All About Mandarin
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Mainland China and Taiwan, and is one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations. It is the most widely-spoken language in the world.
Significant population of Chinese speaking people lives in urban centers around the world. Due to the rise of China's economic clout, many people are interested in learning Mandarin.
Learning resources like language classes, textbooks, and digital resources make Mandarin more accessible than ever before. There is no doubt that written Chinese is difficult to learn-even for the Chinese! But the spoken Chinese is a different kettle of fish. In many ways, Mandarin Chinese is much easier to learn than European languages. Here are some features which make Mandarin easy:
- The subject does not have to agree with the verb
- No plurals
- No conjugations
- No tenses
- Simple numbering system which is applied to dates and time expressions
- Simple conditional sentences
- Simple prepositions
About Mandarin Language:
The Chinese language is a tonal language, which means that a given word can change meaning depending on its tone. Mandarin Chinese has four tones: flat, rising, falling then rising, and falling. Other dialects can have as many as nine tones. Careless use of tones with the syllable ma in Mandarin Chinese could cause one to call someone's mother a horse! So be careful with your Chinese pronunciation.
Chinese does not have words as such. Each Chinese character represents a syllable. A single character may represent an object or idea or it may combine with other characters to produce a new meaning. In some cases, a character's meaning changes completely in combination. For example, Xian sheng means "teacher," "Mr." or "Sir." Taken individually, its characters xian can mean "first" or "earlier," and sheng is “born" or "student."
Why Learn Mandarin?
Something you might already know
- China is one of the world’s oldest and richest continuous cultures, over 5000 years old.
- China is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.28 billion people.
- China is the second largest economy in the world.
- One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world.
- In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia.
- China is one of largest trading partners of the United States and many other nations.
The study of the Chinese language opens the way to different important fields such as Chinese politics, economy, history or archaeology. But to study Chinese finally means to study a culture, the people.
At the heart of Chinese civilization is its rich heritage of novels, short stories, poetry, drama, and, more recently, film. To be at ease and effective in a Chinese environment learning the language is half the battle, but knowing about the culture behind the language is the other.
Some surprising facts
Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar. Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation (no need to memorize verb tenses!) and no noun declension (e.g., gender and number distinctions). For example, while someone learning English has to learn different verb forms like “see/saw/seen,” all you need to do in Chinese is just to remember one word: kan. While in English you have to distinguish between “cat” and “cats,” in Chinese there is only one form: mao. (Chinese conveys these distinctions of tense and number in other ways, of course.)
The basic word order of Chinese is subject — verb — object, exactly as in English. A large number of the key terms of Mandarin Chinese (such as the terms for state, health, science, party, inflation, and even literature) have been formed as translations of English concepts. You are entering a different culture, but the content of many of the modern key concepts is familiar.
Remember these two facts:
- Currently Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 1 billion people around the world, about one fifth of the global population;
- Each year more and more students around the world whose mother tongue is not Mandarin are studying it with enthusiasm and success. If they all can learn it, so can you!
The study of Chinese literature and culture will help you bridge the cultural gap, better understand your Chinese counterparts, and create a platform of knowledge and understanding with them that is crucial for effective communication.
Need more reasons?
Mandarin Chinese is the most widely-spoken language in the world. Learn to speak Mandarin and you can speak with millions of people around the world. Need more reasons:
Business people who speak Mandarin have a huge advantage in tapping into the Chinese market. It is much easier to develop all-important relationships if you can speak Mandarin.
China and Taiwan offer exciting travel opportunities. Getting around is much easier if you can speak Mandarin.
With thousands of years of history, Chinese culture is endlessly fascinating. Whether your interests are in history, architecture, music, or cuisine, knowledge of Mandarin will enrich your understanding of Chinese culture.
China is poised to become the world's economic leader. This will also mean a sea change in the world's linguistic terrain as well.