I watched the video in the article and frankly, I could hardly make out what he was saying, but the Chinese audience seemed to get it.
The article went on to discuss how extremely daunting it is to learn Chinese if you are not native Chinese and / or not living in China where people speak the language the whole day.
I wholeheartedly agree with the reasons given in the article as to why it is so damn hard to learn Chinese:
-- Because the writing system is ridiculous.
-- Because the language doesn't have the common sense to use an alphabet.
-- Because the writing system just ain't very phonetic.
-- Because tonal languages are weird;
-- Because East is East and West is West, and the twain have only recently met.
Uh, that last reason probably just applies to Westerners.
I am a Malaysian-Chinese. I did not learn Chinese growing up, but instead learned my country's national language, Bahasa Malaysia and of course English. My family speaks the Cantonese dialect at home, and I picked up a smattering of spoken Mandarin from my mother who was educated in the Chinese medium of instruction. I also picked up the tiniest knowledge of the Hokkien dialect from Hokkien colleagues at work.
Now, my 2 children attend Chinese vernacular schools where they are instructed primarily in Mandarin, but also learn Bahasa Malaysia and English. It has been very tough going to keep them in Chinese schools when both my husband and I are illiterate in Chinese.
I just cannot comprehend how an entire language can be constructed with no alphabetical structure. Chinese words seem to have been created at the whim and fancy of whoever it was that conceived the language. A large part of learning Chinese is having to memorise words, to memorise how those words are supposed to be written (this stroke first followed by a curve then a dot then another slash etc.) and to memorise how those words sound.
It is so simple in English: if you come across a new word, one you have never ever seen in your life, you can at least pronounce it. That's half the battle won. No such luck in Chinese!
Whenever my kids come across a new Chinese word, they are well and truly stuck.My kids are intelligent and I know they would do much better in their exams and school ranking if not for Chinese derailing them. I continually encourage them and tell them so.
I am proud and happy that despite the difficulty of learning Chinese my kids have persevered in Chinese schools and not asked to be put back into the English or Bahasa Malaysia medium schools.
It has so often been said that the world is now witnessing "a major shift in economic and cultural influence, from the U.S. to China," hence raising the profile of the Chinese language.
For me, I feel it is good to learn more languages and being ethnically Chinese, there is that added obligation.