Since China’s economic and political rise in recent years, standard Chinese has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK.
In 1991 there were 2,000 foreign learners taking China's official Chinese Proficiency Test (comparable to English's Cambridge Certificate), while in 2005, the number of candidates has risen sharply to 117,660.
Despite Chinese’s reputation as a difficult non-native language, the development of Hanyu Pinyin and simplified Chinese characters has made it vastly easier for non-Chinese to begin to learn the language.
The first step in many Chinese classes is to teach students how to use pinyin (how to read and pronounce it).
Listening to a native speaker pronouncing Chinese will help. It will not take too much effort, since pronunciation is always regular. One character, one sound (almost always true).
Characters are generally the most difficult aspect facing new learners, taking most of their time
In compensation, Chinese grammar is considerably easier than that of many other languages.
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