Opinion / Forum Trends

Is Mandarin difficult to learn?

( Updated: 2015-01-08 08:24

xaveria (US)

I've been trying to master Chinese for YEARS, with only very limited success. I've found that it's difficult to learn (especially for adults) for a variety of reasons.

A) Tones can be difficult, especially for those without a musical ear.

B) Many Chinese consonant sounds do not exist in English and are linguistically very similar. Have someone who knows pinyin pronounce, in order: "si" "zi" "ci" "chi" "ji" "zhi" "xi" "shi", and you'll start to see what I mean.

C) Characters don't really fit into our mental models. If you think of them as words, that will only get you so far. Most units of meaning are actually composed of compound characters. So you can learn that 东 (dong) means "east" and 西 (xi) means west. But 东西 means "something" and "不东西" means "nothing".

Ultimately, Chinese is just an extremely rich, nuanced, history-laden language. I'm not giving up, and I think it's worth the effort. But for those of you insisting that it's easier than it looks -- sheesh. It's just isn't.

Is Mandarin difficult to learn?

Mathew and Sasha Alderson opted for local schooling for their kids Nik and Natalia. [Photo/China Daily]

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