By Glory Benacka | Oct. 1, 2018

Chinese is consistently ranked as one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn! Many students feel intimidated by the perceived complexity of the multi-tone sound system and Chinese characters. Yet somehow, this language is the most widely spoken in the world, with over a billion speakers. How did all of those people figure it out?

We always have an edge in our native language. Babies have advantages learning language out of necessity … and early childhood is geared towards helping us learn to communicate through cute songs, alphabet practice and picture books. Even “baby talk” has a purpose as a natural method adults use to teach common language sounds to babies. 

Learning a new foreign language as an adult can certainly be a humbling experience. Most adults aren’t regularly tongue-tied and at a loss for simple words while navigating daily life. Though frustrating at times, this is also what makes learning new languages as an adult a powerful and often meaningful experience. Trying your hand at a new foreign language is a good way to gain experiential empathy with immigrants who may not speak fluent English. You might also be surprised to find yourself gaining a better and deeper understanding of English and grammar.

This fall the CLASS program partnered with the Confucius Institute at K-State Manhattan to offer six beginning Mandarin Chinese lessons with a native speaker to students in the Salina area. This class is a great introductory opportunity for you to give Chinese a try in a small casual class, guided by an experienced Mandarin speaker who also speaks English.

So why learn Chinese? Perhaps you are interested in traveling in Asia? Besides China, Mandarin is spoken in Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Philippines, Mongolia and by Chinese expats and tourists in the United States and worldwide. If you’re interested in Chinese culture, learning even the most basic Chinese opens up a new world to you. Or maybe you’d like to be an international flight attendant or work for the United Nations? Learn Chinese!

Mandarin is a useful business language as well. In today’s global economy, industries from manufacturing to tourism need multilingual staff; could that be you? China is one of the largest trading partners of the United States and one of the largest world economies. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spoke Chinese during this 30 minute Q&A session at Tsinghua University in China. Mark Zuckerberg certainly had the advantage of learning Chinese out of necessity; his wife and her family speak Chinese. He studied hard and kudos to him for taking his Chinese out for a spin at a recorded conference!

Learning Chinese can also be a creative, fun and interesting activity. Writing Chinese symbols and characters can help you refine your creative penmanship. To write, you use strokes, similar to painting! Wouldn’t it also be fun to take a deeper dive into your knowledge and understanding of Chinese food?

Mandarin Fun Facts (it’s easier than you think!):

  1. Simple grammar: For example, Mandarin doesn’t use plurals
  2. There are no masculine or feminine words
  3. There are no verb conjugations to memorize
  4. There are 80,000+ characters, but you can learn about 3,500 to navigate most conversation comfortably.
  5. The word order of Chinese is similar to English

Though Chinese has an initially steep learning curve, once you get past some of the beginner’s challenges, your knowledge starts compounding. You will begin to understand Chinese language logic and be excited when you see a random Chinese character and just know what it means! If you’re on the fence, I hope you feel comfortable attempting Chinese language for beginners this fall to give it a try.

Chinese Language 汉语 Special Offer!

Register for Chinese Language now through Oct. 11, and choose any one session of Chinese Calligraphy, Origami or Papercutting for FREE!

Register for your free Chinese Culture course with CLASS staff at the McKenzie Center, 308 W. Elm, or call (785) 825-4624, ext. 218.

*This offer is limited by available space in culture classes on a first come first serve basis.