In the last few years a new language is emerging in the language teaching sector: Chinese.
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Chinese is a tonal language, that is, a language in which the different intonation of syllables determines the meaning of words. For example, the pronunciation of the word “mother” and “horse” is identical in Chinese, but the two words have a different intonation that allows us to distinguish the two meanings.
Moreover, while the writing of the Chinese language is more or less the same in the places where this language is spoken, the pronunciation undergoes many variations due to the presence of many dialects or linguistic varieties in China and in the other countries where Chinese is spoken.
The Chinese studied in schools is usually the standard Chinese, also called Mandarin Chinese, which is inspired by the dialect spoken in the Beijing area.
Another variety of the famous Chinese is Cantonese, spoken mainly in southern China and Hong Kong.
As for writing, Chinese uses symbols, called characters, that have their own meaning. Chinese writing has more than three thousand years of history and is one of the oldest written languages still used today.
The character system is divided into two types: simplified and traditional. Traditional characters are still used in countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong. In mainland China, on the other hand, a simplified character system is introduced, introduced during the communist period, which is what is taught to Chinese students.
Studying Chinese can be a long and arduous journey, which requires the memorization of thousands of characters, but has in any case several advantages.
It is the most spoken language in the world
The standard Chinese language, or Mandarin Chinese, is in fact the most widely spoken language in the world in terms of the number of native speakers. About a fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese. In fact, there are over a billion Chinese speakers!
Furthermore, standard Chinese is not only spoken in China, but is also the official language in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and is widespread in many other Asian countries.
In Asia, Chinese is a kind of lingua franca used in interpersonal communications, being a very well-known and spoken idiom.
It has a relatively simple grammar
The Chinese language, compared to other European or Asian languages, has a rather simple grammatical structure. The verbs are all infinity, there are neither the articles nor the feminine and masculine genres.
The advantage of Chinese grammar is that words always remain the same, that is, they do not change form based on gender, number, grammatical function, etc.
China is a world economic power
China is increasingly asserting itself as a world economic power, competing with the United States.
Although in business relations the preferred language is still English, knowing the Chinese language can give an edge when negotiating with the Chinese counterpart.
In fact, the Chinese greatly appreciate Westerners who have knowledge, even rudimentary, of Chinese language and culture.
In the job market, therefore, knowing the Chinese language can be an important skill to better manage relationships (guanxi in Chinese) with Chinese customers.
Studying Chinese trains the brain
Studying Chinese also has benefits for our mind. In fact, in the Chinese language it is necessary to memorize every new word by associating to each written symbol (character) a given pronunciation and intonation (in Chinese there are four types of intonation plus a fifth neutral).
In this way the memory and the ability to associate sounds with words written in a complex way for us Westerners is maintained.
You can order at the Chinese restaurant without problems
Learning Chinese also allows you to look good with friends! Thanks to the commitment in the study of the Chinese language you will be able to order a dish at the Chinese restaurant, impressing everyone.
In summary, Chinese is a very widespread language and less complex than it may seem. Clearly patience and perseverance are needed in approaching this language, but the final benefits compensate for the initial difficulty that can be encountered in learning a language so distant from European languages.