cases, which often exist in European languages.
Other characteristics that make Chinese easier than you might have thought include its relatively straightforward sentence structure. Similar to a lot of languages, Chinese has a subject + verb + object sentence structure, whereas in languages like Japanese, you will have a subject + object + verb structure. As you progress through your Chinese lessons, you will discover more traits of the language that are logically similar to your native language or the languages you have learned before. Linguists have found that it is usually how similar a foreign language is to your native tongue that determines whether you will acquire it easily, instead of how easy that foreign language is. You just might find more similarities between Chinese and your native language than you initially imagined.
The perks of bilingualism, or trilingualism!
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a modern man/woman/non-binary conscious of the progress of the modern world, must be conversant in more than just one language. However, being able to speak more than one language is more than just catering to the needs of our modern world.
Linguists and psychologist have discovered that bilingualism, the ability to speak two languages, significantly alter your brain capacity, specifically, the executive function of your brain. This refers to the skills that allow you to control, direct and manage your attention, and your capacity to plan. Essentially, being able to speak two languages means that your brain “lights” up in more areas when you make a decision than those of a monolingual person. When it comes to languages, you brain loves a challenge. What is a better challenge than mastering Chinese?
A world opens up for you
Chinese is the language with the most speakers in the world today. As Howard told Shelton in Big Bang Theory, once you learn Chinese, you will have a billion more people to talk to. Or “annoy”, in Howard’s words, but I promise that we are more than happy to talk to foreigners who are learning Chinese.
Not only is learning Chinese good for travelling domestically and communicating with the local population, it is also helpful considering millions of expatriates, or people with Chinese heritage in other parts of the world. Granted that many second- or third-generation immigrants may not speak Chinese as a first language anymore, learning Chinese can still be a key to mingling with your local Chinese community or personal friends.
The key to culture, literature and history. And possibly court dramas 🙂
Philosopher Wittgenstein once said that “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. Language is the key to understanding a country, or a people’s culture and history. Are you a fan of Kung Fu movies, but are you also bothered by bad lip dubbing or bad translation? Do you want to watch a Chinese version of Game of Thrones, set in ancient imperial court, full of deceit and plotting, but fail to understand when the characters start quoting classical Chinese poetry? Or, let’s say, do you want to dabble in one of the oldest poetic tradition in world, and are you unsatisfied with just reading English translations?
To be able to understand classical Chinese poetry takes years of hard work, but even learning just a bit of Chinese might help tremendously in your understanding of the Chinese culture. Ancient dynasties have always been obsessed with recording stuffs, and by that, I mean everything in history is scribbled down somewhere in the vast corpus of the Chinese language. As a language and literature nerd, I am always fascinated by the rich texts that I get to work with as a student, and how much more I still need to cover as a native speaker. When you push open the door of the Chinese language, a world of infinite exploration awaits you.
Food food food!
Do you like Chinese food, but are you often baffled by the weird names appeared on the menu? Is “stinky tofu” really that stinky? What has “lion’s head” got to do with lions? Why are we eating “bird’s nest”?
Chinese food is not just one thing, it is a great multitude of things. While Cantonese food prefers sweeter, fresher and healthier ingredients, Sichuan cuisine, or Southwestern cuisine in general, is all about spice and heat. In my city, we dine in hot pot shops and street-side barbecue stalls, our food dipped in “decadent” hot sauce, even in the middle of the insufferable summer.
As a native speaker, I must admit that even I am a little dazed when I read a menu in Chinese, especially when travelling to other places in China. You can always ask your Chinese friends to order for you, but wouldn’t it be cool that you actually know a couple of word from the menu and not get scandalized when you are served “lion’s head” or “squirrel fish”? Learning Chinese might just lead you on this great culinary adventure.
Chinese learners use…
With maayot receive daily a new unique engaging story Chinese based on your level.
How does it work?
You can register now to receive stories right away.