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Learning Chinese: Resources That Are Harder Than They Seem

by Louise W. Rice

In education, all resources can come in handy, as long as you can make good use of them. However, some can turn out to be harder than they appear.

If you are a student looking to learn Chinese, let us tell you about the top four resources that can be harder than you imagine.

Children’s Books for Chinese Learning

There is one common misconception people get when learning Chinese or, in fact, any foreign language. The misconception is that reading child books should be easier than studying using, let’s say, a traditional textbook.

While books are, without a doubt, among the most effective Chinese resources, believing that children’s books would be easy to read can actually make you fall into a trap.

In fact, Chinese books for kids are not easy to read, especially when you are a beginner.

Why’s that? Basically, there are two big reasons why children’s books aren’t the best options among Chinese readings:

  1. Children are fluent speakers – first and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that though children are using books to learn how to read, by this time, they already speak their language fluently. Thus, such books can contain some rather complex language combinations. And even if you take a Chinese child book meant for very young learners, all you’ll find there are tons of animals and their sounds, which isn’t very helpful, and neither is it easy.
  2. There is a cultural difference – The second big stumbling block is a cultural difference. The majority of us (namely, those from western regions) are used to the fact that children’s books are meant for entertainment in the first place. However, things are a bit different in the east. In China, books for young learners are, first of all, meant for educational purposes. Thus, they aren’t as easy as you expect. So, beginners can actually struggle with them.

Restaurant Menus as a Chinese Learning Resource

Another common misconception about learning Chinese language, especially among travelers, is that reading restaurant menus should be a rather easy way to master the language and improve your Chinese reading ability.

In fact, going the traditional path – taking a course in college or language school, reading textbooks, writing essays, and passing an exam would probably be easier than trying to learn the language using menus. After all, choosing this path, you will start learning Chinese from the basics. And, you’ll also have plenty of auxiliary resources such as help writing essay services, online tools, and many others that can make the process simpler.

If you are wondering how hard is Chinese in restaurant menus, the answer is – really hard. Surprisingly, reading menus and ordering food in this language is a real challenge. There are plenty of characters used to describe different ingredients, ways of cooking, and different types of food.

With such a diversified language used in menus, reading them is hard for beginners. In order to fluently understand them, it’s vital to have a very extensive Chinese vocabulary. Thus, beginners are probably out of luck because if they try to read menus in Chinese, they will only encounter lots of unknown characters.

Song Lyrics as a Chinese Learning Resource

Listening to music can seem to be helpful in terms of learning Chinese words and language in general. But, if you ask, “Is Chinese easy to learn by song lyrics,” we would say – not at all!

There are several reasons why Chinese music won’t be an easy learning resource:

  • Chinese musicians are believed to care more about lyrics – their texts are more like poetry and contain a rather difficult language.
  • The language used in lyrics isn’t typically used in everyday life.
  • Music is a form of creative art, so lyrics often don’t make sense to foreign language learners as there are plenty of metaphors, figures of speech, and other literary devices.

Therefore, in order to listen to music in Chinese and understand lyrics, you need to have vast experience with this language and a very broad vocabulary. Otherwise, you can find it really hard to grasp the idea behind the lyrics.

News as a Chinese Learning Resource

Finally, one more common resource people believe can help them learn Chinese basics with ease is news. Indeed, news channels and articles are widely used in language classes, especially in higher education facilities. But, the idea that this type of resource is easy is just one more misconception.

News, whether written or spoken, really isn’t the easiest Chinese thing you can use for learning purposes. First of all, it’s worth noting that the language in written and spoken Chinese is very different. Secondly, the news is most often not given in everyday language. Instead, news resources are using formal Chinese that isn’t all that easy, which is why foreign language learners can face a lack of context.

Finally, one more issue facing learners is a lack of understanding of Chinese society and culture. This can really get in your way of understanding news.

Thus, if you wonder how hard is the Chinese language in the news, it’s pretty hard.


When it comes to academic duties and resources, people often tend to believe that some things are easier than they actually are.

After reading this article, you know what resources aren’t that easy for language learning. Hopefully, now, you’ll be able to find the best way to learn Chinese that will work for you!

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