Chinese is easy! 3 reasons you should learn Mandarin

你好!The following are a few facts you may already have heard of:

  • One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese.Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world.
  • In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia.

Now, join me for some surprising facts.

Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar.

Hard to believe eh?

Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation (there is no need to memorize verb tenses!) and no noun declension (e.g., gender and number distinctions).

For example, while someone learning English has to learn different verb forms like “see/saw/seen,” all you need to do in Chinese is just to remember one word: kan. While in English you have to distinguish between “cat” and “cats,” in Chinese there is only one form: mao. (Chinese conveys these distinctions of tense and number in other ways, of course.)

The basic word order of Chinese is subject — verb — object, exactly as in English. A large number of the key terms of Mandarin Chinese (such as the terms for state, health, science, party, inflation, and even literature) have been formed as translations of English concepts. You are entering a different culture, but the content of many of the modern key concepts is familiar.

Hello Chinese Language!

Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?!

The fact is Chinese people, unlike most of the rest, have put their foot down and given first priority to their own language instead of a foreign language like- English, so no wonder Chinese is the most popular language in the world. More than one billion people in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other places in East Asia speak Chinese. Significant populations of people who speak Chinese also live in urban centers around the world. For example, San Francisco has the largest Chinese-speaking population of any city outside of China.

Chinese actually consists of a large number of dialects which share a written language but are mutually unintelligible when spoken. Because of this, some linguists consider them separate languages instead of dialects. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and it is the most widely-spoken form of Chinese. Other important linguistic groups include Cantonese, Wu, Xiang, Hakka, Min, and Gan. Within each group, many variations in spoken language occur. It is said that speakers from one area may not understand those who live only a few miles away.

One of the first things you notice about the language are the characters, some of them are even pictographic, as mentioned in my article called “For the love of China.

Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, which also includes Tibetan, Karen, and Lolo-Burmese. The Chinese language has influenced many of the other languages of East Asia. Written Chinese originated more than 4,000 years ago and remained relatively stable until the People’s Republic of China decided on a campaign to make it easier to read Chinese by simplifying the characters (Thank God!), which can have as many as 30 strokes. To date, the simplified Chinese characters have been adopted only in the PRC and Singapore, but Hong Kong may start to use them, following its 1997 reunification with the mainland.

Another change initiated in the PRC is the widespread use of Pinyin, a system of transliteration, representing the sounds of the Chinese language using the Latin alphabet. The Chinese government has expressed interest in eventually replacing the character system with a phonetic alphabet, but to date Chinese characters remain the standard in communication. The written Chinese language consists of about 40,000 characters.

Some culinary terms come from Mandarin Chinese, including chow mein (from chao mian, to stir fry noodles), and tofu (do fu in Mandarin Chinese). Aside from food, Chinese martial arts terms have come into English, including kung fu (gong fu in Chinese) and tai chi (tai ji in Chinese). Recently, feng shui, the Chinese architectural principle, has also been adopted into English.Because Cantonese speakers were the first people to speak Chinese who came to the United States, many English words of Chinese origin come from Cantonese. They include chop suey (from the Cantonese tsap sui or mixed pieces), chop chop (from the Cantonese chop, meaning quick), and dim sum (from the Cantonese for little hearts; the same characters are pronounced “dian xin” in Mandarin Chinese).

As you learn to speak Chinese, some words may sound familiar. However, they are not what you might think. For example, depending on its tone, the word shu can mean book, uncle, neglect, ransom, ripe, and comb. However, it never means “shoe.”

Is Chinese Important for your Career?

China has been the fastest-growing major economy for the past 30 years with an average annual GDP growth rate above 10%. Many people are now choosing to learn Mandarin Chinese as international companies are moving quickly to gain a foothold in the Chinese domestic market.

International businesses prefer to hire people who speak more than one language.

China has become a huge market, and business leaders are looking for people who can speak Chinese and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context. Knowing Chinese may give you an edge when competing for an important position. There is no doubt that China will and does play a major role in world affairs. As China now has opened up to the West, there are opportunities for employment in all areas. Also, China is a wonderful country where one can teach English while developing your new language and cultural skills. There are many website which allow you to practice your language skills. The experience is great, and it’s something you will never forget.

Sources: A few facts and links found over the internet plus my experience learning the language.

[Google Images]

For the Love of China!

