Ni hao 你好! Are you thinking about learning Chinese as a second language? Mandarin is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and while learning it may seem difficult at first, the rewards may be significant.
This article will explore everything you need to know about learning Chinese as a second language. Such as:
- The advantages of learning Chinese.
- Some of the reasons why you should learn Chinese.
- Benefits of learning Chinese for business.
- How long it takes to speak Chinese and some tips to help you learn it more efficiently.
- The differences between Mandarin and Cantonese to help you decide which one might be right for you.
- How to type Chinese characters on your keyboard.
Let’s get started!
What Percentage of the World Speaks Chinese?
Mandarin Chinese, which has about 1.1 billion speakers, is the most spoken language in the world, according to the most recent estimates from Ethnologue, a database of world languages. This is about 14.1% of the total population of the world. This means that one out of every seven people on Earth speaks Mandarin Chinese as their first language.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that many people speak other dialects of Chinese, including Cantonese, Wu, and Min, in various parts of China and around the world.
When all Chinese variants are considered, the total number of speakers is estimated to be over 1.3 billion, or around 17% of the world’s population.
Aside from native speakers, many individuals across the world study Chinese as a second language. It is impossible to know how many people around the world speak Chinese as a second language, but estimates say there may be as many as 100 million non-native Chinese speakers.
It’s also important to note that Chinese is widely used online. With roughly 983 million users, Mandarin was the second most utilized language on the internet in 2021. This accounts for around 22.4% of all internet users worldwide.
Even though the number of people who speak Chinese may seem high, it’s important to remember that China has a population of more than 1.4 billion, which is a big chunk of the total number of people who speak Chinese. But because China is becoming more important in the world economy, learning Mandarin could be very helpful for people and businesses that want to do business with China and its people.
Which Countries Speak Mandarin?
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China and Taiwan, where the majority of the population speaks it. China has a population of about 1.4 billion people, and Mandarin Chinese is the most commonly spoken language in the country, accounting for around 71% of the population. Over 70% of people in Taiwan speak Mandarin Chinese, which is also the national language.
Mandarin is also spoken in the following countries and territories:
- Singapore: Around 35% of the population speaks Mandarin, one of the country’s four official languages.
- Malaysia: Around 13% of the Malaysian population speaks Mandarin Chinese.
- Indonesia: After Javanese and Sundanese, it is the third most widely spoken language in Indonesia.
- Thailand: Mandarin Chinese is spoken by a small but significant number of people, most of whom are from the Chinese Thai community.
Outside of Asia, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in a number of other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Mandarin Chinese is the second most-spoken language in Australia after English, and the fourth most-spoken language in New Zealand after English, Maori, and Samoan. Chinese is the third most spoken language in Canada, after English and French (census 2021), and the third most spoken language in the United States, after English, and Spanish.
Why Should I Learn Chinese?
Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, which gives it many benefits for both personal and professional growth.
Business Opportunities: China has the second-largest economy in the world and is a major force on the international scene. But we talk about this in more detail below.
Cultural Enrichment: With customs, art, music, and food that are distinctive and intriguing, China has a rich and diversified culture that dates back thousands of years. By learning Mandarin, you will learn more about China’s history and people and be better able to understand and respect its culture.
Travel: With magnificent natural landscapes, historic sites, and dynamic cities, China is a popular tourist destination. Learning Chinese will help you get around the country and talk to people there, making your trip more fun and interesting.
Cognitive effects: Learning a new language can have a lot of positive effects on your mind, such as improving your memory, making it easier to solve problems, and making you more creative. These benefits can help you in other parts of your life, like your job and your relationships with other people.
Personal growth: Learning Mandarin could be a fun and rewarding experience that makes you feel better about yourself and gives you a sense of accomplishment. It could also make you more open-minded and help you understand and connect with people from other cultures.
Global Communication: As mentioned, more than 1.3 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese as their first language. It is the most spoken language in the world. Understanding Mandarin enables you to interact with individuals from all backgrounds and overcome cultural gaps, enabling greater understanding and collaboration.
