How hard is it to learn mandarin from English?

A study shows that among all the foreign languages, these are the most difficult ones for English speakers (done by the U.S. government for its diplomatic corps). Many of them wonder how hard it is to learn mandarin from English.

  1. Arabic
  2. Japanese
  3. Korean
  4. Mandarin Chinese
  5. Cantonese Chinese

These are classified as “Level IV” requiring at least 2200 class hours (88 weeks) to achieve necessary fluency.

Why these languages are hard for English speakers?

There are several reasons which I think are probable:

——Learning environment.




——Learning time.


——Sentence structure.


Since we are talking about how hard it is to learn mandarin from English, the following statements will focus on Mandarin Chinese.

Learning environment for Mandarin Learner from English Background

For English speakers who are eager to learn Mandarin Chinese in western countries like America, they usually don’t have a suitable place to learn, since everything around them are all in English. Some Chinese institutes in the USA are always terrible.

When you choose to attend offline Chinese school, you will easily find that the Chinese teachers are always composed with volunteer teachers at Chinese school and Chinese tutors, both of which are not so professional but cheap to hire.

Their background may not be so related to Chinese education. Some of them are even not a teacher, but a cook or a driver, with a little understanding of Chinese. If you or your children go there to learn Mandarin Chinese, you may only meet some ethnic Chinese or American people who can speak little Chinese and communicate only in English.

It’s basically impossible to go there to learn Chinese. So how hard is it to learn mandarin from English, way too hard!


As is known to all that there are four tones in Mandarin Chinese, and if you say it rigorously, there are five tones. The fifth is the neutral tone, in which there is little to no tonal emphasis on the character being said.

And about the basic four tones: the first tone has a high and even pitch; the second tone has a rising pitch; the third tone has a that falls then rises, while the fourth tone has a dropping pitch. However, in English, there are no tones at all.

Thus, there may be more homophones in Mandarin Chinese than in English. Mandarin beginners would often make mistakes in tones. When communicating with native-speaking Chinese people, a wrong tone would change the meaning of words and sentences, which may result in misunderstandings.

How hard is it to learn mandarin from English? Learning tones would definitely be the first step to success.

Words (Chinese characters)

I have to tell you that Chinese characters are not like western languages which are focusing on pronunciation, while Mandarin Chinese is such a hieroglyph that focuses on expressing meanings.

Every Chinese character is like a painting, showing people its stories and history behind it. Scholars from all over the world spend much time analyzing it, hoping to find out the inner mystery.

And about the mystery of Chinese, for example, the Chinese character “一(yī)” means “one”, and the Chinese character “大(dà)” means “big”. However, the Chinese character “天” does not mean “a big one” and does not pronounce as “yī dà” but “tiān”.

While for western languages like English, once you master the pronunciation rules you can read almost all words. It would always take much time for foreigners to get used to the pronunciation rules and be able to read the Chinese characters.

So how hard is it to learn mandarin from English? Maybe you also need to master Chinese characters.

Writing Part of Learning Mandarin from English

As is mentioned above, Chinese characters are like paintings. While learning Chinese characters since childhood, we are also learning to paint. When our ancestors were creating Chinese characters, they drew what they saw on the wall or on the stones.

Although the traditional Chinese has become the simplified ones, everyone who learns mandarin Chinese have to practice writing them for plenty of times if he wants to have a better understanding of Mandarin Chinese and to write letters to others in Chinese.

If you are the one who are aimed to speak fluent mandarin, you might as well learn to write Chinese characters, for an excellent mastery of them would do good to your speaking.

Once you know how to write the words in a certain language, you would never forget how to respond to others, since what you have grasped are real characters but not just meaningless syllables. How hard is it to learn mandarin from English?

Ask yourself whether you are willing to learn to write Chinese characters, you will find the answer.

Read More: How hard is it to learn Mandarin Chinese when you know Korean?

it is hard to learn mandarin from English

Learning time

Staying outside of China, people don’t have a suitable learning environment. So, they could only learn in online or offline Chinese institutes, as well as self-study at home. No matter which way they take, they only have a limited time. Everyone has his own life to carry on.

For businesspeople and students, they can only attend Chinese courses in the evening or on the weekends. Their learning time would be around 30 minutes each day. Apart from that, they have few times learning or speaking Mandarin Chinese.

It is clearly that learning without consolidating would not lead to an excellent effect. So how hard is it to learn mandarin from English?

Ask yourself again how much time you are willing to spend every day.

Read How I Taught Kids to Read Chinese as a Non-Chinese Speaker? for More

Grammar Between English and Chinese

There are several differences between Chinese grammar and English grammar:

English emphasizes structure, Chinese emphasizes semantics.

We all know that there are many long sentences in English, while there are many short sentences in Chinese.

Additionally, there are many clauses in English, while there are not in Chinese.

And there are many pronouns in English, while there are many nouns in Chinese.

There are many passive sentences in English, while there are many active sentences in Chinese.

These are simple differences between English and Mandarin Chinese. If you are determined to learn Mandarin Chinese well, never forget to learn grammar rules in Chinese. It is a significant and difficult part for foreigners.

So how hard is it to learn mandarin from English? I’m sure you have already known the answer after you finish reading this piece of article.

Sentence structure

——In English, only verbs can be used as predicate, and adjectives cannot be used as predicates. So, there is Subject-Link Verb-Predicative Structure.

While in Mandarin Chinese, adjectives can be used as predicates.

In English: (Subject + Link Verb + Adjective)

The meeting is important.

In Chinese: (Subject + Adjective)


——The attributive positions are different.

In English: (Words are used as attributives before the modified words, and phrases and sentences are used as attributives after the modified words.)

the beautiful girl with long hair
In Chinese: (The attributive is all before the modifier.)


——The adverbial positions are different.

In English: (Word adverbials can be at the beginning of the sentence, at the end of the sentence, before the predicate (after the auxiliary verb, before the general verb).

Phrase adverbials can be at the beginning of the sentence or at the end of the sentence, but at the beginning of the sentence, they are usually separated from the main clause by a comma.)

She is always worried about his son’s safety when his away from home.

In Chinese: (Adverbials usually precede predicates.)


To master the sentence structure of Mandarin Chinese is not an easy task. So how hard is it to learn mandarin from English? I think you have to work hard for it.


There are many different dialects in China. People from different places and regions of China speak different kind of dialects, and they can’t always understand each other when they meet on the road, unless they speak Mandarin Chinese.

For foreigners who want to learn Mandarin Chinese, there is no need to know any kind of dialects of Chinese. Don’t worry about that.

It is hard to learn Mandarin from English, there is a long way to go if your want to be an excellent Mandarin speaker. Don’t give up halfway! You have to be persistent!

You are sure to succeed in the END!

Read More:

How long does it take the average person to learn mandarin?

What is the best way to learn Mandarin online?