How hard to learn Chinese

The Chinese is known as one of the most difficult languages to learn all over world. When I asked my friend Jason, who has been learning Chinese for months in China, "how hard is learning Chinese?" He replied me with a helpless expression, "It is not hard, but EXTREMELY HARD!"

When you google or surf on some forums that discussing how hard is to learn Chinese, you will find thousands of comments with complaints from non-Chinese speakers. They also created tons of meme to joke about how learning Chinese drived them crazy.

When you learn numbers in Chinese, you will easily start from one, two, three, which is "一 (yī)", "二 (èr)", "三 (sān)". Super easy right? However, when it turns to zero, it's "零 (líng)", with 13 strokes.

Chinese One

The four tones system in Chinese may be the hardest part to for foreigners to master. In Chinese, there are dozens of characters with the same Pinyin, but with different tones. For example:

Chinese One
    Pronunciation: yī
  • 一: one
  • 医: doctor
  • 衣: cloth
    Pronunciation: yí
  • 移:move
  • 姨:aunt
  • 宜:should, ought toyi
    Pronunciation: yǐ
  • 已:already
  • 以:according to
  • 蚁:ant
    Pronunciation: yì
  • 意:meaning
  • 易:easy
  • 亿:a thousand million

Another challenge is to memorize plenty of measure words to match different subject. Obviously it is not correct to use "个(gè)" to count everything. The Chinese uses "匹(pǐ)" to describe a horse (一匹马); "瓶(píng)" to describe a bottle of; "盒(hé)" to describe a box of; "池(chí)" to describe a pool of; "锅(guō)" to describe a pot of, "盆(pén)" to describe a basin of, "间(jiān)" to describe a room of, "双(shuāng)" to describe a couple of, "只(zhī)" to describe an animal, "杯(bēi)" to describe a cup of, "碗(wǎn)" to describe a bowl of... Trust me, these are only a small part of Chinese measure words.

How to remember such big numbers of measure words? Check this out!

Chinese measure word

Even though you have learned Chinese for months, you'll meet troubles while ordering food in a Chinese restaurant. For instance, there is no "猪肉 (zhū ròu)", which is pork, on the menu. The Chinese dish is always named by its flavor, ingredient, or cooking method. If you want to order pork, you may choose a dish called "农家小炒肉 (nóng jiā xiǎo chǎo ròu)", "酱香东坡肉 (jiàng xiāng dōng pō ròu)", "鱼香肉丝 (yú xiāng ròu sī)", "红烧肉 (hóng shāo ròu)" and so on...

Chinese menu

After a long-time study, you may feel confident to speak Chinese. However, knowing the Chinese culture is another required course. For example, there are many words that referred to different meaning in different situation.

The word "方便 (fāng biàn)" is one of those words that easy to make you confused. Here is the sentence that you may hear when you are meeting a Chinese person in business or formal occasions.

  • have time; available
    方便的时候我请你吃饭。(nǐ fāng biàn de shí hòu wǒ qǐng nǐ chī fàn)
    I will invite you for dinner when you have time.
  • When you say Chinese
  • go to bathroom
    我去方便一下。(wǒ qù fāng biàn yí xià)
    I will go to the bathroom.
  • excuse me
  • 方便问一下您的年龄吗?(fāng biàn wèn yí xià nín de nián líng ma)
    Excuse me, may I ask how old are you?

There is another word "早点 (zǎo diǎn)" that easy to lead to misunderstanding . You will see the word frequently on a store signon the street in China, as it refers to breakfast. However, when someone say "早点过来 (zǎo diǎn lái)", it's not to invite you to have breakfast together. It is to ask you to come over ealier.

The word "黄牛 (huáng niú)" is often used in HSK, the Chinese level examination. Literally, "黄牛" means yellow buffalo. However, in some cases, it refers to a ticket scalper. For example,

  • 你不该在黄牛那里买票。(nǐ bù gāi zài huáng niú nà lǐ mǎi piào)
    You should not buy ticket from a scalper.

Are you learning Chinese too? Do you have any interesting story when you learn Chinese. Welcome to share with us.

Anyway, no matter what language you are studying, the most important is to pratice more and speak to a native. Your hard-working will get paid.

Further reading:
Bullet Train from Beijing to Shanghai: Timetable, Tickets, Prices
China Entry and Travel Restrictions in 2021
Baggage Rules of China Rail