11 Reasons to Learn Mandarin Chinese in 2022 While the World is on Fire


If you’re going to learn Mandarin Chinese to a level that makes it worthwhile, you’re going to need a very good reason.

Yup.

That’s right.

Mandarin Chinese is hard.

It’s not impossible.

You don’t have to be a genius to learn the language.

But it does take a lot of effort.

Advanced learners of Mandarin Chinese may have already warned you how many thousands of hours are required to reach a high level.

Perhaps you’re just like me, and initially refused to believe them. Perhaps you decided to look for every study hack, shortcut, and magic learning resource out there that didn’t exist instead.

Hopefully, at some point, you realised that nothing other than blood, sweat, and exposure will help you achieve your language learning goals.

But what keeps you going, day after day, night after night, flashcard after flashcard?

You might not realise it, but it’s your reason that carries you through.

You cling to this reason like a sloth to a tree.

You keep the reason simmering away in the pit of your stomach, fuelled by the firm belief that it is taking you somewhere.

You don’t know where, but you’re in all the way

Sorry, that got a bit too deep.

Basically, I’m saying that there are many reasons you should learn Mandarin Chinese. Given the opportunity, everyone should learn Mandarin. However, everyone should do the recycling and stop snoring – but that doesn’t mean they can or they will.

If you’re going to learn Mandarin and not quit after two weeks, you need a reason to carry on. Everyone who continues with their learning Mandarin journey has a reason that’s unique to them. Hopefully, this post will give you some inspiration and help you find your reason…

LEARN MANDARIN BECAUSE YOU WANT TO

This reason trumps all others on this list.

One can never underestimate the power of sheer human will and determination.

All of those I know who’ve learned Mandarin as a second language tend to share one big thing in common: they genuinely enjoy learning Mandarin Chinese. They want to be with the language all the time. It’s the thing they think about the most and their favourite hobby. It’s a pursuit that they can’t switch off.

Simply put, some people just want to learn Mandarin more than most other people.

You don’t have to have an unhealthy obsession or need to live, breathe, and sleep Mandarin Chinese 24/7. You don’t have to move to a Hutong of Beijing for 20 years and disown your family to learn this language…

But it really helps if you do.

LEARN MANDARIN TO BE SPECIAL

Mandarin-speaking foreigners are becoming more commonplace with each passing year, but in the grand scheme of things, there are still very few of us.

Yes, there are literally hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese who can speak English to a high level, but there are relatively very few folks outside the Chinese diaspora who can speak Mandarin.

If you learn to speak Mandarin to a high standard, you are special.

If that sounds arrogant, but I don’t care.

It’s true.

There are people out there who have told me, “Oh, it’s pointless learning Mandarin, it takes a really long time and you don’t see any financial benefit.”

Some of them might be right… if they’re talking about themselves (which they usually are).

To these people I say, “OK. That’s cool. Do something else then.”

These people simply don’t want to learn Mandarin, and that’s fine.

But if you have the desire to learn Mandarin within you, the potential benefits that can come your way as a Mandarin-speaker are literally incredible if you use your imagination.

LEARN TO COMMUNICATE

This one is fairly obvious, but people rarely speak about the level of impact you can have on someone by speaking their language. This is especially true for Mandarin Chinese as so few people outside of the Sinosphere actually speak it.

How you choose to use this gift is up to you.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last few years, you’ll know we’re living in frosty times. Many nations around the world are turning in on themselves, and it’s no secret that China’s level of nationalism and isolationism is the highest it’s been for a long time.

Why not learn their language to be part of the solution?

Why not learn to try and bridge the gap?

Check out the video below to see American Lawrence Farley peacefully talking to Chinese people about the Chinese government. It’s a perfect example of the impact of fruitful conversation in Mandarin Chinese.

Obviously, not everyone has to aspire to this.

But it’s a phenomenal skills to display and a great example of how your Mandarin skills can be used as a force for good.

Educate yourself about the Chinese, their culture, their history, and their language.

It’s a challenge that’s worth it and the results can take you to incredible places.

LEARN TO SEE WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT YOU

Social media means different things to different people.

Some find it the most tedious thing in the world, and some people live their whole lives in it.

However you feel about it, it’s safe to say we can learn a lot from our fellow young netizens in China… Like how much they hate The West.

You have the opportunity to get lost down iQiyi 爱奇艺 rabbit holes, just like you do on YouTube.

You can read the bajillions of insane comments on Chinese Twitter Weibo 微博.

I can’t tell you the number of hours I’ve wasted watching dumb arguments between farmers on Kuaishou 快手.

One might think all of this is a complete waste of time. But if you’re doing it to learn Chinese, then there’s actually a point to it. At least, that’s what I tell myself…

Chinese Zero to Hero on YouTube provides a really useful guide to Chinese social media.

LEARN TO EXPAND YOUR CAREER PROSPECTS

During my time in China, I’ve met plenty of foreigners that have transitioned from English teaching to other sectors by studying Chinese to an HSK 5 level and beyond.

The bad news? a HSK 5 or 6 is NOT an advanced level of Mandarin.

