You might of heard many different things about how difficult learning Chinese is such as “Do you really need to learn one character for every word” or “I’ve heard the same word has different meanings depending on how you say it” and so on…
Statements such as these make learning Chinese seem like a daunting task, however there are also simple statements that can be made to prove exactly the opposite:
There are no grammatical cases in Chinese
Chinese words don’t change according to function. Police is written the same way regardless if it’s the subject of the clause or it’s the object. Whatever function a word has in a sentence, it generally looks the same.
There are no genders in Chinese
Most people who learn languages where gender is important whine about it. German has three genders you have to learn, Swedish and French have two, and there are few rules to help you here! In Chinese, you don’t need to bother, because there is no such thing as grammatical gender.
There are no tenses and no need to conjugate verbs in Chinese
Chinese doesn’t distinguish between yesterday, today and tomorrow as much as English does. Most of the time, it’s simply indicated by a word describing when something happens, rather than changing the structure of the sentence. Verbs do not change their form based on when they took place. Compare this with French and Spanish where verbs can also be irregular and the rules for how to conjugate them don’t apply.
In Chinese you can use logic !
Chinese is sometimes ridiculously logical. Monday is “week one”, Tuesday is “week two”, Wednesday “week three” and so on. Same for the months! The number 1 is simply “one”, 11 is “ten, one”, 99 is “nine ten, nine”, 945 is “nine hundred, four ten, five”.
Chinese characters aren’t random brush strokes, there is reason behind these mysterious and beautiful symbols. It’s usually not enough to let you guess what it means, but it is a powerful tool to help you remember.
Words, i.e. characters put together, contain a lot more meaning than characters. They are created in a way which is often obvious or at least understandable for a student. Train is “fire vehicle”, train station is “fire vehicle station”. Few words are completely arbitrary, even on the surface!
The order of words in a sentence is very simple in Chinese
Sentence structure is easy to learn, and even though there are exceptions, a simple formula can be followed most of the time and the result will be, if not entirely correct, then at least comprehensible. Compare this with languages where word order changes depending on the type of sentence.
Learning Chinese is not impossible
I am speaking out of experience here. Within one year you can reach a Mandarin Chinese level that allows you to chat freely with Chinese People and this without spending all your time studying. By enrolling in a university program and living in China for a year and studying a few hours a week during your free time you should be able to handle any situation in China, travel around the country and be independent. Although the language can become very subtle and take years to master, you can be up and running with conversational Chinese very quickly compared to some other languages.