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Should I Learn Spanish Or Chinese? | How To Choose

Should I learn Spanish or Chinese? I asked myself this exact question two years ago. I had to study both and learn the pros and cons before I would ultimately choose to learn Spanish.


Chinese and Spanish are the two most natively spoken languages in the world. With the amount of benefits there are of learning either, it might be hard to figure out which to learn.


In this article we will go over how to choose, some information about both languages and at the end we’ll do a language battle to see which one is the easiest to learn!


Summary: Which Language You Should Learn

Should I learn Spanish or Chinese? Consider the following:

  • Do I like Latin American Culture or Chinese Culture more?

  • Do I like Chinese food, or Latin American food more?

  • What do I feel would interest me most?

  • What is most practical for me?

  • Where would I want to travel most? (China or Latin America/Spain)

The easiest between the two languages is Spanish, but not by far.


As a matter of fact - If it was a learning competition between somebody who is not interested in learning Spanish and somebody who has an interest in learning Chinese,


I guarantee the second learner will beat the hell out of the first guy as far as learning speed goes!


map of china with a map of mexico and they both have boxing gloves and it says "Learn Chinese or Spanish"

Table Of Contents



What Are Your Goals? Figuring Out Which To Learn

The answer of course depends on your goals. If you want to be able to communicate with a large group of people, then observe how many more (or fewer) Spanish speakers you see around you.


If you would like to exercise your brain in a fun way and maybe travel to China one day - learn Chinese. There will be struggles in learning both languages, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that you should think of Spanish as easier.


However, to give yourself the best chance of making it through, analyze your goals, and what feels most interesting to you - and choose that language.



Does Your Locality Have More Mandarin Or Spanish Speakers?

In my hometown, there were many more Spanish speakers than Chinese ones. So I chose Spanish, but that’s not to say I chose a language based on practicality (100%).


If I had wanted the most practical language I would have chosen Hindi. But take a look at statistics for your area, and see which of the languages interests you most. Practicality is so important but not nearly as valuable as your personal interests.



Spanish: A Brief Overview (Grammar, Vocab, & History)

Spanish is a Latin-derived language that serves as a lingua franca for almost all of Latin America.


The language is very similar both in vocabulary and grammar to Italian, French, and Portuguese, for example. Learning Spanish unlocks 20 countries and all of the natural splendors within.


All the way from the tropical beaches of The Dominican Republic, to the dark blue glaciers of Argentina.


This language comes with a culture that is relaxed and puts family over everything. If you want a beautiful, humble, and happy culture to interact with - Spanish is probably the language for you.


many latino american flags and a title that says "Spanish Overview"


Grammar: 5/10 (Difficulty)

Spanish grammar is no joke, it definitely isn’t Russian, but it isn’t nearly as easy as say - Chinese for example. Spanish comes with a total of about 18 conjugations.


Luckily not all of these are used, but I would say that realistically to be fluent you need to know about 15 forms of every single word.


So yeah, it’s not easy. Not to mention there are many conjugations that we don’t have in English, so we have to try and understand completely new concepts, then use them correctly in a sentence.



Vocabulary: 4/10 (Difficulty)

Spanish vocabulary is fairly easy, however, you can't learn all the vocabulary in the world from books!


The reason is, when you go to Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, etc, you are going to hear new, extremely niche words.


A lot of vocabulary in Spanish changes from one country to another. For example - take the word dog in Guatemala “Chucho/Chucha”. If you say “Chucha” in Panama that is literally the most foul and aggressive swear word in their dialect.


So unlike Mandarin, where the language is a bit more standardized, Spanish seemingly changes 1% every 10 miles you drive.


English-Spanish Cognates

There exists an extremely vast number of cognates (meaning shared words) between English and Spanish. For example:

Words That End In TION
  • Action - Acción

  • Reaction - Reacción

  • Celebration - Celebración

  • Situation - Situación

  • Organization - Organización


Words That End In TY
  • Liberty - Libertad

  • Society - Sociedad

  • Creativity - Creatividad

  • Honesty - Honestidad

  • Quality - Cualidad


And to be clear, these are just a few of the thousands of words like these! So if you do choose Spanish, you’ll be able to gain some odd 1,250-2,000 words really quick.


