Friday, December 17, 2010

Is Mandarin a Funny or Difficult Language?

Chinese speak Mandarin. Mandarin consists of more than 50,000 characters. To read a newspaper you need to know 2000 characters, and an educated person is supposed to know atleast 4000 characters.

In ancient times one character represented one word. But these days two or more characters are combined to denote a word. Mandarin is an open-language as anyone can add a new character. For instance, brands can create new characters when none of the existing ones match the intended meaning. Often such inventions are excluded from official character sets.
Although Mandarin has numerous characters, the sounds are limited to four distinct tones. So, Mandarin language has a lot of Homonyms - distinguishable only by their tones. Mai can mean either 'buy' or 'sell' depending on the tone; Nar meant 'there' in the fourth tone and 'where' in the third. So the potential for confusion is infinite.

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