The Chinese language has a rich history of more than 6,000 years and is continually evolving. Chinese characters have a history stretching back over two thousand years, and they influenced Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese language and culture. The early Chinese written language consisted of a few thousand characters, which gradually increased to include more than 47,000 individual characters, as the ancient Chinese continually invented characters to refine their ability to describe their environment. The Chinese language is a tonal language, which means that a given word can change meaning depending on its tone. Mandarin Chinese has four tones: flat, rising, falling then rising, and falling. The Chinese language is very rich and there are many unique ways of expressing something. For example, you can use a song to express a certain mood to a particular person.
The whole language is formed by characters that represent a word or a part thereof, and which have ideographic roots. Therefore, you cannot assume that one Chinese character is equal to one word, so the traditional method for word count, as they are applied to Western languages, is likely to fail. The Chinese language is a sea of words, from which words meaning “courtesy” and “good” will flow in torrents. It is not that difficult for Chinese speakers to invent new expressions to please foreign friends and make them feel comfortable, rather than feel prejudiced or offended, especially while they are in China. The Chinese language is also generated through juxtaposition. For instance, the character bright is written by writing the character sun and then the character moon.
The Chinese language is not related to European languages, therefore to English speaking people, it is not as easy to study as French or Spanish, for example. However, the learning of Chinese is in no way as difficult as some people imagine. The language itself is a member of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Although Chinese is often regarded as a single language, regional variations in dialect, grammar and vocabulary are comparable to those of Romance languages. The Chinese language is actually richly detailed and poetic, e.g., the Chinese employ tones to differentiate their words.
The Chinese language is an intrinsic part of China’s culture and traditions. It is also a veritable playground for compulsive punners. Chinese is very economical with word-sounds and many words are only of one syllable.
Chinese is becoming increasingly important in world business and diplomacy. As a result, it is becoming an important world language. In the Netherlands for example, there is a rapidly growing interest in the Chinese language for professional purposes or just out of personal interest. The Chinese dialect of Mandarin is by far the most spoken language in the world. Employers in parts of Asia have begun to consider Mandarin, along with English, as the must learn language of the future.
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