Related reading: The Biggest Challenges in learning Chinese for English speakers–Opens in new tab
Benefits of Learning Chinese for Business
As businesses become more international, being able to speak more than one language has become a valuable skill. And when it comes to business, there is no question that you should learn Chinese.
Enhanced Communication with Chinese Business Partners
With Chinese businesses growing and China’s influence on the world economy growing, it’s more important than ever to be able to communicate well with Chinese partners. Learning Chinese will help you build stronger relationships with Chinese business partners, reach better deals, and deal with cultural differences more easily.
Greater Job Opportunities
China has the second-largest economy in the world, and many businesses want to grow in the Chinese market. Learning Mandarin will increase your marketability to these businesses and open up new work prospects for you. Also, if you work for a company that does business with China, being able to speak Chinese will make you a very valuable asset to your employer.
Gaining access to the world’s largest market
With a huge consumer market that has grown a lot in the last ten years, the country has become a major player in the world economy. So, learning Chinese could give you access to the largest market in the world and let you do business with Chinese companies.
Improve your business relationships
Relationships are important in business. Speaking Mandarin can facilitate the development of stronger bonds with Chinese partners, suppliers, and customers. Speaking their language demonstrates your willingness to make the effort to learn about their culture and way of life. It may also assist you in comprehending their company procedures, which may be significantly different from your own.
More cultural understanding
Studying Mandarin also gives you a better grasp of Chinese culture. Knowing cultural differences and norms can help you develop effective business connections.
Access to Chinese Information and Media
In recent years, Chinese news services like Xinhua and China Daily have become more important around the world. By learning Chinese, you’ll be able to use these media outlets and keep up with news and information from China. This can be very helpful if you do business with Chinese companies or want to grow your business there.
You will most likely travel to China if you do business there. Speaking Chinese may increase the productivity and enjoyment of your trips. It can assist you with communicating with people, negotiating better deals, and comprehending Chinese customs and culture.
Learning Mandarin can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors. Given China’s growth as an economic giant, an increasing number of businesses are wanting to conduct business with the country. As a result, being able to communicate in Mandarin will set you apart from your competition and increase your value to your company.
Related reading: The Most Commonly Asked Questions About the Chinese Language – Opens in new tab
How Long Does It Take to Learn Chinese?
Most people need about one to two years of consistent study and practice to become conversationally fluent in Chinese. It may take longer to become fully fluent and proficient.
Because of its complicated writing system, tones, and grammatical rules, Chinese is considered a difficult language for most non-native speakers to learn. According to the US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, it takes approximately 2,200 class hours or 88 weeks of full-time study to achieve “General Professional Proficiency” in Mandarin Chinese. Note, however, that this estimate is based on the extensive language training offered to U.S. diplomats and may not be applicable to everyone.
How long it takes to become fluent in Chinese depends on many things, such as
The learning environment may have a substantial influence on how quickly one learns Chinese. If you live in China or a place where you are constantly around people who speak Chinese, you will probably learn the language much faster than if you only study part-time or are in a country where people don’t speak Chinese.
Way of Learning
Everyone has a different way of learning, and if you can find a way that works for you, it will help you learn Chinese faster. Some people like to learn by doing and talking, while others like to learn in a more structured way in a classroom. It’s critical to identify and stick with a style that works for you.
Previous experience with learning a language
If you have learned other languages before, it may be easier for you to learn Chinese. Understanding the structure and grammar of a language can help you learn Chinese, and having learned a language before can help you figure out how to learn a new one.
Availability of time
Learning Chinese takes a large amount of time. If you can only study for a few hours per week, it will take considerably longer to become proficient than if you can devote several hours each day to studying the language.
Motivation and commitment
Finally, your motivation and devotion to studying Chinese will have a huge impact on how quickly you learn. If you really want to learn Chinese and work hard at it, you will probably make more progress than if you don’t care as much about the process.
Tips for speeding up Chinese learning
Here are some suggestions to help you learn Mandarin faster:
- Consistent practice: Learning Chinese necessitates regular practice. Make an effort to devote a certain amount of time each day to study.
