Is Mandarin Hard To learn? (9 Things You Can Expect)

Are you planning to learn Mandarin? I’ll be honest, Chinese (Mandarin) isn’t the most straightforward language to learn. Specifically for English speakers learning Mandarin will undoubtedly be a challenging experience.

Mandarin belongs to a group of Sinitic languages and dialects, with thousands of characters and an ideographic writing script. So let’s give the Mandarin language a chance to explore!

Is Mandarin Hard To learn? 

Mandarin Chinese is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. Each character is pronounced a certain way, and you must memorize them to understand what someone is saying. Moreover, there’s added difficulty due to the tonal nature of the language. However, if you can master it, it opens up a world of professional and social opportunities for you. The size of the population alone is reason enough to take the chance and learn Mandarin.

But don’t get discouraged just yet! Thousands of native English speakers have gone on to become fluent in Mandarin. I’m going to tell you that learning Mandarin won’t be nearly as difficult as you make it, so keep reading!

1. Official Language of China

Mandarin is the official language of Northern and Southwestern China and is home to the Sinitic group of Chinese dialects.

It belongs to the Chinese language family, a subset of the Sino-Tibetan language branch. 

If you study Mandarin, you can converse with 13% of the world’s population. 

Overall, Chinese is one of the six official languages of the UN, along with English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish!

2. Mandarin is Hardest Language to Learn

Mandarin is the world’s most widely spoken native tongue and the most complex language to master.

Additionally, the writing style is the most difficult, with 50,000 Mandarin characters. However, you only need to master 2000 symbols to be fluent.

Basic pronunciation is relatively simple if you have the correct guidance, teacher, and time. However, tones are challenging for most learners to grasp.

Lastly, Chinese dialects are ideal analytic languages since they rely on word order and particles rather than pitch or affixes!

3. Linguistic History 

Historically, the original meaning of the English word “Mandarin” was representative of the Ming or Qing dynasties. 

From then on, the missionaries who first learned this common vernacular gave it the name “Mandarin,” conveying the “language of the officials” in the 16th century.

Currently, Mandarin speakers also come from other Asian countries, including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Myanmar, and across the globe.

Mandarin also has four tones: level, rising, falling, and high-rising, for syllables with the same consonant-vowel sequence but different meanings!

4. Category IV Level of Difficulty

According to The Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Mandarin is a Level IV language, commonly referred to as a super-hard language.

One can usually acquire fluency in Mandarin in approximately 88 weeks or 2200 hours.

One distinction is that they don’t have any alphabet. Instead, the one-syllable characters that make up their written language come in hundreds of different varieties.

When expressing concepts like gender, verb conjugation, single vs. plural, or tense in Mandarin, word order and context are used instead of the tone of voice!

5. Tones and Learning Chinese

Tones and Learning Chinese

Learning to use the four tones of Mandarin is the first step in learning the language.

Second, memorize at least 8000 Chinese characters by reading newspapers and engaging with beginner-level Chinese texts and books.

Third, become familiar with the basic sentence patterns in Mandarin. A key to quick and efficient learning is asking questions. Similarly, in learning Mandarin, students must be able to ask questions because this is the most incredible way to learn about the language.

Finally, utilize Chinese vocabulary learning applications like Drops, FluentU, and Daily Chinese, some of which include free features and trials!

6. Building a Network with the Asian Community Through Mandarin

Millions across the United States and over a billion speakers worldwide speak Mandarin. 

So, speaking Mandarin (Chinese) in many situations would be advantageous if you conduct business or travel. Additionally, certain South Asian nations also have native Mandarin speakers.

Some students study this language to establish closer bonds with their Chinese friends and family. 

Others learn this language to become global citizens and interact with the largest population in the world. 

7. Mandarin Learning Resources – Forums, Podcasts, Online Dictionaries is the place to go if you have specific inquiries regarding learning Mandarin.

MDBG Chinese Dictionary, Hanzi – Mandarin Chinese, and Mandarin Learn – 101 Chinese are three excellent free online dictionaries you can trust.

Chinese audio podcasts include Slow Chinese, King Fafa, Sina Videos, BBC Chinese, and MandarinBean, some of which you can enjoy in your listening sessions.

Lastly, you can stream a few free Mandarin (Chinese) podcasts like BearTalk, Eight Minutes Reading, 365 Reading, and Listening Alone!

8. Widen Professional Opportunities & Connections

Learning Chinese will help you advance in practically any career field. Moreover, some professions and positions call for Mandarin explicitly.

For some students, learning Mandarin can open doors to careers as Chinese interpreters, translators, English teachers in China, travel and tourism agents, and even Chinese content creators.

For example, to effectively join the marketing or production team in China, you may need to relocate, live, and work there. 

Thus, knowing written and spoken Chinese will help your professional connections and interactions!

9. Learning According to Your Capacity

When trying to learn something effectively, the general idea is to strive to do as much as you are currently capable of doing.

It signifies that you can complete the tasks you set for yourself. There is a limit to how much you can achieve in any circumstance.

Don’t be scared by Mandarin characters and grammar; it will become second nature with practice, so don’t be discouraged to stop!

To learn more, you can also see our posts on Tagalog, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Russian, and Spanish.


With the myriad Chinese dialects, the Mandarin language is very complex compared to Western ones. But this doesn’t mean you should give up trying to learn.

Of course, proficiency varies from person to person. Still, if you put in the hard work and time, you will see a return on your investment in social and business connections!