Why study Chinese?
With close to one billion native speakers Mandarin Chinese is the second most widespread language in the world, exceeded only by English. What’s more, it’s actually not as difficult as you think! While your first foray into Mandarin Chinese may leave you wondering how on earth you’ll ever get to grips with it, once you dive a little deeper you’ll discover that Mandarin is both a beautifully logical and surprisingly simple language to master. OK, perhaps simple isn’t the right word. The tones will take a while getting used to, and when you’re first faced with the characters you’ll realise how easy you had it only having to learn A-Z! But as anyone who’s ever really taken the time to learn Mandarin can attest to, the process is both fascinating and highly rewarding.
While the characters are difficult to differentiate at the beginning of your journey, you’ll soon start to see that in nearly all characters there are hints either about the meaning of the character, or *how* the character should be pronounced. In fact, around 80% of characters contain phonetic hints about how a given character should be pronounced. Already more manageable, right? Each character carries its own (or often multiple!) meanings. However most *words* in Chinese are constructed by two characters. You can conceive of characters as blocks, which can be shifted and put together with other characters to form new words. You’ll see very quickly the same characters popping up in different words and soon develop an intuitive sense of the language which learners of English, for example, can take years to develop. Other elements of Mandarin are also much more straightforward than those of the European languages you might have learned in school. The grammar is extremely simple, with the same word often being used simultaneously as a noun, a verb *and* and an adjective, or at least two of the three! So really, contrary to perception, tackling Mandarin is much more achievable than what you might think. Trust us, we’ve done it! This isn’t to say that a fair amount of hard work isn’t required. Of course it is, but the end-product is well worth it.
Not only is learning Mandarin an intellectually rewarding pursuit, but in a world where China is taking a leading stance in so many areas, learning Mandarin equips you with an invaluable, lifelong skill that puts you ahead of the rest.