The Chinese language is commonly perceived as one of the most difficult languages to learn. The pronunciation seems impossible with all its singing and distinguishing tones. And let’s not get started on reading and writing! All those strokes and square characters… what a headache! Unless you want to become a Chinese broadcaster overnight or read a highbrow article in Chinese later this afternoon, learning Chinese is not as overwhelming and difficult as you might think!

Learning Chinese is about being brave and having fun 

Like with all languages, pronunciation and tones are important. But they will not stop you communicating with others if used incorrectly. Not all Chinese natives pronounce accurately or use tones without mistakes. Learning sufficient vocabulary is key, and the rest will follow. The purpose of learning a language is to communicate – so get talking Chinese! 

Now let us talk about the facts:

Chinese is a pictographic Language

Ancient Chinese characters are derived from drawings of objects, which can be very helpful for a visual learner. One example is the word for mountain, ”shan, 山.”

The three points of the character are meant to resemble the three peaks of a mountain ridge.

You can see more examples below. Look at how similar the pictures are to their Chinese characters.

Can you draw these characters yourself?

Chinese grammar is not complicated

1.)    [ ma吗] as a question mark:When asking a question, you can put a [ ma吗] at the end of the sentence, resembling a question mark, like this. [Ni qu, 你去。] — you go. [Ni qu ma? 你去吗?] — are you going?
Pretty straightforward, right?  
2.) There are no plurals in Chinese! Here are 3 easy ways to express plurality:1)     Defining a number e.g. 两杯咖啡 (liǎng bēi kā fēi) — two cups of coffee
2)     Using ambiguous plurals e.g. 很多 (hěn duō) — a lot, very many, 很多猫 (hěn duō māo) — a lot of cats
3)   When it comes to nouns and pronouns (specifically pertaining to people), you can simply attach 们 (men) to them, so they would look like this:
我 (wǒ) — I/me → 我们 (wǒ men) — we/us
3.) Chinese does not have any verb conjugations:1)     Ongoing actions in the present (zai我在洗碗) e.g. (wǒ zài xǐ wǎn.) I am washing the dishes.
2)     Past tense and telling the time (+ le 我昨天洗碗) e.g. (Wǒ zuótiān xǐ wǎn le.) I did the dishes yesterday
3)     Future tense and telling the time (我明天洗) e.g. (Wǒ míngtiān xǐ wǎn)I will wash the dishes tomorrow
4.) Foreign loanwords in Chinese – 外来语 wàilái yǔ
Many languages borrow words from other languages – sharing is caring after all! And Chinese is no different:
·       Pudding = 布丁 bùdīng
·       Pizza = 披萨 pīsà
·       Hacker = 黑客 hēikè
·       Calories = 卡路里 kǎlùlǐ
·       Blog = 博客 bókè
·       Clone = 克隆 kèlóng
·       Carat = 克拉 kèlā
·       Vitamin 维他命 wéitāmìng

What would be the best way to learn Chinese as an adult? Linguajoy Mandarin Chinese Teacher teams’ top 5 tips!

  • Set SMART Goals: what is your motivation and why you want to learn this language? Your goals should be: SpecificMeasurable, Attainable, RelevantTime Bound
  • Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your language learning. Share these with your instructor who will guide you in reaching your goal.
  • Make full use of modern network resources, e.g. different types of learning Apps.
  • Take every opportunity you can to speak Chinese!
  • Remember that you are a non-native speaker. You are learning the language, so making mistakes is totally normal and part of the learning process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), learning Chinese:

“I would like to learn enough Chinese so that I can successfully navigate around Beijing or Shanghai e.g. basic greetings, colours, numbers, daily interactions for transportation, hotels and restaurants. How many times a week should I study and for how long?”

I would suggest at least twice a week, preferably 90 minutes per session. Generally, it will take about 40-60 hours.

“How intensively and for how long would I need to study to be able to run more challenging business discussions in Chinese?”

I would say it varies person to person. From my previous experience it takes at least 2 years for intensive study which means you spend at least 3 hours a day to study the language and practise it.

“What is the funniest word in Chinese?”

The funniest word in Chinese would most likely be Panda, ”Xióngmāo”. Read the following conversation to understand why…

Li Hong (a Chinese lady) and Mike (a British man) have been living together for 2 years. Valentine’s Day is coming.

Li Hong: 情人节你会给我什么礼物 ? (What gift will you give me in Valentine’s day?)

Qíngrén jié nǐ huì gěi wǒ shénme lǐwù?

Mike:   任何你想要的. (Whatever you want)

Rènhé nǐ xiǎng yào de.

Li Hong : 我要大熊猫(I want a big panda.)

Wǒ yào dà xióngmāo.

Unfortunately, Li Hong didn’t get what she asked for…

Instead, Li Hong got Mikes chest hair!

In Chinese, the word for chest hair is also Xiōngmáo!

“What is the most beautiful Chinese word?”

The Chinese word for fly is 飞Fēi – beautiful and easy to remember!