The good news? There are many job roles for foreigners that don’t require a native level of Mandarin. They have plenty of native speakers from China for those jobs anyway, and they tend to be much cheaper to hire…

If you don’t believe me, you can look at eChinacities.com, a website for jobs in China.

Although Linkedin is one of the latest western sites to be blocked in China, it’s still absolutely thriving here and Chinese companies use it all the time to hire foreigners. Two classmates of mine at Sun-Yat Sen University were hired by Trip and China Airlines as a result of completing the course and passing the HSK.

By learning Mandarin, you can turn yourself into hot property in the job market. As a foreigner in China, if you develop another skill set in addition to speaking Mandarin, you will be in very high demand.

LEARN TO EXPAND YOUR DATING OPTIONS

Yeah, that’s right. I said it.

There are lots of beautiful people in Chinese people the world over, and by learning the Mandarin, you open yourself up to more opportunities for getting freaky.

Let it be known that many a thirsty foreign dork has arrived on Chinese shores hunting solely for a Chinese wife. Granted, it would be nice if this wasn’t the general picture of cross-cultural dating in China, but there’s nothing much I can do about that.

One thing I can say is that no matter your desired sex, learning Mandarin Chinese will turn on someone, somewhere.

LEARN BECAUSE IT’S NOT AS HARD AS YOU THINK

Honestly, it’s not.

If you’re a native English speaker, it’s true that learning Chinese will be more time-intensive than learning other European languages such as Spanish or French. But if you work smart and you’re willing to use a unit of time each day to study the language, you’ll be surprised at how far you can get in a few years.

There are more learning resources on the market than ever, meaning you don’t have to be living in a Chinese-speaking country to become proficient.

Seriously, I don’t care what anyone tells you, the truth is you don’t have to be in China to become fluent in Chinese.

There are people who’ve achieved fluency without ever visiting China or Taiwan.

Due to my insatiable appetite to find shortcuts, I’ve tried and tested countless apps, podcasts, online courses, and studied at several language centres.

I’ve even been to a university in China to study Mandarin Chinese.

That means I’m in a fairly good position to recommend the best resources on the market, so check out the end of this post for some suggestions.

LEARN TO SAVE YOUR BRAIN

There are studies that suggest learning Mandarin (or any language) can provide some rather extraordinary benefits to your brain.

As you’ll probably have heard already, written Mandarin relies on thousands of characters – meaning learners of the language have to interpret a high number of visual symbols.

In addition to the learning and drawing of characters, Mandarin Chinese involves learning new sounds due to it being a tonal language)!

There is evidence to suggest that because Mandarin representation of numbers is less abstract than Arabic numbers, and because the act of practicing handwriting requires repeated counting, those who learn it from an early age gain greater familiarity with maths and numerical thinking.

Here’s a really cool TED-Ed video from Mia Nacamulli explaining all of the benefits of a bilingual brain.

LEARN TO EXPERIENCE THE FASCINATING COUNTRY OF CHINA

English has been a compulsory subject in nearly all mainland Chinese schools since the late eighties/early nineties, and millions of Chinese students move overseas to study at foreign universities every year.

Although the level of English is improving in China, it still isn’t widely spoken compared to a lot of other countries in the region.

Ever been along the typical backpacking route of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia? I often found an English-speaking local was never far away in these countries.

I guarantee that if you’re visiting China for any purpose, being proficient in Mandarin will help you a LOT.

If you’re slap bang in the center of Shanghai, visiting western-style bars and upmarket malls, you’ll be absolutely fine without a lick of Mandarin. But as soon as you stray into independent shops, side streets, taxis, buses, or off-the-beaten-path travel destinations, using English could be more of a challenge.

The more Mandarin you know, the better your connections with strangers will be.

But if you really can’t be bothered to learn Mandarin for a visit to China, you can get yourself a good translation app instead.

LEARN MANDARIN BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY

OK, a bit of a weird reason to learn Mandarin here, but even after seven years of learning Mandarin I’m still laughing at the literal translations of Mandarin words into English. Seriously, it’s some funny shit.

Perhaps it’s because I’m immature, but I don’t care.

  • Penguin – 企鹅 qǐ’é – ‘standing goose’
  • Panda – 熊猫 xióngmāo – ‘bear cat’
  • Turkey – 火鸡 huǒjī – ‘fire chicken’

Seriously, there are absolutely thousands of these amusing combinations, and to me, it never stops being funny.

LEARN TO OPEN A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY

Learning Chinese will open up a new world to you.

It’s impossible to picture where you could end up in five years’ time if you study Mandarin daily.

If you’re ever struggling to motivate yourself to learn, think about how much time you spend doing pointless stuff like watching cat videos or throwing crab apples at your neighbour’s window.

Replace some of that time by starting off with some free apps, and build from there.

If you decide learning Mandarin isn’t for you, then that’s fine.

But if you choose to give this language a good shot, you open up a world of opportunity to yourself.

I shall leave with you with the following Chinese proverb:

大处着眼,小处着手 – Dà chù zhuóyǎn xiǎo chù zhuóshǒu

– Think of the big picture, start with the little things

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