Literature & Resources In Spanish

Luckily if you learn Spanish, there will be unlimited books, websites, and music to consume. For example, I am down here in Panama City, Panama and my apartment has a mini library in it which is provided by the owner of the AirBnB.


This library contains a ton of books from Americans that I have wanted to read but never bought, so I have been having a field day reading their Spanish translation. The point is, if a book in English is truly excellent, chances are you can find it in Spanish.


Furthermore, there have been many Spanish poets, and authors that have opened my eyes to certain subjects. There is no shortage of intellectuals amongst the Spanish-speaking communities, and once you are advanced you can enjoy their intellect


History Of Latino-American Countries

The history of Spanish-speaking countries is a lot like the history of the USA. The Spanish were like Britain and France for the USA, and the Latino Americans were just like us.


What I mean is, Spain colonized all of the Latino-American countries and made them extensions of Spain. They stole resources, enslaved the populations, and turned them into one big prison.


So just like our forefathers did in the US, the Latino Americans (One notable figure being Simon Bolivar) began revolting and waging war against the Spanish.


The Spanish eventually retreated and these countries claimed their independence. So every Latin American country has an independence day that is pretty similar to ours in the US. The biggest difference between Latino American History (as a whole) and ours, is the treatment of native tribes.


They certainly weren’t all treated great, but if you look at modern-day Latino America, just about everywhere from Mexico to Argentina you can find native tribes that still live like they always have.


Furthermore, it's very common to see people who live normal everyday lives that are direct descendants of natives. One amazing example of the coexistence between natives and Spanish descendants is the story of Paraguay.


According to the history, when the Spanish touched down in Paraguay, they were quickly accepted by the natives, and they exchanged knowledge and learned each other's languages. Imagine that?


The Spanish kids were learning Guaraní (The most prominent native language) and speaking it with Native Americans their whole life. This led to the modern-day Paraguayan dialect, which is full of these Guaraní words.



Chinese: A Brief Overview (Grammar, Vocab, & History)

Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in the world, is a fascinating journey into the heart of Chinese culture. Mandarin is a tonal language, meaning that the word “Shi” for example can mean 5 different things depending on the tone used.


The intricate Chinese characters might scare you, but the truth is that they are a pretty efficient way to express words on paper.


The reason why is that with some 4,000 characters, you might know how to spell and read 20,000 words. And if you don't know a word, you might be able to tell the meaning by interpreting some of the characters used that you recognize.


This is because those most common characters are used in different ways to make up many words.


The two easiest parts of Mandarin are the conjugations (Or lack thereof) and the commonly short 1-3 syllable words that make up the language.


flag of macao, singapur, china, and taiwan and it says "Chinese overview"


Chinese Grammar

The grammar of Mandarin Chinese is a piece of cake when compared to languages like Spanish.


Remember how I said you might have to learn 18 different conjugations for every word to be fluent in Spanish? In Mandarin Chinese, that doesn’t exist - they just use words to indicate the tense.


Think about how we use the word “Will” in English, this is how tenses work in Chinese.


Chinese Vocabulary

Vocabulary can be one of (if not) the most difficult parts of learning Chinese. Not just the characters, but the sounds that they represent are very distinct from English.


Look at the length of each word that I am writing: Shi ta to ga, gao shi chi ba - those syllables look so different, and of course, this causes them to be a bit harder to memorize. However there is something so easy and fun about speaking a language where the average word is 1-2 syllables.



Chinese Literature & Resources

If you learn Mandarin Chinese you will have a huge amount of reading material that is extremely diverse compared to Spanish and English. Although you can find the works of Confucius in English, surely it is extremely different from reading his works in their respective language.


Of course, being that Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, the internet has a huge amount of websites in Chinese that haven't yet been translated.


Chinese History

China, one of the oldest civilizations, has a rich and complex history that spans thousands of years. It witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, technological advancements, cultural achievements, and significant events.


