5 Great Reasons to Learn Mandarin

From immigrants in Chinatown to school boards in Ohio, people around the world are changing their tune on what languages should be taught to children. Resoundingly, they’re recommending Mandarin, the language of Mainland China. Here’s why:

#5 – China’s Rich History

When you learn Mandarin you’re opening the window to thousands of years of culture and history. From the military conquests of (Sichuan native) Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms period to the Tang Dynasty’s discovery of gunpowder, China has thousands of years of renowned history. And better still, a study of the language reveals the subtleties of the Chinese character through it’s fables and idioms. Chinese people often touch upon ancient tales and traditions in everyday conversation, so it follows that to understand the language, is to understand the rich culture and history from which it derives.

#4 – Calligraphy

Practicing on the street with water & brush

At once a language and an art, Chinese calligraphy is a gateway to the spiritual word of the artist.

As a hundred people have different faces, so too do those hundred have a unique way of expressing themselves. From the way they handle the brush to their presentation, style, and technique, calligraphy as an art communicates not only broad ideas, but the character and emotion of the artist.

Calligraphy is a joy to learn and being a natural extension of Chinese, you’ll have taken the first steps on the path by deciding to learn Mandarin. Once you’ve mastered the basics and can read and write elementary Chinese, learning how to add beauty to your written Chinese advances your linguistic and artistic skills alike. And in the end, it’s the hallmark symbol of a timeless culture that’s recognized around the world.

#3 – Literature and Written Chinese

Understanding the written language gives you an understanding of the people and culture of China that you can’t get anywhere else. Once you learn the basics and realize that Chinese characters are built upon a logical and practical system, you’ll take pride in gaining mastery of the written language. When you’re ready, you’ll have access to thousands of years of literature authored by people who at the time couldn’t speak to each other, but shared a common writing system. Very few of these ancient tales have been translated to English, but as anyone who speaks and reads Chinese will tell you, it’s simply not the same if you don’t read it in it’s original form.

#2 – Business Opportunities

China is the fastest developing market in the world and is poised to become the world’s economic leader in our lifetime. To be able to speak or read Chinese and access that group of a billion people offers you a huge advantage, no matter what your industry or profession is. Whether you’re working for multi-national or are self-employed, your chances of success increase by learning Mandarin. Even if you can’t use it professionally, it looks great on a resume because it’s still perceived as one of the world’s most difficult languages. Because it takes years of dedication, a lot of people try and give up, which will make your achievement all the more impressive.

#1 – Discover a New World, Outward and Within

Most people learning Chinese as a second or third language will be exposed to a different realm of thought and reasoning that’s new to them. It’s belonged to China (among earth’s oldest civilizations) for over five thousand years but despite it’s age, it has incredible practical application to the modern world. Military, political, and business leaders who’ve shaped the world in the last century have drawn upon the wisdom of ancient China by reading early Chinese works like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, among others, for guidance. After you’ve illuminated some of the mysteries of China and start to understand another way of thinking, you’ll find your own principles and world-views being expanded.

What do you think?

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Charlie

About Charlie

Having lived in Chengdu for ten years, Charlie has traveled to every corner of China and back again, calling the Yulin neighborhood of Chengdu his adopted home.

21 Responses to “5 Great Reasons to Learn Mandarin”

  1. makes me want to take a course in mandarin

  2. Nice post. Also, it’s fun!

  3. Ahem, #6 potential lovers. Thank you.

  4. Four great reasons not to learn Mandarin:
    1) Even after a year of dedicated study, you will be able to communicate more by gesturing.
    2) By the time you learn the language, you will be ready to go home.
    3) Once you learn the language, you will be disappointed to find most people with something to say already learned to speak English.
    4) Five years is a long time to spend so you can talk to your ayi.

  5. Don’t bother learning Chinese. Even if you can speak like a native and know all the latest slang, Chinese people will still ignore you and will prefer to do business with your country’s Chinese population.

    • haha you fellaz having a rough time out here in China? when i’m feeling blue, i cry on the shoulders of a Chinese cabbie. Not only does it improve my local dialect, but they usually have the blues too, so its good all around.

  6. haha you fellaz having a rough time out here in China? when i’m feeling blue, i cry on the shoulders of a Chinese cabbie. Not only does it improve my local dialect, but they usually have the blues too, so its good all around.

