Why Should You Learn Chinese?

My first answer is maybe you shouldn’t learn Mandarin. Chinese is not the easiest language to learn. Basic Chinese grammar is easy but Chinese has tones and these are difficult for some people. Reading and writing aren’t really difficult, but there is a lot of memorization involved. When it comes down to it, learning Chinese is a lot of work. I may be missing something, but I can only really think of four reasons to study Chinese.

You Want to Experience the World in a New and Different Way

When you learn a foreign language, you get the opportunity to look at the world in a new way. The foreign culture begins to make sense on a deeper level. This happened for me when I learned how to write the characters 你 and 您. You will notice that a good portion of these two characters are the same. The left character means you, nǐ. The right character is the polite version of you, nín. What I find fascinating is the bottom right of the character 您 is 心, which means heart. So the polite version of you has heart in it. Another thing that I have always found fascinating is that business cards are called 名片 or name cards in Chinese.

You Are Struggling With Chinese Culture

If you do business in China and don’t speak Chinese, it becomes even more difficult for you to connect with Chinese business partners. First, you don’t speak their language (and 你好 is not enough!). Second, when you can’t understand Chinese, it is more difficult to understand the culture. I remember when I was just starting out and I thought that Chinese people sounded angry all of the time. Now I know that they were just using words that have the fourth tone. Third, when you speak Chinese, you begin to understand all of the nonverbal communication. You learn that moving your hand down in a way that suggests keep down in the US means come here in China. When you go deeper you learn that a grunt, that sounds like no in English, is in fact a confirmation that they agree with what you just said.

Learning Chinese will Expand Your Career Opportunities

How many people in the United States (or other western countries) speak Chinese? How useful is Chinese in business today? How much more useful will Chinese be each year? All of these suggest that for many people, there is an advantage to speaking basic Chinese. It may not be right for you, in which case, you should refer to the first sentence of this article. On the other hand, if you work in an industry that is involved with China – and what industry isn’t these days! – perhaps learning Chinese makes a lot of sense for you. In landlocked Colorado, China is the 3rd largest export destination, Hong Kong is the 9th, Taiwan is the 16th and Singapore is the 19th. Speaking Mandarin is an advantage in all of these places. China is also investing abroad. China invested $5.5 billion in tight oil and shale gas. Being able to speak Chinese is an advantage in the oil and gas field in Colorado.

You Enjoy Learning New Languages

Some of our students speak 3 or 4 languages. If you enjoy learning languages, then learning Chinese makes a lot of sense. Chinese has a the reputation of being a difficult language to learn. This just isn’t true. It is not easy, but it is also not that difficult. The grammar is fairly easy. Reading and writing involve memorization, but there’s a lot of that in any language. To top it off, you will be exposed to a tonal language. In tonal languages, the way you say the words, changes the meaning of the word. For example in Chinese, the word ma has different meanings based on the way you say it. It can mean horse, mother or yell.

What Language is Right for You?

It could be that learning Spanish or another skill makes more sense for you. Maybe you fly to Europe for business and German makes more sense. Some people are better off learning Spanish and others should consider a skill. All of that said, for many people, learning Chinese is the right answer. What’s right for you?

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