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Guest post: Learning Chinese is easy

This is a [guest post](/contribute/#guest-post "Contribute to East Asia Student") from José de la Luz Sáenz Garza at [Hutong School](http://www.hutong-school.com/ "Chinese Language School in China Beijing | Shanghai | Hutong ..."). The points raised here reminded me of the [difficulty debate](/china/putonghua/difficulty-debate/ "The Chinese difficulty debate") kicked off by John Biesnecker in 2010.
Learning Chinese is easy! Now before you hop on the skeptical train, or think that we mean Chinese is effortless, here’s a reality check: Chinese is easy because it’s a tool people use to communicate every day, but “easy” is not the same as “effortless”. As with any new tool, there’s an “instruction manual” to follow and its constant and appropriate use is essential to master it. Think of it this way: Chinese (in this case the Mandarin-dialect) is actually the language spoken by the largest number of people in the world. Around 836 million people in China grow up learning it and using it in their everyday lives. If they can do it, why can’t you? Sure, they have a lifetime of experience ahead of you, but learning it is not so difficult. And if you don’t believe it, read on. ### First, a few interesting facts about the Chinese language: Most of the dialects now spoken by the Chinese people will often consist of words spoken by their ancestors, back when China was made up of various different ethnic groups. It was only after these groups had come together under the Chinese empire, did they start to unite the languages that they spoke. Chinese is the oldest written language in the world with about 6,000 years of history. There are over 20,000 Chinese characters, though only 3,000-4,000 are necessary to read a book. The Chinese language (spoken in its standard Mandarin form) is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, one of four official languages of Singapore, and one of six official languages of the United Nations. ### Why you think it’s difficult The characters: yes, there are many of them (as mentioned before) and they look like no other language you’ve seen before, but do not be frightened, you don’t need to know all of them for daily conversation or to read what you see on the street. Also, once you study them, you’ll realize that there’s logic behind them and once you understand it, it will be a lot easier. The tones: this is a characteristic that baffles those who don’t know it and those who are beginning to learn it. There are actually 4 tones, and they are necessary to master to avoid misunderstandings, but with consistent learning and practice, you will find that they are not so difficult to handle. Actually, according to a recent study by University of California at San Diego, speakers of tonal languages have perfect pitch at an amazingly higher rate than those who do not speak tonal languages! No wonder Chinese musicians are highly talented! ### Chinese Language: what you must understand beforehand When you ask people if they know Chinese, they might say something like “I can understand it and speak it, but I can’t read it nor write it” or “I’ve studied over a thousand Chinese characters and symbols but I can’t understand a simple conversation with a Chinese person”. One major difference between Chinese concepts of language and Western concepts is that Chinese makes a big difference between written language and spoken language. The concept of a distinct and unified combination of both written and spoken forms of language is much weaker in Chinese than in the West. There is however only one uniform written script. ### So why is learning Chinese easy? First of all, grammar, in comparison to European languages, is a lot easier. - There are no verb conjugations. - Verbs are not modified as a result of tense. - Adverbs such as "before, yesterday, previously" are used to denote the past tense, and "in the future, tomorrow" are used to denote the future tense. - The word order is subject, verb, object, which is very easy for speakers of Western languages to learn, with a few exceptions. - Unlike western languages which have masculine and feminine nouns, Mandarin does not have any of this and there actually is no word for "the". So, no "el", la, "los" or "las" as in Spanish. Learning Chinese in China is even easier because you’re surrounded by the language. Opportunities to learn Chinese are right around every corner. From the woman at the store to the cab driver who takes you home, there is always a chance to practice and improve your Chinese language skills. In China you will also find that at the same time you want to practice your Chinese, they want to practice their English, which makes it an experience of mutual benefit, or a win-win situation. One of the most interesting things that happens with the Chinese language, is the creativity used to “play around” with certain words to create other ones. Take the word “computer” for example. In China, people combine the words “electricity” and “brain” to indicate a computer. To them a computer is an “electric brain” which kind of makes sense, figuratively speaking. ### Finding the proper mindset… Instead of seeing Chinese as an overly complex language, try observing the multiple benefits of learning a language as unique as this one. We’ve already explained how the tonal system can help improve your pitch and hearing skills, but writing and reading characters can also make you more observant. Writing will make you pay more attention to detail, and memorizing the many symbols and characters should definitely boost your memory skills. But why keep on reading about these benefits when you can get them? Start learning Chinese now at [Hutong School](http://www.hutong-school.com/ "Chinese Language School in China Beijing | Shanghai | Hutong ...") and begin your adventure through this amazing language! * — José de la Luz Sáenz Garza, Marketing Assistant Intern at [Hutong School](http://www.hutong-school.com/ "Chinese Language School in China Beijing | Shanghai | Hutong ...") / [Internship Network Asia](http://www.internasia.com/ "Internship in China | Internship in Shanghai | Internasia.com").*
[Hutong School](http://www.hutong-school.com/ "Chinese Language School in China Beijing | Shanghai | Hutong ...") was founded in 2005 in order to provide Western students, graduates and young professionals internships and Chinese language courses in China. It is the only fully licensed Chinese language school under European management and is the school of choice for anyone who wants to study Chinese or find an internship in China.