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  • Kevin null

The challenges in learning the Chinese language compared with other European languages

When talking about the Chinese language, the most prevailing opinion is the difficulties in the complicated characters and the bewildering pronunciations.

Distinct from most European languages with the Germanic language family, Romance languages, and Slavic group languages, the Chinese language is demonstrated mainly in an ideo-phonographic-symbolic writing system with clusters of dots and lines with contours. As one of the most ancient languages, the Chinese language possesses particular characteristics in semantics, phonetics, and orthography, which presents more challenges in the study compared with other European languages in the form of alphabets and spelling. A study by the American Government reported in 1996 that it generally takes 840 class hours on average to acquire elementary European languages. In comparison, at least 2400 class hours should be attended to reach a basic level in Chinese, mainly due to Chinese character practice. No matter how complicated the characters are, they are generally square-shaped and made of strokes (strokes mean the lines and dots in characters), so they are also called square characters instead of pictures or signs because there are rules in producing the characters, including writing orders and the structures and proportions among strokes. There is no exact number of Chinese characters, nearly 100,000, and only a few thousand Chinese characters are used at a high frequency. According to statistics, 1,000 commonly used characters can cover about 92% of reading materials, 2,000 can cover more than 98%, and 3,000 have reached 99%, with little difference between the statistics for simplified and traditional Chinese. Cultivating the awareness of Chinese characters is the primary and premier step in Chinese learning, and the awareness employs significance along the Chinese study process. Lacking intensive and correct Chinese character awareness at the first introductory study stage, you may be exposed to many problems in the following study at a higher level, such as confusing characters, avoiding writing characters, and even abandoning the higher level language study. Therefore, the importance of forming proper character awareness at the very beginning phase and maintaining and improving it plays a critical role throughout the study. The most effective method of Chinese character awareness acquisition is tremendous efforts in writing practice. The handwriting is requested to be correct and beautiful.

To make learning the Chinese language easy and efficient, as well as to integrate with the mainstream Roman letter languages worldwide, the Chinese alphabets Pinyin was created in the 1950s and was utilized in the dictionary and computer retrieval. In the modern Chinese language, there are 4 tones and one neutral tone. The four tones in Mandarin Chinese refer to Yinping, Yangping, Shangsheng, and Qusheng. The rising and falling of the pitch and the timing of the sound make up the tones of the Chinese language. Yinping is a high flat tone (not rising, not falling); Yangping is a medium rising tone (pitch is not high, not low); Shangsheng is a falling-rising tone; Qusheng is a high falling tone. When the tones are combined in words and sentences, there are some changes. The acquisition of Chinese intonation requests colossal listening practice.


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