Chinese culture is one of the oldest and richest in the world, and learning how to speak the language online is an essential step in coming to understand and appreciate it. Dating back thousands of years, China has a wide variety of customs and traditions spread among 56 distinct and recognized ethnic groups as well as a geographical area that is one of the largest in Asia. The pre-eminent ethnic group, however, is the Han Chinese and much of what we think of today as “Chinese culture” derives from their customs. Mandarin is the dialect spoken by the Han; at present, Mandarin has over a billion speakers in China alone.
There are two philosophical systems from which most of Chinese social values are derived – Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism is derived from the teachings of the revered Chinese philosopher Confucius and teaches that human nature can be perfected through constant striving and self-cultivation. Taoism, on the other hand, is a religious tradition that stresses the relationship between man and the cosmos and emphasizes the basic virtues of humility, compassion and moderation. In addition, the concept of guanxi is also very important in Chinese culture. Guanxi is a word that means either “relationships” or “connections” and stresses the primacy of a personal relationship in which one party can prevail upon the other one for a favor.
Learning Chinese online will also enable you to enjoy the many pleasures afforded by Chinese music, literature and movies. For example, knowing how to read Chinese will enable you to read the works of writer and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China, in the original Mandarin. Or if that seems too heavy for you, you can use your proficiency in the language to enjoy popular Chinese music and movies. C-pop or Chinese Popular Music is an increasingly popular genre not only within China and Taiwan but also abroad due to the growing number of Chinese communities overseas. Chinese movies have also seen both critical acclaim and box-office success worldwide, spurred by the work of directors such as Zhang Yimou (Hero), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and John Woo (Hard Boiled) as well as actors including Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun-Fat.
Being fluent in Chinese will also give you more insight into the culture of your Chinese friends as well as helping improve your relationships with them. Even if they know how to speak English, they would surely appreciate your efforts to reach out to them by learning how to converse in their language. Being able to talk in Mandarin will also help you to appreciate nuances that otherwise would go unnoticed if you were conversing in English.
While learning to speak Chinese online may initially seem to be insurmountably difficult, with the wide variety of learning modalities available from the various websites offering online Chinese language lessons, you’ll surely find one that you’ll feel comfortable with and you’ll be speaking Mandarin fluently in no time.