Some of my German classmates + spoken teacher from "back in the days" at Shanghai University 2006. (I know what the Germans would answer to my question...)
My friend C is currently studying Mandarin level 1 at Suzhou University. She just finished her first midterms a la the Chinese way (meaning: all written test with a short, 2 minute speaking test in order to grade your “spoken Chinese”) and described it as a rather “interesting” experience. Although one thing surprised her:
-Once we got our results the teachers started telling who did the best and who did the worse in front of everyone! In some classes they even wrote everyone’s name and score on the black board! Do they always do that? Why?
Yeah, if only I knew?
I guess it has something to do with the fact that the “best” student should inspire the “not so good ones,” although I wonder if it really happens in reality?
In another class the teacher had chosen to focus on everyone’s mistakes rather than success. There was one question in the written exam that 90% of the students had gotten wrong:
-Why did you all get this wrong? The teacher kept asking. Why, why? It is so easy! So easy!
-Well we got most of the other questions right! One student said.
-Yeah but that doesn’t matter when you got this one wrong! And I don’t understand why!
-Well because we think Chinese is a hard language to learn! One student (who apparently felt he’d had enough of the scolding) said.
-Chinese is not hard! Chinese is easy!
-Noooooo! The whole class protested (they have been learning for 2 months and a lot of them find everything rather overwhelming).
-Come on, it is easy! If Chinese people can learn English quite easily, it should be just as easy for you foreigners to learn Chinese.
-It’s not easy! The students chanted.
-It is, it is! It is easy! It is easy for us to learn English, it should be easy for you to learn Chinese. Right?
Now, I think he posed a rather interesting statement. What do you guys reckon? Since Swedish is my first language and I have learned both English and Chinese I can speak for myself about what I found the easiest. But can those two languages even be compared? (In my case, I don’t think so, let's not focus on my personal experience). But generally speaking, can learning an alphabet consisting of 26 letters be compared to learning how to write the "most common" 6000 Chinese characters?
But what about all you Chinese who’ve learned English/ foreigner who’ve learned Chinese, what do you guys reckon? Is it as “easy” (?) for westerner to learn Chinese as it is for a Chinese to learn English? Why? Why not?