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Is Mandarin Chinese tough?

When it comes to studying Mandarin Chinese, there is no such thing as instant gratification. Slick marketing promises of quick-fix packages and programmes to learn Mandarin Chinese are misleading and should be treated with caution.

Mandarin Chinese is widely considered to be a difficult language for native English speakers to master. This view arises from the fact that Mandarin Chinese isn’t related to the Indo-European family of languages and Westerners struggle to pick it up as easily as, for example, French or German. Apart from the obvious challenge that Chinese literacy i.e. character recognition poses, learning to converse in standard Mandarin is difficult for Westerners, as the language is both analytic and tonal, with different meanings conveyed by changes in the pitch of a particular syllable.

The complexity of the Mandarin Chinese language is illustrated by the fact that the US Government’s Defense Language Institute rates it as a “Category IV” (out of four) language, while its Foreign Service Institute ranks it as a “Category III” (out of three) language. In comparison, the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian etc) and Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish etc) are classified as either Category I or Category II.

Clearly, the motivation to master the Mandarin Chinese language must come from within. Prospective students will need to apply themselves, as a fair amount of concentration and effort are required.

That said, the Chinese language has for too long been perceived as being beyond the grasp of Westerners. This misconception is for the most part caused by unimaginative and misguided teaching methods that, for example, don’t utilize an accurate system of character romanization.

It is important for prospective students to note that it is not necessary to study Mandarin Chinese when very young in order to become fluent. New research has elucidated the plasticity of language learning in people of all ages and backgrounds. The adult student’s drive and passion to learn Mandarin Chinese will far outweigh any challenges associated with being a late starter!



Our Mandarin Chinese Courses are geared for the real world of Commerce and Business. We offer Continuity in Learning and cater to all Proficiency Levels from Beginner through to Advanced. Enrolled Students can elect to either join interactive Group Classes or dedicated Private Lessons.