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Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language

Because China is supposed to be the future biggest economic superpower of the world, many people wonder nowadays whether they should start learning the language. It is commonly believed that Chinese is “hard to learn”, probably because the lettering looks like some sort of strange scribbles to those who are not proficient in the language. Its phonology is equally unusual.

Understanding The Language

To begin with, it should be noted that Chinese is not one language but a language family with many varieties. The standardized form is Mandarin Chinese, which is estimated as the most widely spoken language in the world (about 1 billion native speakers). This variety of Chinese shares with the rest a common writing system consisting on logograms (characters that do not represent a sound but a morpheme independent of phonetic change). This means that in China, speakers of the different dialects, no matter how different they may sound, can eventually communicate with each other in writing. In fact, traditional Mandarin Chinese comprises mostly of single syllable morphemes, which makes learning of the language relatively easy. However, Modern Chinese tends towards bi-syllabic words, although it still has very few grammatical inflections, using particles instead to indicate aspect and mood.

The Learning Experience

It may seem a challenge to learn Chinese as a foreign language, but at the initial stages of learning, the learner may find the Hanyu Pinyin very useful. The Hanyu Pinyin is a phonetic scheme which uses the alphabets to represent the sounds of Mandarin Chinese. Of course, having a native speaker as a teacher is a must, since listening to the correct pronunciation is vital. The preferred teaching technique of mentors of the Chinese language is the use of repetition. After all, saying the same thing over and over again helps assimilate the idea along with the sound. It is true that the learner will most probably find Chinese characters very difficult to assimilate, but the grammatical aspect of the language is not as hard as several other languages.
Moreover, it would be extremely helpful for the learner to be in touch with the Chinese culture, either by traveling or contacting native Chinese speakers who are also familiar with the learner’s own native language.

Learning Chinese, like learning any other language, consists of its own challenges and catch. Contrary to the common belief, it is not really more difficult to learn Chinese as opposed to learning any other foreign language. In effect, the overall experience can be fun, interesting and fruitful as well.