The Chinese Language Is Not Difficult To Learn

Logical number system

Some languages have really bizarre ways of counting. In French, 99 is said as "4 20 19", in Danish 70 is "half fourth", but 90 is "half fifth". Chinese is really simple. 11 is "10 1", 250 is "2 100 5 10" and 9490 is "9 1000 400 9 10". Numbers do get a little bit harder above that because a new word is used for every four zeroes, not every three as in English, but it's still not hard to learn to count. Easy!


Logic character and word creation

When you learn words in European languages, you can sometimes see the word roots if you're good at Greek or Latin, but if you take a random sentence (such as this one), you can't really expect to understand how each word is constructed. In Chinese, you actually can do that. This has some significant advantages. Let's look at a few examples of advanced vocabulary that are really easy to learn in Chinese but very hard in English. "Affricate" is 塞擦音 "stop friction sound" (this refers to sounds like "ch" in "church", which has a stop (a "t" sound), then friction (the "sh" sound)). If you didn't know what these words meant in English, you probably do now after looking at a literal translation of the Chinese words! These are not exceptions in Chinese, this is the norm. Easy!


The difficult parts are easier to hack

What do I mean by this? "Hacking" in this case means understanding how the language works and using that knowledge to create smart ways of learning (this is what my website Hacking Chinese is about).

This is especially true for the writing system. If you approach learning Chinese characters like you would learning words in French, the task is daunting. Sure, French words do have prefixes, suffixes and so on and if your Latin and Greek are up to par, you might be able to use this knowledge to your advantage and be able to understand how modern words are created.

For the average learner, however, that's not possible. It's also the case that many words in French (or English or many other modern languages) can't be broken down or understood without doing serious research into etymology first. You can of course break them down yourself in ways that make sense to you.

In Chinese, however, you don't need to do that! The reason is that one Chinese syllable corresponds to one Chinese character. That gives very little room for change, meaning that while words in English can gradually lose their spelling and morph over the centuries, Chinese characters are much more permanent. They do of course change, but not that much. It also means that the parts that make up the characters are in most cases still present and can be understood on their own, thus making understanding a lot easier.

What all this boils down to is that learning Chinese needn't be all that hard. Yes, reaching an advanced level takes a lot of time and effort, but getting to basic conversational fluency is within reach for all those who really want it. Will it take longer than reaching the same level in Spanish? Probably, but not that much if we only talk about the spoken language.