Mandarin Chinese Review

Mandarin Chinese is not so difficult to learn as one might expect. It is a tonal language, unlike many world languages such as French, Arabic, and English. True enough. This means that pitch and intonation are an additional means of differentiating words, along with the vowels and consonants. If one's native language is not tonal, then learning Mandarin can be a challenge.

However, there is a counter-balancing simplicity to the grammar, pronunciation, and word forms that are simpler to learn than say English, Hindi, or Spanish. And, approached in the right spirit, learning a tonal language such as Mandarin Chinese is fascinating and mentally invigorating.

Esthetically, Mandarin is a very expressive language. It's wonderful to listen to in movies, songs, and everyday conversation. It can be sharp and forceful--a powerful, persuasive tool, or a great carrier of strong emotions. Yet is can also relate subtler emotions, such as tenderness, disappointment, amusement, and even boredom!

I recall that when I lived and traveled in China for a few years, I could always immediately distinguish Mandarin Chinese from other versions of Chinese being spoken around me. (Yes, there are many different types of spoken Chinese, such as Cantonese, and all have their own special characteristics.) I was always struck by its particular authority and clarity of its diction, as well as its own kind of “music.”

Learning Mandarin was great fun, as well as being a key way of moving more freely and independently all over China. The reason for this is important: Mandarin Chinese is spoken by most people throughout the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Singapore, and many other Chinese communities.

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