Learning the Chinese language, was probably one of the most exciting, yet hard-working thing I've done. Now, I'm not done yet — but the foundation is definitely there.
It all started when I watched the movie 'Red Cliff' by director John Woo. Before that, my interest in the whole of Asia, was zero to nothing. My point of focus had always been America.
Not that I'm not loving the United States anymore, but rather that I found something that's so different than America — or Europe — and inspires a deep love in me.
See, what I love about America is it's easy-going, do-whatever-you-want mentality, but when it comes to China, and the rest of Asia, it's so much more about the respect, humbleness and a deep love for its own culture.
After watching the movie, I was inspired to do some research about this 'song-sounding' way of speaking. I soon found a beginners lesson on YouTube, and I was sold.
One thing I discovered pretty soon — you can't learn the Chinese language without learning about its culture.
See in China, even more so than in America or Europe, almost anything has a significant meaning, or is wrapped in an old saying or proverb from an old wife's tale.
This of course makes it also a lot of fun to learn, especially if you are much interested in history and different cultures.
Mandarin — the official language of the mainland of China — is the most spoken language in the world. This alone should provide enough enticement to start learning the language of kung fu!
Also, seeing the financial growth of China in the past 20-30 years, it's not hard to see how some of the forces of business, entrepreneurship and international sales are shifting.
And of course it is also a very nice thing to be able to speak some Chinese locals during you visit to China, or even when you're having your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant in China town!
I've tried — and am still using — many different mediums and formats for learning Chinese (and other languages too).
As mentioned earlier, I started out with a simple beginners course on YouTube. I I then found a free audio course online at one of the biggest mainland China television networks.
I've also used simple flash games and quiz-type games for learning Chinese words (in pin-yin and Chinese characters) and I'm also enjoying a Chinese TV show (from CCTV) with free and funny episodes, filled with little lessons for foreigners.
It all comes down to your favorite way of learning. Mine is definitely a combination of many things. I also enjoy watching Mandarin-spoken movies, and use the English subtitles to understand the meanings.
So try something you like today, start with something simple, like a quiz-game or a beginners lesson on YouTube. There's plenty of resources online for free, so no excuse to wait any longer! Good luck and Zàijiàn (Goodbye)!
By Matthias Zegveld — the Netherlands
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