Mandarin is sometimes described as a ‘challenging’ language. Language learners tend to be put off by the Chinese Simplified script (which is used in China, Singapore and Malaysia) or the spoken language’s four-and-a-half tones. Getting to grips with the different tones is important, since they convey substantially different meanings. For instance, depending on intonation, da can mean ‘to answer’, ‘to hit’, or ‘big’. Learning Chinese characters is a further challenge, since there are an estimated 60,000 ideographs in written Chinese. Fortunately you will only need to learn about 5,000 of these ideographs to read your average newspaper.
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