All of a sudden, speaking Mandarin is cool. Sasha Obama practiced her tones with former Chinese President Hu Jintao. Mark Zuckerberg shocked audiences at Tsinghua University when he delivered a speech entirely in Chinese. Learning Chinese seems like an impossible feat reserved for the young, rich, and famous—but it’s not. You can (and should!) start learning today. Here’s why:
Grammar is easy
Chinese grammar is shockingly simple.
- There are no verb conjugations (each verb is exactly the same for 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, singular, plural, masculine and feminine).
- You can also turn any statement into a question by adding “吗/嗎 (ma).”
- There are no articles like “a”, “an”, or “the”.
English grammar is hard, full of past participles, gerunds, and infinitives. Chinese grammar is easy. Once you learn basic sentence structure (Subject + Verb + Object) you can express almost any simple thought.
You don’t need to know that many words.
Chinese is a concise language. The first chapter of the Tao Te Ching is only five sentences. While one needs to know around 8,000-9,000 words to read an English newspaper, one only needs around 2,000-3,000 to read a Chinese one (Canadian Modern Language Review; Tsinghua University). Vocabulary isn’t as hard as you might think. With a couple thousand characters under your belt, you’ll be at dim sum ordering bao in Chinese!
It’s the key to success.
Nothing earns respect like speaking Mandarin. Seriously—no college recruiter or corporate interviewer is going to miss that on your resume. Speaking Chinese not only looks good, but it can help advance your academic and professional careers.
- Students: Speaking Mandarin can help you succeed in almost any major. Whatever your niche—be it engineering, business, political science, or environmental law—Chinese gives you an advantage. Very few students speak it well, and it will set you apart from your peers when applying for school internships, undergrad, and grad school.
- Professionals: When 1 in 7 people in the world is Chinese, you are destined to work with/for a Mandarin speaker. According to Forbes, China has the second most billionaires of any country in the world, behind the US. These are people you want to be able to communicate with.
Granted, learning Chinese is not a cake walk. But it’s a deeply rewarding process that’s not as hard as it’s cracked up to be. As the Chinese proverb goes, “萬事開頭難 / 万事开头难” (wàn shì kāi tóu nán) — “All things are difficult before they are easy.”