3 Challenges English Speakers Face When Learning Chinese

by Christine Chadwick

Learning a new language can always be a challenge, there are new sounds, words, and so many other things to memorise. It is one thing to learn a language that is similar to your own, but it's another thing to learn a language which is dramatically different from your own. Chinese is one of the languages that is very different from the English language. Therefore, English speakers hoping to learn Chinese can face a whole different set of challenges that an English speaker learning a similar language may not. There are some things to consider if Chinese is your language of choice.

Chinese letters are completely different from English

Chinese language is represented in symbols and different characters. It is not represented with English letters. For a lifelong English speaker, this might prove to be very challenging. To the trained eye and a native Chinese speaker, it's no problem. However, to someone with little experience with the Chinese language, it can be a real obstacle, since you will not only be learning a different verbal language, but also a different written language. This part of learning Chinese might very well be the most time consuming and the portion of learning that will require the most attention to detail.

Picking up the dialect and accents of the language

It is said that very young children, if exposed early, can later in life pick up on the different accents in different languages. As we get older the ability to do so becomes much more difficult. Listening for the dialect and accent of a new language will help you be able to speak the language appropriately. Since Chinese is so dramatically different to English, it can take an English speaker a very long time to learn how to speak the language.

Putting your skills to practical use

Another challenge of learning Chinese, or any language, is being able to put your skills to practical use. You may or may not live in an area with a strong Chinese population. If you are lucky enough to live in a culturally diverse area, specifically one concentrated with Chinese culture, you will be able to practice your skills with other Chinese people and Chinese speakers. If you don't live in such an area, you will find it much more challenging to use your skills. Perhaps consider forming a study group, seeking out Chinese cultural events, or making a friend who is Chinese to help you keep your language skills sharp and allowing you to practice often.