People often ask me questions like these:
What's the easiest / hardest language you ever learned?
Isn't Chinese really difficult?
Which is harder, Chinese or Japanese? Sanskrit or German?
Without a moment's hesitation, I always reply that Mandarin is the easiest spoken language I have learned and that Chinese is the most difficult written language I have learned. I learned to speak Mandarin fluently within about a year, but I've been studying written Chinese for half a century and it's still an enormous challenge. I'm sure that I'll never master it even if I live to be as old as Zhou Youguang.
Read the rest of this entry »