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How hard is it to learn Chinese? – Guide for English speakers

According to the China Global Television Network (CGTN), back in 2020, more than 70 countries officially integrated Chinese language teaching into their national education systems. The report further stated that over 4,000 colleges worldwide have set up Chinese language courses in their curriculum. It is anticipated that 25 million people are learning Chinese now, and over 200 million individuals have already learned Chinese across the globe.

These shocking figures paint the picture of the internationally escalated demand for one of the six official languages of the United Nations – Chinese. It also shows how eager people are to master this language to improve and upgrade their linguistic skills both academically and professionally.

Are you still pondering over the thought: how hard is it to learn Chinese? If that's so, then don't worry because we are here to get you out of your dilemma with this informative guide, compiled mainly for you. To step up your self-educating game, we will also give away a bonus tip by the end of this guide that will enhance your Chinese learning experience for the better.

What makes learning Chinese simple for English speakers?

Among the many aspects that make learning Chinese a lot simpler, below are some quality linguistic properties helping you get a tighter grip on the Mandarin language as soon as possible:


Often when you attempt to study a new language, especially Mandarin Chinese, the first question that comes to mind is: how hard is it to learn Chinese in terms of honorific grammar? It is because other languages (like Latin, Spanish, French, Greek, and German) have complex grammatical word forms and structures that are complicated to understand. Hence, this perplexing feature ends up intimidating learners the most in their learning journey. They have to face a tough time progressing in the language, and consequently, they become unmotivated to continue.

But when it comes to learning Chinese, there's a surprising twist in the story. The language, which is unanimously rumored to be the toughest one to master, also has the relatively most leisurely grammar of all. Although you might find it awkward, there's a reason that Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language globally, with around 1 billion native speakers. The language is extensively straightforward and free from problematic adjectives, and other connecting imputes.

It means you can quickly adapt to Chinese grammatical notions quicker than other Eastern Asian languages like Japanese, Korean, etc. Additionally, if you want to speed things up, an intelligent move would be to enroll in the right online learning platform, where professionally experienced teachers may boost your learning skills 10x more than the average student.


Another aspect that falls into the simple category of determining – how hard is it to learn Chinese? – is Chinese Pinyin. Often referred to as Hanyu Pinyin, it is the official Latin alphabetic Romanization of Chinese characters. Pinyin is a designed system for transcribing traditional Chinese into Latin alphabets following the articulation of the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese.

Unsurprisingly, the word Hanyu literally means the Han language or Chinese language. In contrast, the word Pinyin means spelled sounds or phonetic spelling. From the linguistic perspective, Pinyin's unique patterns illustrate its specific logical reasons. That might be the reason why it is considered an effective tool for teaching standard Chinese to beginners. Most likely, you will find these Pinyin characters on your typing keypads, both on a laptop or mobile.

Sentence Structure

As an analytical language, Chinese has no multiple morphological variations (or inflections) in sentence structures. Instead, it flows in the essential word order of subject (S), verb (V), and object (O). Throughout the syntax, it follows only a one-word form, from first person singular to a third person plural. All the modifiers, along with the relative clauses, begin the typical phrases. At the same time, the head nouns end the sentences without adding various verb conjugations into them.

In short, you don't need to burn your brain cells to learn various puzzling tenses, distinct gender attributes, and tongue flipping cases – at least not while learning Chinese sentence structures.

What makes learning Chinese difficult for English speakers?

The aspects that might come out as rather tricky in the process of learning Mandarin Chinese, especially for Native Americans, are as follows:

Chinese Characters

One of the most prevalent complaints that learners encounter while evaluating – how hard is it to learn Chinese? – is the overwhelming articulation of the Chinese characters. Technically, the Chinese language contains around 80,000 characters overall, out of which 6,500 are the ones that are generally used every single day. Even though many characters possess the same Pinyin vowel symbol, each one is spelled out differently with a specific sound of its own.

Furthermore, these Chinese characters are classified into two different versions – the traditional and simplified characters. Regardless of which version you prefer to pick, both follow the same writing rules, and that's where many beginners stumble.

The problem emerges when the time comes to join together the characters according to the given Chinese principles without breaking the rules behind them. You might want to consider a fluent professional teacher because, honestly speaking, there's not an easy way out of this.

4 Tones

Another fact that leaves the beginners flabbergasted, apart from the never-ending Chinese characters, is that there are different tone levels to remember along the way as well. Yes, you heard it right. As you probably know, Chinese is recognized to be a tonal language. Accordingly, it is distinguished by various factors such as the main frequency (F0), rhythmic inflections present within a segment, pitching patterns, and others used for the Mandarin tone detection.

While familiarizing you with the four primary tones of the Chinese language, here we have given you a quick preview along with tonal regarded features:

  • The first tone is the – higher or flat tone.

  • The second tone is the – rising tone.

  • The third tone is the – dip tone (it falls and then raises back up).

  • The fourth tone is the – falling tone.

Note: If a syllable is denoted without any specific tone of voice, it may be counted as a fifth tone.

How hard is it to learn Chinese? – Final thoughts

After analyzing different aspects of learning Chinese, one thing is for sure: you will be at your wit's end trying to figure out everything by yourself, especially if you are an English-speaking native. The numerous Chinese characters and the Mandarin tone variations might leave you in a vicious cycle of confusion, going back and forth over the similar-sounding Mandarin dialects.    

Although you've got your work cut out for you, you don't have to dodge a bullet all by yourself. Instead, we at TLI "Taipei Language Institute" would love to make your learning more enticing than you can ever imagine. Our language experts have prepared a series of online courses to eliminate the stress and confusion factor of your Mandarin learning. In addition, the best part is that all of this is available at an affordable price, at a relaxed pace, and in the comfort of your home. So, grab your seat now, and master the language of your dreams. Happy learning!