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Learning a second foreign language is particularly a hard nut to crack for most people, especially learning those languages that are totally different from one’s own mother tongue. For most foreigners,learning Chinese is the most difficult thing to do. All aspects of Chinese language, not only the tones of Chinese but also Chinese characters, seem to be hot potato to them. But what makes Chinese language difficult to foreigners? Here are some top reasons for this as following.
1. The Difficulty in the Writing System of Chinese.
In foreigners’ eyes, the writing system seems to be sheer fantasy for them. It can’t be guaranteed that someone who can speak a fluent Chinese can write neat Chinese characters. There is no doubt that Chinese characters are famous for their beauty and charm. But it’s really hard to write Chinese characters well, even for Chinese people. There are a great number of Chinese natives who don’t write good Chinese characters. The reason why the writing system of Chinese is difficult for people is that the spelling of Chinese characters isn’t always regular. Besides, there are too many characters that we need to learn, thus people will get puzzled when they learn too much characters.
2. The difficulty in Ideographic Manner of Chinese Language
Unlike English, Chinese characters are arranged in the way of their radicals and Chinese has nothing that corresponds to an alphabet, thus it’s hard for Chinese learners to recognize the radicals if they haven’t systematacially studied Chinese language. And the components of Chinese characters are arrayed in two dimensions, unlike the only one dimension of alphabetic writing such as English.
3. The Difficulty in Learning Ancient Chinese
Modern Chinese is one part of the whole Chinese language system and the most difficult thing while learning Chinese lies in studying ancient Chinese. In ancient China, people had their own tradition of avoiding saying something that was disrespect for emperors. Thus, ancient Chinese language consists of several centuries of esoteric anecdotes which were written in a terse language, just like the codes. And these characteristics of Chinese add difficulty to learn Chinese well.
4. The Difficulty in the Tones of Chinese
It seems to Chinese learners that the tones of Chinese are bewildering. Though Chinese language only has four tones (the level tone, the rising tone, the falling-rising tone and the falling tone included), but tones of Chinese characters changes according to different kinds of word collocation. At the very beginning when one learns Chinese, he should try his best to memorize the vowels and consonants. But this is not the real problem in learning Chinese tones. The real challenge comes in when Chinese learners start to use the knowledge they have learned to express their thoughts. It seems that the tones and pronunciation habits of Chinese are innate and incredibly ingrained so that Chinese learners have no other choices but to strictly abide by these rules.
5. The Difficulty in Recognizing Culture Differences.
Another main reason that Chinese is so difficult for western people is that there are differences between the western culture and the eastern culture for the East and the West have been isolated for a long time. In ancient days, the inconvenience in transport links between the East and the West lead to gaps in the communication between these two hemispheres. Though in the past few decades, China has carried out series of extensive exchanges with the Western countries, including various kinds of cultural and academic exchanges, there is still a very long way to go. One needs to have an overall understanding of culture differences between Chinese culture and the western culture if he makes his mind to be a Chinese hand.
Though learning Chinese is hard for westerners, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn it well. And Da Shan (Mark Rowswell, a Canadian who can speak Chinese quite fluently) sets a good example for us.