Why is Mandarin Chinese Considered One of the Hardest Languages to Learn?
If you were to ask ten people what the hardest language to learn is, you would be likely to get ten different answers. Some people will say that Arabic is the most difficult, while others will say that Japanese is the hardest. However, from my research and personal experience, the hardest language to learn is Mandarin Chinese. This may be surprising since there are more than 850 million people in the world that are completely fluent in Mandarin Chinese making it one of the most spoken languages in the world next to English. What this tells us is that even though it is considered by many to be extremely difficult to learn, it is definitely not impossible.
One of the many factors that make Mandarin Chinese one of the hardest languages to learn is that it is so hard to understand due to the way the language is written. Rather than use letters to make up the words, this language uses more than 10,000 characters; each one unique to itself. Each character represents a specific symbol or drawing even though they aren’t really pictographs. Each one has phonetic parts that make them easier to comprehend for those who are fluent speakers, but extremely hard for others to understand.
Aside from the unique way that Mandarin Chinese is written, it is also pretty complicated to speak. This is a language that is tonal which means that just one word can have various meanings which depend on the tone of one’s voice when speaking the word. Mandarin Chinese contains 400 monosyllables even though there are only four tones that these can be spoken in. Plus there are also many dialects that correspond with different cultures and regions. This also has a significant impact on the language itself.
It would appear that for native English speakers, Latin languages are much simpler to learn than those from the Asian world. These are languages such as Spanish, French and Italian (see The easiest Languages for English speaker to learn). However, it you are determined that Mandarin Chinese is the second (or third, fourth, fifth, and so on), than there is no good reason not to give it a try. Being that is it considered one of the most difficult languages to learn, this is a good motivating factor for those who enjoy a good challenge! Plus, there are so many resources available to help you become fluent. It may take a great deal of time to become fluent, but once you do, what an accomplishment it will be!
If you are still undecided on learning Mandarin Chinese, check out Why should you learn Chinese to become more inspired to learn this difficult, yet very important global language.