Learning Chinese

One language that has become more and more popular in recent years is Chinese, specifically Mandarin Chinese, which has official states in China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, and is spoken in quite a few other countries. Mandarin has more native speakers than any other language, even English, and significant numbers of second language speakers. The strength of the Chinese economy and the sheer size of the Chinese market are two major factors which attract people to the language.

Many people are put off by the Chinese writing system, thinking that it’s impossible or very difficult to learn, and perhaps assuming that the language is also difficult. It is true that it takes a lot more effort is required to learn to read and write Chinese than other languages, and that practice is needed to retain that knowledge, however it is possible. The only other aspect of learning Chinese that can be challenging is the vocabulary, which has nothing in common with any European language, but the same is the case if you’re learning Thai, Turkish or Hungarian.

Chinese grammar is very straightforward compared to European languages. You don’t have to worry about genders, cases, tenses or other grammatical baggage because there aren’t any. Instead you just have to get the words in the right order, add the odd particle here and there, and use time words to indicate when things happened. This means that once you learnt a verb, for example, you don’t have to learn endless conjugations – the verbs don’t change. The same is true for other words.

There are numerous websites offering online Chinese lessons and other resources for learning Chinese. One I came across recently is Popup Chinese, which has lessons, a dictionary, a handy tool for practising to write Chinese characters, and various other useful materials. The basic materials are free, but you have to pay to access some parts of the site. The same seems to be true for quite a few other language learning sites.