Why I'm learning Chinese

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February 8, 2024

Why would I learn Chinese out of all languages? It is even said to be one of the most difficult languages to learn for native American speakers. Matter of fact, I didn't start learning Chinese intentionally.

Background

It was the end of summer 2023 and suddenly a thought hit me - "Why do I know literally nothing about Japanese, Korean or Chinese?". When I tried to differentiate their characters and failed, I decided that I had to learn more about them. It felt so weird that I have known about those languages for such a long time, but still was clueless about their writing.

Before this, my only way of learning a language has been in school, and I learnt French. Even though I studied it for a few years, I'm not even near conversational. Before I started learning it in school I was extremely motivated to learn it and had started a bit on my own, but when the school flooded me with homework I lost the motivation completely.

To learn a language, I downloaded Duolingo as it was the only way to learn languages that I knew about. Then realized that I had to choose a language. This was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to do. I eventually ended up choosing Korean since I recently had seen Youtube videos from there.

Only after a few weeks of learning, I had picked up the basics of the Korean alphabet Hangul, and only the absolute basic words like 안녕, but my keyboard typing speed still sucked. Then for some reason, I started reconsidering if I really wanted to learn Korean since I have much more interest in Japanese culture; their food, games, vending machines and trains.

Next I remember spending a solid week or two procrastinating and contemplating whether to learn Korean or Japanese. Chinese was out of the question since I didn't have any reason to learn it, and I was afraid of it's characters. In the end I finally decided for Japanese.

When learning Japanese I also used Duolingo, but I got stuck learning the alphabets Katakana and Hiragana instead of learning actual useful phrases. When I realized that Duolingo only provided a little part of the learning process, I tried finding new resources. What I found was a pod to learn Japanese which I followed for a few weeks. When learning I repeated what they said, and wrote down important phrases to Notion.

The start

After all that learning and procrastinating I lost interest since I didn't feel any real motivation to learn those languages. But to see it positively, I now know lots about Korean and Japanese that I never would know about otherwise.

One day I was playing Valorant with my friends and remembered that he speaks Chinese. I then started translating funny phrases and words and said them to him. After that, I realized that I wanted to know more about Chinese, specifically Mandarin, so I started searching up more information about it online. When I found out about the grammar I think my brain became addicted to the language. Everything just made sense and their grammar was so easy. Ever since then, you could say that I have been addicted to the language.

That I started to learn Chinese, when I was scared of Japanese Kanji was a solid turn. You could say that it was not intentional, but why am I still interested in learning the language?

1. International relations

I always love meeting new people from around the world. With my knowledge in only Swedish and English I am limited to who I can communicate with. Knowing a new language can let me communicate with many more and get a different perspective of the world. Since Chinese is, as of 2024, spoken by 1.3 billion people, it will literally unlock a whole new DLC to your world.

I have already made a few friends from China because of my learning journey, even though my Chinese isn't good at all yet.

2. The keyboard is easy

The fact that I don't have to worry about learning a completely new layout for typing is a big factor. Korean has their completely different keyboard layout, and it will take time to get used to. With Chinese you type the Pinyin, then click the correct character/s. Easy, right?

3. Grammar that makes sense

From what I know the grammar is so simple and makes sense. In English you have to know three tenses for a verb; past, present and future. And not only that, you also have to know all the irregular verbs, which specifically can be a pain for non native English speakers.

In Chinese the verb never change, but you can add words to express the time before or after. Easy!

我吃汉堡包 I ate hamburger

吃汉堡包 I will eat hamburger

Remember that I'm still learning the language, and I am not an expert. See this article for more in-depth Chinese grammar

4. Better understanding of languages

By learning a new language I will be able to understand more about other languages. For instance by learning Chinese after I had learnt Japanese has shown me the similarities between them. For instance, there are many Kanji that still are the same, or similar to simplified 汉字. But that of course makes sense if you know the history about the Japanese language, and that Kanji are imported Chinese characters. But I still find it interesting.

I have also already met a lot of other language nerds online that share the same interest as I do. It has helped me a lot with my motivation, and I try to talk as much Chinese as I can with them.

Summary

Even if it started with me being scared of Chinese because of their characters, I now love them. I think they are beautiful and very fun to write.

Chinese is a really fun and useful language to learn, and I recommend it to anybody that has enough motivation.

cat From a few weeks ago. Now I have learnt it‘s 一只.

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