I love the split second of totally gob-smacked, mouth-wide-open and Crazy Eyes reaction I get when I tell people I’m learning Chinese Mandarin. It’s one of the most empowering feelings ever, and that’s not because I’m looking for a temporary ego trip.
Truth is, I know something you don’t. I’ll let you into a little secret…
Learning Mandarin is EASY!
Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why I think you should give it a go.
1. It’s totally bonkers!
I don’t know about you, but I always remember the weirdest facts from school, like Naughty Elephants Squirting Water for directions and methane gas from cows’ farts causing global warming!
I listened in science. True story.
Well Mandarin is a bit similar. There are some insane phrases which stick in my memory because
I’m a nerd they are so ruddy random! The other day we learnt the meaning of ‘mama huhu‘, which people use when they want to say they are feeling ‘so so’.
The direct translation = horse horse, tiger tiger. Err, you what now?
Then our teacher reeled off some crazy story about a man being eaten by a horse and riding around on a tiger. I don’t even… gah.
2. It’s not trying to be French
Me and French don’t get along. Point blank. I’ll tell you why. They have to over complicate every single fancy-schmancy word by labelling it masculine or feminine.
I don’t mean to get into the nitty-gritty here, but how on earth is a book (un livre) male, and a ruler (une regle) female? COME ON!
There’s none of this nonsense with Mandarin. It couldn’t be simpler. ‘Ta‘ means ‘him‘, but ‘ta‘ also means ‘her‘. ‘Tamen‘ means them. Done. Boom. Fin.
3. The characters are beautiful ❤
OK, I must admit I’m at the very early stages of learning the language, so I can’t claim to be able to read Chinese like a bilingual wizard – but I’m getting there
Whilst I’ve amassed a grand total of 5 characters to my vocabulary, which doesn’t sound like a lot, I’m pretty confident that I could write them for you now, if you asked me to.
To me, Chinese characters look a lot like pictures. Certainly ancient Chinese has evolved from miniature drawings created by wise-guy ancestors centuries ago, into simpler shapes and symbols used in modern Mandarin.
A good Chinese teacher would describe how to write each character as if it was a drawing. We were taught like this when I went to summer school in Chengdu… but 3 years later and I’m rusty. Sad times.
4. China will be the next superpower
Let’s face it, China is massive – I should know, it’s as big as my head according to the 5ft world map stuck to my bedroom wall.
Not to scale.
The economy is booming. People are over-populating Chinese cities by millions, it’s a production monster en-masse and wealthy business owners are successfully snaffling up properties as investments in the most affluent cities in the world.
Get on that gravy train! Hmm, do they eat gravy? Probs not.
In 10 years time, Westerners fluent in Chinese will be a real niche and that can only mean good things.
Personally, if I can speak a little Mandarin I’m hoping I might be spared when China takes over the world and turns the rest of you into noodles…
Don’t say I didn’t warn you (I jest).
5. Glorious scholarships (for geeks like me)
Think about the thousands of Chinese students who come over to universities in England each year. There are equally as many opportunities going the other way if you’re willing to learn the language.
Lots of degree courses in business and sports now incorporate Mandarin and night schools across the UK offer different evening classes.
I’m studying for 2 hours per week at the University of Manchester, and I love it! It’s really nice to put my mind to something and soak up some new words, and there’s a prospect of bagging a scholarship at the end of it too!
1 HSK exam down, 3 to go.
Language is power, my friends.
I hope some of these tips might persuade you to take a leaf out of my book and give it a go yourself. If not, you think long and hard on that noodle analogy…
Until we meet again.