- Use a range of tools: To support your study, use dictionaries, language learning applications, and internet resources.
- Immerse yourself in the language: The best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in it as much as possible. Listen to Chinese music, watch Chinese TV shows, and practice speaking with local speakers.
- Set goals: Give yourself goals that are attainable and keep track of your progress. This will assist you in remaining motivated and focused.
- Participate in a language exchange program: Participate in a language exchange program to practice speaking with native speakers and receive feedback on your language abilities.
Related reading: How Old is the Chinese Language? – A Brief History from Archaic to Mandarin–Opens in new tab.
What Is the Difference Between Chinese and English Language?
There are millions of people who speak the well-known languages Chinese and English worldwide. Let’s talk about how Chinese and English are different.
- Let’s start with the fundamentals of the Chinese and English languages. Because Mandarin is a tonal language, the meaning of a word changes depending on how it is said. Cantonese contains nine tones, while Mandarin Chinese has four major tones and one neutral tone. English, on the other hand, is a non-tonal language, which means that tone has no bearing on the meaning of words.
- The writing system is another key distinction between Chinese and English. Hanzi, or Chinese characters, are logograms that represent full words or ideas. The characters may be fairly complicated, and there are over 50,000 of them; however, most Chinese speakers only know about 3,000–4,000 of them. English, on the other hand, employs the Latin alphabet, which consists of 26 letters and is used to write words phonetically.
- Chinese and English are also different when it comes to grammar. There are no plurals, verb conjugations, or tenses in Chinese grammar. Instead, time is shown by using words like “yesterday” or “tomorrow.” In contrast, English has a complicated grammar system that includes verb conjugations, tenses, and plurals.
- The two languages also have considerable differences in vocabulary. Several terms in English have been borrowed from other languages, including Roman, French, and Greek. Chinese, on the other hand, has a relatively limited vocabulary, with words being generated by combining characters to create new meanings.
- The sound system is one of the most noticeable contrasts between Chinese and English. Several consonant sounds in Chinese are not found in English, making it difficult for English speakers to learn. Moreover, Chinese does not distinguish between voiced and unvoiced consonants, which might be confusing for English speakers.
- Next, let’s compare and contrast the two languages’ cultures. The Mandarin language reflects the importance of respect for authority and hierarchy in Chinese society. On the other hand, English society promotes individualism and self-expression, and language reflects this via the usage of slang and colloquialisms.
Related reading: Fascinating Information About Chinese Characters – Opens in new tab
Should I Learn Mandarin or Cantonese?
When it comes to choosing which Chinese dialect to study, many people are unsure whether to learn Mandarin or Cantonese.
Mandarin Chinese is China’s official language, and it is spoken by nearly one billion people. It is also the world’s most frequently spoken language. Cantonese, on the other hand, is largely spoken in China’s Guangdong province, Hong Kong, and Macau. Moreover, Cantonese is spoken by Chinese communities worldwide.
The way the two languages are spoken is one of the biggest differences between Mandarin and Cantonese. Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the way a word is spoken can change what it means. There are four primary tones in Mandarin and one neutral tone. Cantonese, on the other hand, contains nine tones and is thus more complicated than Mandarin. If you want to study a language with a complicated tonal system, Cantonese could be the best option.
The written language is another notable distinction between the two dialects. Mandarin and Cantonese share the same writing system based on Chinese characters or Hanzi. There are, however, some variances in how the characters are utilized. Cantonese writing is frequently more colloquial and casual, whereas Mandarin is more official.
You should also think about where you want to use the language. If you are planning a trip to China or Taiwan, Mandarin is the ideal language to learn because it is the official language. On the other hand, Cantonese may be more beneficial if you want to visit Hong Kong or Macau, as it is the dominant language spoken there.
Lastly, let’s discuss personal preference. If you are drawn to a certain region’s culture and language, this may influence whatever dialect you choose to study. For instance, if you like Cantonese food, you might find it more useful to learn Cantonese. Mandarin, on the other hand, may be the best option if you are interested in Chinese history and literature.
