What Makes the Chinese Language Difficult to Pick Up?

The hardest language for an English speaker to learn is Chinese–Just ask our Chinese tutor Singapore! In actuality, learning Chinese takes far longer than learning many other languages (such as Spanish, French, or German). According to the US State Department, becoming advanced conversational takes about 88 weeks.

So what’s going on? Why is Chinese so difficult? Is it possible to make things less difficult?

As your trusted provider of secondary Chinese tuition, we are listing down our top 5 challenges with learning Chinese.

Reason #1: The tones in Chinese are difficult and are unfamiliar

The tone is not present in the English language. The process of adding tones to each word is quite unusual and difficult for non-native speakers to do.

Understanding the tone is the first stage, which can be difficult at first (and even more so if you’re tone-deaf!).

After that, you must be able to produce the same tone with your mouth. Then, as you speak swiftly, use these tones in every word of every sentence. Such a procedure! To the point where you can converse back with a fast-talking native Chinese speaker, it requires a lot of practice.

Reason #2: Chinese is not a phonetic language

There is no alphabet in use in Chinese. It’s a graphical language that builds individual Chinese characters out of strokes and radicals, which are then combined to form Chinese words. As a result, learning the alphabet alone will not allow you to read the language. To read Chinese, you must master all of these elements as well as memorize each unique character. Not quite effective, huh?

Reason #3: Memorization is a big part of learning Chinese.

You must study Chinese vocabulary in order to learn Chinese. You must learn four distinct items with each word. the character, tone, pronunciation, and meaning. And actually, you should practice writing this character by repeatedly writing it on blank pieces of paper while memorizing the radicals that make up the character! It takes a lot of effort to learn just one Chinese word while also having to read, write, listen, and speak. Furthermore, there are a ton of them.

Reason #4: Chinese can be confusing.

Chinese is renowned for its extensive use of homonyms and poor grammar. This may make it simple to get going but challenging to improve in spoken interactions where characters aren’t present to provide clarification, in particular.

Chinese has a huge number of homonyms! The words “he,” “she,” and “it” all sound the same when spoken and share the same beginning tone (“ta”). So it just sounds like “ta” gave “ta” to “ta” when you hear a tale about how she gave it to him. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s doing what to whom with what when you hear a story in Chinese.

Reason #5: There are numerous accents and dialects in China

There are numerous dialects of the Chinese language family, much as there are numerous varieties of English (American, British, and Australian). Some (slightly different accents, slightly different local dialects) can be mutually understood, but others are not the same. You won’t be able to understand some dialects, such as Shanghainese and Ningbonese.