Language discovery is the quest I have been on my entire life, trying to unlock other cultures and how they communicate and find hacks to learn their native tongue quickly. These are the critical fundamentals of how to learn a new tongue. We often take for granted that the English language we use everyday which we hear, read, speak and write today has evolved over thousands of years. The dialects which we use are directly related to our culture and roots. In fact many versions are the offshoots of some other early languages which have disappeared or have become less used as years went by.
The best way to learn a language is not easily repeated (you only get it once).
Mother tongue (one that comes from Mom) is the easiest to learn and master because we use it from our childhood and it is the sounds we learn first to communicate with people. Unfortunately this is a birth right and can only be used once.
So what are the benefits of learning a second language?
Now that we all live in a globalized world where there is a big advantage to learning two languages at once. Depending on English alone may not be sufficient if we are carrier minded and ambitious. There are specific ones which are quite tough for native English speaking people to learn especially when they have reached a certain age.(The mind is hard to bend after 30).
The 4 most difficult languages to learn:
The most difficult languages that I have seen first hand are, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic and Hindi are perhaps the toughest ones for English speaking people to learn let alone master. Fate would have it that the hardest dialects are often the most useful languages to learn.
One of the Hardest but most rewarding Language to learn:
It is believed that China has over a billion people and another 250 million people world wide that speak Chinese. In addition China is also becoming a dominant world economic super power. That should give you all the motivation you need to make strides to tackle the language head on. I will be the first to tell you its damn hard if you take the wrong approach and this does not prevent us from learning and mastering it over a period of time. Over the next few lines we will try and find out the various step by step approaches by which Mandarin can be learnt reasonably well as a second language.
Points To Keep In Mind:
One of the biggest challenges in learning Mandarin as a second language is the need to memorize characters.
On a rough estimate thousand alphabets and special characters have to be memorized for getting started the process of learning Chinese Mandarin. This is one of the major challenges when learning this language.
How to get started learning Chinese quickly:
All languages, however tough it might be can be learn if there is natural inclination towards it. it has been researched and found that native English speaking people have the ability to learn other languages. This helps them to get started on a stronger note. However here are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to learning and mastering Mandarin as a second language.
The Chinese Language can be hacked: The secret; learn the STRUCTURE
Like the Matrix ; any language is built around a grammar structure and Mandarin is also not an exception. There are strong similarities in Mandarin grammar when compared to English. Mandarin grammar is also built around subject, predicate and object. Basically what we have learnt in English grammar can be applied here. This will help us to grasp the basics of Mandarin grammar. However there is a major difference and it is about measure words that are used in Mandarin. This is a tough aspect which needs special coaching and learning.
Using Flash Cards and Pictures Together:
As mentioned earlier memorizing the characters is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to learning Mandarin. In fact memorizing the characters (around 1000) is one of the first tasks when it comes to learning this language. One character might represent a singular object but when it comes to more than one object it might require using multiple characters. This is a challenge which has to be overcome and is the fastest way to learn.
Pronunciation is often a major problem with native English speaking individuals aspiring to learn a second language. However for English speaking natives this is not a big problem as far as Mandarin is concerned. But they might have difficulty in pronouncing the four tones which is not available in English. This problem is overcome by practice preferably in the company of native speakers. (if you can afford it immersion is best, take a trip) and should not take more than a few months.
Ok…How Long Will It Take?
Given the fact that Mandarin is a totally new language away from the roots and culture of English speaking individuals it will take time to learn and master Mandarin. Though it would be difficult to lay down a strict time table for fully learning the language, according to most experts six months is all that is required to have reasonable grasp over Mandarin. With immersion and diligent practice with native speakers within six months an English speaking individual should be in a position to learn and converse reasonably well.
Resources & Action Steps:
- Remember find access to native speakers; you need to hear and learn the rhythm and flow of the language.
- Get some visual flash cards; either old school one in paper or use a software that has visual aids.
- If you can’t afford to travel or don’t have Chinese friends to hang around get a Software that combines sounds and flash cards.