Related reading: Chinese Language Mastery via Classic Literature – Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Skills – Opens in new tab
How Do I Type Chinese on My Keyboard?
To type Chinese characters on your keyboard, you must turn on an input method for the Chinese language. On a Windows computer, follow these general steps:
- Go to “Settings” and click on “Time & Language”.
- Click on “Language”.
- Click “Add a language” and choose “Chinese (Simplified)” or “Chinese (Traditional)” depending on your preference.
- Click “Options” then choose “Add a keyboard”
- Choose your preferred Chinese keyboard layout. For simplified Chinese, the “Microsoft Pinyin” keyboard is most widely used, whereas, for traditional Chinese, the “Microsoft New Phonetic” keyboard is most commonly used.
After you install the Chinese keyboard layout, you can switch between it and your regular keyboard by pressing the Windows key and the space bar.
Now that the Chinese language input method has been enabled, you may begin inputting Chinese characters using either Pinyin or handwriting recognition.
Pinyin Method: Pinyin is a phonetic notation method used in China to express the sounds of Chinese characters. It is the most often used method for typing Chinese on a keyboard.
- Start the Chinese input method editor by pressing the Windows key + Spacebar (for Windows) or Command key + Spacebar (for Mac).
- Open the program or file where you want to type Chinese characters.
- Enter the Pinyin spelling of the desired Chinese character. For example, to type “你” which means “you” in Chinese, use the letters on your keyboard to type “ni”
- A list of potential characters will emerge as you write. Choose one by using the arrow keys or by clicking on it with your mouse.
- Hit the spacebar to insert the selected character into your document.
Handwriting Recognition Method: If you do not know how to spell a Chinese character in Pinyin, you can enter the character using handwriting recognition.
- Start the Chinese input method editor by pressing the Windows key + Spacebar (for Windows) or Command key + Spacebar (for Mac).
- Open the program or file where you want to type Chinese characters.
- On the Chinese input method editor toolbar, click on the handwriting recognition button.
- With your mouse or a stylus, draw the Chinese character you want to type.
- When you draw, the Chinese input method editor will attempt to detect the character and will provide a list of potential matches. Click on the one you want to pick.
- Enter the selected character into your document by pressing the spacebar.
Pros and Cons of Learning Chinese
Let’s find out some of the pros and cons of learning Chinese.
- Career opportunities: Knowing Chinese can help you get a job, especially in international business, finance, and tourism. The Chinese economy is expanding quickly, and many businesses are searching for people who can communicate in Chinese.
- Understanding culture: Learning Mandarin can help you learn more about the interesting and varied Chinese culture and history. You’ll have a better understanding of Chinese art, literature, and philosophy.
- Travel opportunities: China is a big and varied country, and being able to speak Chinese can make your trips more fun and educational. You’ll be able to converse with people, read signs and menus, and comprehend the culture.
- Brain exercise: Learning Chinese is good for your brain because you have to memorize, analyze, and think critically. All of these are great ways to keep your brain sharp and healthy.
- Challenging language: Chinese is regarded as one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn due to its complicated writing system, tonal pronunciation, and a large number of characters to memorize.
- Time-consuming: You’ll need to invest a lot of time and energy into studying in order to become skilled, which might take years.
- Limited usefulness: Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, but most of the people who speak it live in China and a few other Asian countries. If you do not intend to travel to China or engage with Chinese companies, learning Mandarin may not be as beneficial.
- Costly: It can be expensive to learn Chinese, especially if you take lessons or hire a tutor. Also, buying things like textbooks and software to help you learn Chinese can add up over time.
To sum up, learning Mandarin as a second language might be helpful and enjoyable. Knowing Chinese may open up a world of options, whether you want to work in international business, explore Chinese culture, or simply broaden your language horizons. Sure, it will be difficult, but with determination and practice, you will be able to learn this fascinating language and reap the benefits for many years to come. So, 加油 (jiā yóu), which means “keep going” in Chinese!
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