  7. Potential lovers, ahemmm…No-one’s counting but definitely broadens your social cirlce. Be careful not to pick up Sichuan hua…When you travel to different parts of the Middle Kingdom would be the best way to re-assess your academic achievements…Not too say that I would love to speack Sichuan hua fluently AAhem…

    • I get a kick out of speaking Sichuan hua. I live in the Du so it helps a lot. You’ve noticed how, if you just say “ni hao” many Chinese will exclaim “whoa, your chinese is awesome!” well the same works here in Sichuan. It helps man, if you are gonna live here. And seeing as the suits all over the world believe that this here is the future:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/business/global/27yuan.html?pagewanted=1&hp

      then you best get to studying …

      • Charlie

        Sichuan dialect has a lot of color and culture associated with it. Practicality aside, niche languages like Sichuan dialect earn you a ton of respect in applicable regions because you’re a member of the small minority who put forth the effort to communicate with them in their native language.

  8. Since some people are plugging Sichuan hua, I’m gonna put my vote in for Guangdong hua. It’s an awesome language with lots of speakers in overseas Chinese communities. It seems like I’m constantly running across people who can only speak Cantonese, no English or Mandarin (or at least barely intelligible Mandarin). Check out my top 10 reasons to learn Cantonese here: http://www.due-east.org/2009/10/21/top-10-reasons-to-learn-cantonese/

    • You know I was just thinking about that. A friend and I were talking about how Canton has been the center of several rebellions, the starting point for the majority of Chinese emigrants and remains very independent-minded to this day. Southern Weekend, for example. And I hear Cantonese were the first (and one of the few successful) to make the bulldozers back down.

      nice post:
      “If you can master it, you’re pretty much an unstoppable language learning force.” LOL

    • Charlie

      I liked that article. Cantonese is really a cool language. It’s a shame that its practicality is dwindling but it’s still cool for the reasons you listed.

      • Thanks, Charlie and Sascha, for the comments. Sascha is absolutely right…Cantonese language comes along with a pretty independent culture. Of all the Chinese I’ve met, it seems like the Cantonese seem to put up the greatest resistance to learning ‘guoyu’. And tough…man, I’ve been about bulldozed myself by a few old Cantonese ladies getting on the subway that want to get in before anybody else does so they can grab a seat. I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I’m not surprised they were able to make bulldozers back down! 🙂

  9. Numbers 5,4,3 apply better to the study of Classical Chinese than to the study of modern Mandarin. Number 1 applies equally well to Classical Chinese, modern Mandarin, and really to the study of any language with a large literature. Only #2 applies to modern Mandarin uniquely.

    • Charlie

      Hi Tim,

      Learning modern Mandarin allows exposure to some aspects of traditional culture, customs, and traditions, without explictly studying classical chinese – that’s what I’m alluding to. The history and calligraphy are two things that have made learning the language more rewarding for me personally, so I decided to include those. For anyone learning modern Mandarin though, the door is always open to deepen your understanding of poetry, calligraphy, history, whatever your interest is.

  10. shinichi

    #1 – Discover a New World, Outward and WithinMost people learning Chinese as a second or third language will be exposed to a different realm of thought and reasoning that’s new to them. It’s belonged to China (among earth’s oldest civilizations) for over five thousand years but despite it’s age, it has incredible practical application to the modern world. Military, political, and business leaders who’ve shaped the world in the last century have drawn upon the wisdom of ancient China by reading early Chinese works like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, among others, for guidance. After you’ve illuminated some of the mysteries of China and start to understand another way of thinking, you’ll find your own principles and world-views being expanded.
    才发现这个经典的贴子,我想你说得对.也许有很多人不必学习中文,而会中文的意义是重大。

    就如同中国人会中文,还需要研究国学(五千年中国文化的精髓),学习古代经典,与现代西方科技和理念结合,发展和创新。
    诗歌的魅力在于中文独特的表达方式,不只是字面上的意思,更讲求意境,正所谓只可意会不可言传,只有在熟悉中文之后才能明白它好在哪里。
    书法,也是修身养性方式之一,个人认为书法和中国画更像西方的印象画派一点。就像现在中国年轻人喜欢源自西方的音乐,只有在懂得语言的时候才能真正明白创作人想表达的情感。
    历史,尊重历史,也擅长从历史中吸取教训和经验,中文是最能承载历史的语言之一,这从中文的发展变化中能明显看到。
    作为中国人,我学习外语,希望能了解世界,我也学习国学,希望能向古人学习,我也坚持练习书法和绘画,希望能领略并传承五千年中华文明。

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