Mandarin language - easy or difficult? ​

Mandarin language

Let us compare among Mandarin language with other languages. How to say “thank you” in :

English : thank you
Malay : terima kasih
Mandarin : Xièxiè
Korean : gamsahabnida
Japanese: Arigatōgozaimashita

What do you think? Which one is the easiest to pronounce & remember?
It is  “Xie xie”

Still think Mandarin is the hardest language to learn?

Let us analyse based on the following categories:

Speaking (Pronunciation) : Moderate

Difficult for English speakers but easy for Malay speakers (because pronunciation very similar to Malay)

Words & Grammar: Easy

Mandarin words are relatively shorter than other languages, no tenses, no grammatical cases, no gender, no tenses, neat use of numbers, logical number system, etc.

Sentences : Easy

Mandarin sentences are also relatively shorter and there’s only 1 formula to construct sentence, that is STPA formula.

Writing: Difficult

Chinese characters is the most difficult language to read and write

Verdict: If you can speak Malay, it is easy for you to speak Mandarin.

If you’d like to know more about the difficult & easy part about Mandarin. Continue to read more…

Why Mandarin language is difficult

1. Learn Chinese Characters

Pinyin (eg: xué zhōng wén) is how Chinese words are pronounced, whereas Chinese characters (eg: 学中文) are how they are seen in textbooks, newspapers, books, etc. Pinyin is an essential tool for you to type characters by using qwerty keyboard on your laptop, tablet and phone. It is true that Chinese characters are the most difficult characters in the world. Even the simplest word in English “I / me” is written as 我 wǒ (which has 7 strokes)

2. Learn Mandarin tones ( 4 + 1 Tones )

Tones is important because different tones = different meanings. For example, 妈麻马骂
妈 (mā) first tone, meaning “mom”

麻 (má) second tone, meaning “numb”
马 (mǎ) third tone, meaning “horse”
骂 (mà) fourth tone, meaning “to curse/scold”

3. Same pinyin, but could be different characters or meanings

When you learn more Mandarin words, you will notice the words sound the same, but they have totally different meaning.
For example, 书 shū = Book ,  输 shū = Lose. Both have exactly same pronunciation, but they are different characters and different meanings.

Why Mandarin language is easy

1. No grammatical cases

Mandarin words don’t change according to function.  Whatever function a word has in a sentence, it generally looks the same. But in English, we have to differentiate “We / us, They/them, I/ me”In English, “he goes to class”; “he go school” is wrong. Chinese Mandarin does not need to differentiate  am /is /are /was /were or has /have /had, etc.

2. Flexible parts of speech

For non-natives, a difficult part of learning English is to figure out how to make a noun out of a verb or an adjective out of a verb. For example, we say “ice” (noun), “icy” (adjective) and “to ice (over)/freeze” (verb). In Chinese, there is only one single verb 冰 (bīng). This means that speaking and writing becomes much easier since you don’t need to remember so many different forms.

In Chinese, it’s not obvious what’s an adjective and what’s a verb, they merge and float into each other, which generally means it’s easier to understand and easier to guess how to use. 

3. No gender

When you learn French, you need to remember if each noun is meant to be “le” or “la”; when learning German, you have “der”, “die” and “das”. Chinese has no (grammatical) gender. In Chinese, you don’t need to bother about gender, because there is no such thing as grammatical gender.  

4. No tenses

Mandarin doesn’t distinguish between yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is no need to differentiate “am, is, are, was, were” 

5. Neat use of numbers

Some languages have really difficult 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”. Monday is “week one”, Tuesday is “week two”, and so on. Same for the months! Number 1 is yī, 10 is shí, 11 is shí yī “ten, one”, 99 is jiǔ shí jiǔ “nine ten nine = sembilan puluh sembilan. 

6. Sentence structure

There are only a few patterns you need to learn, and once you’ve done that, you can just fill in the words you’ve learnt and people will be able to understand. Even if you mix things up, people will usually still understand.

7. Logical number system

Some languages have really difficult 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”.

8. Logic character and word creation

Words, i.e. characters put together, contain a lot more meaning than characters. They are created in a way which is often obvious or at least understandable for a student

电 diàn = ELECTRIC

电脑 diàn nǎo literally direct translate is “electric brain”. It actually means COMPUTER.

电话 diàn huà literally direct translate is “electric talk”. It actually means TELEPHONE

电池 diàn chí literally direct translate is “electric reservoir”. It actually means BATTERY

电影 diàn yǐng literally direct translate is “electric shadow”. It actually means MOVIE

Take a guess. What is 电视机 diàn shì jī ?

Tips: 视 shì = view ; 机 jī = machine

Your answer : _____________ 

Conclusion - Mandarin language is easy for Malaysians!

Mandarin language is not as difficult as what you think. When you start learning Mandarin, you will notice that Mandarin is actually very similar to Malay in terms of pronunciation and sentence structure. Most people say Malay is easier than English, which means Mandarin is easier to learn than English.

If you want to learn something, you want to become friends with it, you don’t want to regard it as an unbeatable enemy! We won’t deny that Mandarin has unique challenges that are difficult to overcome, but try to look at Mandarin as being easy and exciting, rather than difficult or impossible. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now you should understand the basic of Mandarin language. Thank you for reading till end of this article, now we’d like to hear you speaking Mandarin and we have created “Speak Mandarin Challenge” for you. Click the button below to get started!

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