Everyone has different reasons for learning Chinese. People learn for personal interest, or because they know Chinese will opens doors in their career, because they have Chinese-speaking family or friends, or because they will travel to China and want to get around.
In many ways, however, you don’t need to go to China for Chinese to be relevant to you. The Chinese-speaking world is not separate from the English-speaking world, but both exist on a global scale. Without speaking Chinese, you cannot be part of that world, or understand it.
How is the Chinese world already beside us in the UK? For a start, in Chinese investment, in Chinese-owned London real estate, in growing tourism, and in growing student numbers. Did you know that Chinese companies own familiar brands such as Weetabix, Pizza Express, Volvo, and Aston Villa?
The mind tends to ignore and forget things it doesn’t recognize or understand. The result of this is that learning Chinese is eye-opening. You suddenly become aware just how much Chinese language and culture there is around you.
Chinese takes longer to learn than languages which are closely related to English, but still on the same order of magnitude. Learning to chat about simple topics doesn’t take too long, and technology alleviates the need to memorize characters for the casual learner. With motivation, you could become conversational in a couple of months. Think what impact it could have on your career options.
You don’t have to wait until you are fluent to start reaping the benefits of learning Chinese. Just start by getting comfortable with the culture, with how Chinese characters work, with greetings and politeness, and some common words. Just as with any language, knowing a little goes a long way, while complete ignorance is usually problematic.
Your personal goals will tell you how far you want to take Chinese. Perhaps you just want to get acquainted with the culture and some basic vocabulary, in order to get around. Or perhaps you’re aiming for full fluency. But everyone who starts the journey never forgets it. Chinese culture is truly rich and fascinating; as an ancient culture which highly prizes its philosophy and literature, learning Chinese offers ways of thinking that are new and interesting. You may have heard of Qigong, Daoism, and dumplings, but that’s just the beginning…