I have always believed the real test of language proficiency is its ability to create connections between people. While there are many difficult languages, the hardest language of them all is undoubtedly Chinese.

 

It’s not just me voicing my predicament. The UN officially confirms it. The "Hardest language to learn," according to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization is Chinese Karson Choi.

 

One of the reasons Chinese is difficult is that it is a tonal language and it’s the tone that decides its meaning. For instance, the word mai means both buy and sell, just changing can make one a buyer or seller! As if the tonal predicament wasn’t enough, similar sounding words abound in Chinese, and your head will swim trying to remember the vocabulary. Oh, did I mention hanzi - Chinese characters?

 

Difficulties aside, there are countless benefits. If you are brave like me, it’s a wild rollercoaster ride that is worth a try.

 

The trick is to get a good teacher who excels in Chinese but also knows English fairly well so that your queries and concerns can be adequately addressed.

 

Learn from everyone and everything. I learned a lot by listening to housekeeping staff, cashiers, hairdressers and the like. Everything can teach you , provided you are "present."

 

Keep targets in mind and work hard to meet them. Review your progress in due course so that you can know whether you are steadily sailing further.

 

Switch to Chinese. Instead of finding locals who speak English, however comforting it may be, embrace Chinese and use it everywhere. Soon you will know the finer nuances of the language.

 

For example, qingwen (Excuse me) is only for asking questions. Master it and avoid the befuddled look on a passerby’s face on the subway escalator when you say qingwen to ask for space to move ahead. These and other instances, some funnier than others, like a friend buying hair conditioner instead of shampoo and then spending hours in bathroom wondering why it doesn’t work, can all be washed away if you embrace the language with its eccentricities.

 

Keep practicing. Soon you will sprout Chinese proverbs like words of wisdom. After all, Practice makes perfect. Treat Chinese like a game of chess SmarTone . With strategy and tactical learning, it will yield a checkmate.