Wow… just had some major flashback to my college days of studying mandarin Chinese. I remember the first day of class, the instructor telling us Chinese is a *very* difficult language to learn. He noted it could be one of the hardest and only the motivated, dedicated, and intelligent folk will prevail (or something along those lines..:) ).
The class met everyday and consisted of weekly writing assignments and tests on pinyin, character recognition and verbal competency. IT WAS VERY TIME CONSUMING… I spent hours practicing writing characters and memorizing both the pinyin and kanji for new phrases. I rewatched old school kungfu movies to see if I could pick out phrases from the Mandarin dialogue.
The hardest part for me was getting the sentence structure correct. English to Chinese is not a direct word-for-word translation. From an English speaking perspective, things hop around a bit in the Chinese language. There’s a nice little word map found in The Psychology of the Chinese Language [via] that nicely outlines what I’m referring to.
If I could go back and change one thing about my college time, I would’ve started learning Chinese earlier in my college career. I didn’t give it a shot until my senior year so I just barely scratched the surface.