Mandarin Chinese is a dialect of Chinese that is the official language of both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. With more native speakers than any other language in the world, Mandarin Chinese is spoken by nearly a billion people worldwide. Mandarin Chinese is also the most widely spoken dialect of Chinese both among those living within China, and Chinese immigrants living abroad. The word “mandarin” derives from the Sanskrit word for “minister” or “counsellor” and is used to denote the fact that the language was originally used only by statesmen and representatives to communicate when they were unable to communicate with each other in their local dialects for the purpose of running government. Therefore, Mandarin Chinese was originally developed as the “language of the officials” before it became the “official language of China”.
For students of Chinese, Mandarin is perhaps one of the easiest major Asian languages to learn because it doesn’t require tonal inflections, as other Asian languages to, do convey meaning. However, this is probably where the ease of learning Mandarin ends for native English speakers.
Despite not requiring tonal inflections to convey meaning, word order is of absolute importance in Chinese. If even a single word is placed in the wrong order of a sentence; the meaning of the entire sentence will become lost in conversation.
The vocabulary is also completely different than English and other Latin based languages. Where a native English speaker can deduce the meaning of a word in a Latin based language from the word’s root, Latin is not a root of Chinese, which means the vocabulary has to be learned entirely from scratch. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, it makes it difficult to deduce the meaning of words unknown; on the other hand, it lets language learners learn a language without being confused by similar sounding words with different meanings.
When it comes to the Mandarin Chinese alphabet, it is drastically different than the one English speakers are used to. Instead of learning individual letter combinations to interpret words, students of Chinese have to learn unique symbols that represent words. It’s estimated that beginners of learning how to read Mandarin Chinese have to learn approximately 1,000 different signs just to start reading the average Chinese newspaper.
There are lots of benefit to learning Mandarin Chinese. As one of the most widely spoken languages, and one of the most widely spoken Asian languages, learning Mandarin Chinese can open more doors than people may think. For everything from ordering food from an authentic Chinese restaurant to negotiating international business deals, learning Chinese offers several opportunities for both personal and professional advancement. Considering the fact that Mandarin Chinese does not rely on tonal inflections, an aspect of learning Asian languages that often frustrates native English speakers, Mandarin is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to learn an Asian language but thought that they would never be able to. Without tone to worry about, students of Mandarin Chinese only have to worry about remembering word order and symbol interpretation.