From the mighty empires of the Qin and Han to the splendor of the Tang Dynasty, China experienced periods of great prosperity and innovation. It also faced challenges like foreign invasions, revolutions, and social upheavals.


The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 marked a new chapter in its history. Today, China is a global powerhouse, blending its ancient traditions with modern advancements and playing a crucial role in the world's political and economic landscape.



Language Cage-Match: Chinese VS Spanish

In this section, we'll briefly put the languages in a competition to see which on is easier.

We will talk about the grammar, vocabulary, and then a short conclusion.


Which one do you think will be the easiest? Surprisingly, it's a close call!

map of china with a map of mexico and they both have boxing gloves and it says "Learn Chinese or Spanish"

Chinese Grammar VS Spanish Grammar: (Chinese Wins)

Chinese destroys Spanish when it comes to the ease of use of grammar. Not only does Mandarin Chinese not have tenses (temporal conjugations) but the word order is almost always exactly the same as it is in English.


Chinese Vocabulary VS Spanish Vocabulary (Spanish Wins)

Spanish wins this game by a long shot. It's said that about 27% of all vocabulary in English comes from French or Spanish. The point is, we already know a ton of Spanish.


Chinese vocabulary is easy in that the words are short, but due to the lack of cognates, and the use of tones, Spanish vocab is much easier for us as English speakers.


a library with many books on many subjects


Chinese VS Spanish: Which is easier? (Spanish Wins)

I know most people will tell you differently, but I think there is a debate to be had here. However, I will say after learning Spanish fluently, I have seen all of the troubles one will face, and I will say that Spanish is easier.


However, if you don't have a lot of interest in Spanish, but you are interested in Chinese culture and society, then that’s an easy choice - learn Chinese.


What If I Love Chinese And Spanish Equally?

If you love both of these languages, but you know what's best for you - you are going to have to choose one. I suggest that you study both for 1 month, and see which you want to continue learning.


If you do this, just make sure you commit to a date that you are going to stop studying one of the two or you’ll struggle greatly to learn even one.


If you like puzzles, and using your brain to create beautiful things, Chinese might be your best choice. If you love American culture, history, and food - Spanish might be the best for you!


If you want to get a free lesson with a tutor, click here and Italki will give you a free $10 credit when you schedule your first lesson within 48 hours!

Frequently Asked Questions: Learn Chinese Or Spanish

people answering questions


Which language is more useful - Spanish or Chinese?

For example, for Americans Spanish is certainly more useful, did you know that the USA is the second most Spanish-speaking country in the world? It's true, for every 1 Chinese speaker in the USA, there are 10 Spanish speakers.



Is Chinese or Spanish harder to learn?

Chinese is a harder language to learn than Spanish, however, not by a lot. The grammar is easier in Chinese, but on the other hand, the vocabulary and culture of Spanish speakers is easier for us to understand (as westerners).



Is Mandarin or Spanish more popular?

Spanish is more popular in tons of western countries such as the USA, however, Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 1.3 billion native-speakers, whereas Spanish is only spoken by 485 million native speakers.



Conclusion: Should I learn Spanish or Chinese?

Although both languages are extremely useful, you should only learn one of them (at a time).

So it comes down to personal preference. Chinese might be the language for you if:

  • Chinese culture interests you

  • You like Chinese food

  • You like philosophy and you want different perspectives

  • If you are drawn to the Chinese script (characters)


On the other hand, Spanish might be the best choice for you if:

  • You like Latin American culture

  • If you enjoy Latin American food

  • If you want to learn a language that you can find just about any book written in

  • If you are interested in Latin American History

  • If you want to travel to a Spanish-speaking country

I hope that this article helped you figure out which one might be for you, don’t forget if you feel puzzled and confused as to which is best for you - you can learn both for a month.


I studied Japanese, Vietnamese, and Arabic for a month before deciding to continue my Spanish studies to an advanced level and learn French on the side. Don’t be afraid of trying things to see what you like the most!


If you are looking to find the best methods to study a language, check out this article here on the 13 Best Methods To Study A Langauge!


Have a great day/evening/night, ¡Hasta luego!

~ Ben

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