Is Chinese Difficult to Learn?

Posted by Fifi Yang on Mar 29, 2016

is Chinese hard to learn

Is Chinese difficult to learn? To be honest, the answer is yes, Chinese is difficult to learn. Here are the reasons:

1. Chinese is a tonal language

Unlike English or other languages, Chinese is a tonal language, and it has four tones. A lot of Chinese characters may translate into the same word in pinyin, but with different tones. This means that the meaning of the word differs if a different tone is used. Here is an example: "妈"(mā)means mother, while "马"(mǎ) means horse. Because Western languages don't have tones, Chinese language learners may feel confused about how to pronounce the different tones. You can read about how to learn Chinese pinyin and tones here.

Chinese tones

2. Chinese Characters

Chinese characters are one of the most difficult parts of learning Chinese. You can't pronounce the word when you see a Chinese character, because characters are actually pictorial symbols with particular meanings that transpose into words. So you need to learn the pinyin and spelling of the word represented by each character.

Learning how to write Chinese characters is more difficult. First you must remember the Chinese characters strokes which are made in a particular order. Further, even for the same Chinese character there may be different pinyin, which we called "多音字". For example, the Chinese character "差" has two pronunciations. One is "chà" which means really bad; the other is "chāi" usually used in the phrase "出差", which means on a business trip. Here is a chart of some of the Chinese "多音字".

same character with different pinyin

If you want to know how to learn Chinese characters faster, you can read here: How to Learn Chinese Characters Efficiently.

3. Chinese grammar

Chinese grammar is also challenging. It is not like English or other languages. You will see the Chinese sentence pattern is different than English. Here is an example,

Monday together let's go to school.)


You can see the sentence order is different of these two languages, so it is hard for some Chinese learners to form the correct Chinese sentence in the beginning of Chinese study. You can get some tips about how to learn Chinese grammar here.

main parts of sentences

4. Chinese communication style: indirect

Chinese people usually are very modest and indirect, especially when someone gives them praise. However, in Western cultures, people are more direct. For example,

A:你刚才的演讲真的非常棒. (A: Your lecture was really good.)

B: 哪里哪里, 您过奖了!(B: I am flattered)

While in western countries, if someone is praised by the other one, he or she may just say "thank you" as a respondent. So if you want to learn Chinese well, you also need to know Chinese culture and language customs, which makes learning Chinese even harder.

So, Chinese is difficult to learn. However, do not lose confidence! There are some good ways to learn Chinese well. Tired of learning by your self? Act now and register for a free trial class online!

About The Author

Fifi Yang

Fifi Yang is a Chinese learning teacher at Hanbridge Mandarin. Having spent a great number of years learning French, Fifi understands the challenges of learning a language. She puts this experience to good use while preparing and delivering classes to her students.

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