Chinese, a Damn Hard Language

Those who undertake to study the language for any other reason than the sheer joy of it will always be frustrated. Whatever the reason they started, every single person who has undertaken to study Chinese sooner or later asks themselves “Why in the world am I doing this?” Those who can still remember their original goals will wisely abandon the attempt then and there, since nothing could be worth all that tedious struggle. Those who merely say “I’ve come this far – I can’t stop now” will have some chance of succeeding, since they have the kind of mindless doggedness and lack of sensible overall perspective that it takes. So why is Chinese so hard? Here are few of the reasons:

  • Because the writing is ridiculous: Chinese has one of the most beautiful, complex and fascinating scripts in the world. It is unreasonably hard to learn enough characters to become functionally literate. One of the reasons for that is the huge number of characters noe has to learn, close 50,000 characters. When looking at the character frequencies, over 95% of the characters in any newspaper are among the first 2,000 most common ones. What makes it even worse is the different combinations of words that are made of those characters.
  • Because the language doesn’t use an alphabet: The total number of Chinese characters remains unknowable because new ones are developed all the time for instance, brand may create new characters when none of the existing ones allow for the intended meaning.
  • Because even looking up words in dictionary is complicated: Dictionaries are so complicated to use and there are many versions each with thier own uses. One of the reasons it is hard to look up a character/word in these dictionaries (or find the correct meaning of the word) is that in Chinese it is not obvious where the word boundaries lie, there are spaces between the words. It takes quite a lot of knowledge of the language where these boundaries are; thus it’s often trial and error to look up a word.

And if you thought there are some bad foods you have been eating then you should try some of these …