Lessons 1-10

Lesson 13 学外语很难。It is difficult to learn a foreign language.

说 Shuō Speak / 汉语 Hnyǔ Chinese (language) / 难 nn difficult
/ 写 Xiě to write /
There are many names for the Chinese language. Standard Chinese, or Mandarin, called 普通话 Pǔtōnghu, is strictly speaking an artificial construct derived from Beijing and other Northern dialects. It is taught in the schools as a top-down attempt to provide the Chinese people with a standard mode of communication. Although, if you want to be pedantic about it, no one actually speaks this language per se.

However, most people in Northern China do speak something very close to the Standard Chinese taught in the Chinese school system, with some cities (Beijing, Harbin) being closer to the textbook language than others (Tianjin, for example). Also, many foreign students of Mandarin actually study a slightly modified version to reflect the influence of Beijing and other Northern dialects on the country as a whole.

汉语 Hnyǔ is another name for the Chinese language, it literally means "Han language" or the language of the dominant ethnic group in China.

中文 Zhōngwn is probably the closest to the general term "Chinese".

中国话 Zhōnɡɡuhu "Chinese language" can be taken to mean any language spoken in China, but chiefly the Platonic ideal of Mandarin (standardized Chinese). You don't see this much in Chinese language textbooks, but in China proper it is used fairly often, especially in relation to foreigners speaking the Chinese language.

Example sentences:

说 普通话 很 难。 Speaking Mandarin is very difficult.
Shuō Pǔtōnghu hěn nn.
Speak common-dialect very difficult.

学 汉语 很 难。 Learning Mandarin is difficult.
Xu Hnyǔ hěn nn.
Learning the Han dialect is not difficult.

说 汉语 难 吗? Is it difficult to speak Mandarin?
Shuō Hnyǔ nn ma?
Study Han dialect difficult question?

写 英语 不 难。 Writing English is not difficult.
Xiě Yīngyǔ b nn.
Write English not difficult.

学 英语 很 难。 English is difficult to learn.
Xu Yīngyǔ hěn nn.
Study English very difficult.

学 外语 很 难。 It is difficult to learn a foreign language.
Xu wiyǔ hěn nn.
Study external-language very difficult.

学 俄语 很 难。 Russian is very difficult to learn.
Xu yǔ hěn nn.
Study Russian-language very difficult.

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Sound files for the example sentences:

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A 写汉字难吗?
   Xiĕ hnz nn ma?
   Is it difficult to write Chinese characters?

B 很难。我不认识汉字。
   Hĕn nn. Wŏ b rnsh hnz.
   Yes, its very difficult. I cant make out Chinese characters.

A 说也难吗?
   Shuō yĕ nn ma?
   Is speaking also difficult?

B 说不太难。
   Shuō b ti nn.
   Speaking is not too difficult.

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Sound files for the dialogue:

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Lessons 11-20
Lessons 21-30
Lessons 31-40
Lessons 41-50
Lessons 51-60
Lessons 61-70
Lessons 71-80
Lessons 81-90
Lessons 91-100
Lessons 101-110
Lessons 111-120
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The Mandarin language is not as difficult as you might think. Theres a reason why its the worlds most spoken language! A lingua franca for much of Northern China since the Yuan dynasty, Mandarin has a simple, no-nonsense grammatical system and a vocabulary that builds upon itself. So dont be daunted! You too can speak this beautiful language.