China came into the picture when I was in school, probably in the 6th grade and dad’s work consisted of travelling to the many cities of China. So one fine day we all decided to move there and see what it was like, living together was the main idea though. Me, my brother and my sister were sent to Beijing Hai Dian Foreign Language School (北京海淀外国语实验学校) which was for us, the first taste of the chinese people, chinese food, the language, culture, everything. I have a whole diary consisting of my escapades but this blog is not about that time or the others times I’ve spent in China. I find myself in Beijing, yet again this time in a university called Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言大学).
Its almost been a month here now and my class is 2 days away from moving on and start with the next book. I have, unfortunately, been getting up early in the morning at 6 and going to my university which is about 16 stops and 2 changes later. So, its safe to say I’ve seen too much of chinese people on the run and observed enough to be writing this about them.
We all know that the Chinese are great with Fashion- Be it make-up, clothes, shoes, bags, everything. Ever wondered why? The Chinese focus a lot on their appearance and they are almost obsessed to look different from one another (Can’t blame them).
Everybody in their life has seen the part on one of the science channels where they show ants working together, getting the job done, travelling in lines to get to places, completely organised. Guess what the Ants and the Chinese have in common?
That has to be one major difference between the chinese and the rest of the world or at-least Indians. We have long discussions (democracy hai bhai, everyone has an opinion(s) and the freedom to discuss anything from simple useless topics like Delhi traffics on news channels to the ‘heavy’ (read: violent) discussions in the parliament for the ‘implementation’ of rules) *chuckles* and theoretically I might as well admit to you that we have the next hundred years planned out. Trust me, on paper we can paint you a very pretty picture but if you see the state of those rules and how much of what is written- is implemented-is followed, you will be if not anything else but astonished. We just write words make it look good and tuck it away for the next generation to deal with, but the Chinese? Oh-Hell-No, we’re talking Communism now. So the citizens of China have no choice but be ants. These people not only make rules but religiously follow them. Cannot-say-anything-negative-about-their-country.
For instance,
One fine day CNN was covering local riots in a part of China, and in only a few seconds, what do you know, poof! The channel disappears and was banned in China for the next couple of days. Surprise, surprise. The Chinese will ban anything to keep people from saying crap about them. They can ban television channels (there are hardly any English speaking channels except the CCTV series- a bunch of scripted shows, there aren’t even English newspapers and if you do happen to find one, all of them go under a huge magnifying glass before anything gets out to the public) To give you an even better example, they can even ban me from their country for writing this blog!
The population is exploding, but ironically you wont find the streets of Beijing littered, or any car jumping red lights, or any car trying take over another car (apologies to my fellow Indians who’re confused as they don’t know what that means or looks like). They have traffic jams, yes, but lined up traffic, completely civilized (again, apologies). I’m beginning to believe the Chinese invented words like ‘organize’. Such remarkable patience.

They want to take over the world!

Have you ever noticed how the government or just about any Chinese citizen talk about status of their own country on the map of the world? You should check out the words they choose to use. If that’s not innuendo-talk for taking over the world, I don’t know what is. (looks like I haven’t been watching enough of the US government give speech).
Besides the fact that the meaning of their country’s name in Chinese means ‘center country’ which is absurd because they are far from being located at the center of the earth, they talk about themselves with such dangerous ambition, I reckon if they weren’t economically advancing as much as they are, they wouldn’t be so different from the North Koreans. I’m sometimes surprised they’re open to globalization and inter-country trade. I mean that’s like accepting you need other countries to move forward and develop economically.
Socially speaking, along with globalization, China is very proactive. The Chinese keep busy by participating in everything from meaningless television game shows to something as important as national/international sports. Hundreds of ethnic groups exist, only of which 56 are recognized by the government. Sure, sometimes there are riots- but not for long. I have no idea how they manage rebels nor would I like to know. Putting everything aside, this single-party governed country has successfully managed to be a Communist country in a world in which majority believes in Democracy or Capitalism. That means even though having the largest population they have somehow been able to control their people, develop Economically, Infrastructural-ly, even Socially!
Oh-come-on! To be good at everything is humanly impossible!
 Food plays a very significant part in the chinese life and thank God it does! Its an understatement that I love their food, whether its the half fried cabbage dipped in traditional sauces or the famous hot pot or SiChuan dishes and so on. The thing about Chinese food is that there is literally no end. WangFuJin is one famous place where you’ll find street vendors selling everything from fried cockroaches to scorpions and on sticks. Recently a friend of mine told me that she heard snake meat is delicious and that we should try it …Riiight.
I am a strict chicken-lamb-pork-fish-etarian. I do not step beyond that, and nor do I plan to. Nothing other than fish intrigues me as far as seafood is concerned and beef- my religion is against and now that is forever carved on the walls of my brain. There are n number of restaurants, one after the other and please note none of them will ever be empty and so I think to myself – A restaurant business can never fail in China. Having your meals in a day is not just eating to stay alive for the Chinese, its an event.

Food is a culture of its own.

You go to a restaurant, you get a menu (read: book of options), you order dishes (soup, cold dishes, hot dishes, beverage, finally dessert anyone?) and relish the most amazing food culture in the whole world. Its amusing what the waiters at the door say to you when you’re leaving the restaurant y ‘man zou’ which means go slowly, wishing for us to get home safely. Its actually very cute and I don’t think they have that anywhere else in the world.
I have rarely ever seen chinese people fight. They’re loud talkers alright, but a verbal fight? Let alone a physical one? I doubt it. They’re not even expressively aggressive with their face like the rest of the world. Even in midst of a heated conversation between 2 Chinese  focus on the other Chinese people witnessing this. They have this look on their face of either a lost child or a look which says – ‘Don’t they know its illegal to fight?’ and then swiftly making their way out of there.
Its not just their behavior, thinking or looks that separate them, its their language too.
Putting aside the phonetics involved, the Chinese language is essentially different because little do people know this but the characters are derived from pictures (Chinese Pictography). That’s unlike any other language.

 

This is one race who decided to do it differently.