Mandarin has become an important language because of China’s increasingly important role in international trade. Chinese is formally spoken by many people in Taiwan (23 million people), China (1.3 billion people), and ethnic Chinese enclaves in other parts of the world. Chinese is the third most commonly spoken language in Canada and is the household language for more than two million Asian-Americans.
Propelled by the prevalence of Chinese, the demand for Chinese language instruction appears to be high at most universities and colleges. The number of students learning Chinese is experiencing an average 35% growth rate per year.
During the process of learning Chinese as a second language, learner anxiety related to listening and speaking the language can be lessened with the use of Hanyu Pinyin, the Romanization system designed to assist Westerners with Chinese pronunciation. With respect to the memorization of Chinese characters, however, few tools or methods are currently available to alleviate the frustration experienced by many of these new students.
Chinese characters are comprised of strokes and radicals, which are the basic graphic units of writing. Chinese character-writing is considered a great art and requires diligent study for proficient use. The process of studying Chinese characters is time consuming and tedious for most people. Learners commonly reach a point of disinterest and attempt to avoid learning how to write characters in advanced levels, due in part to inefficient teaching methodology. Students struggle to memorize character components, radicals, pronunciation and composition sequences. Instructors often weary of the resultant complaints.
Yet it is the written language, not the verbal language, which is common to Chinese dialects such as Mandarin and Cantonese. learning Chinese characters is important because characters can be used across historical eras and regional dialects. After learning Chinese characters, students can communicate in writing with people of different dialects in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China (Japanese and Koreans also understand many Chinese characters). Written language ability is often essential in business or in governmental intelligence settings.