Typically, we learn to read at school. At this educational stage, a Spanish child is shown the letter B and, from that moment on, knows how to pronounce it. However, in China, when children learn to read, they have to perform two processes whenever they see a character (Hanzi): they have to know what it means and how to pronounce it by breaking it down into individual phonemes. What's more, Chinese speakers have to pay attention to intonation. Mandarin has four tones, which are crucial to conveying the meaning of a term or sentence.
Raquel Ruiz, a Spanish student of Chinese, can attest to this difficulty. In fact, what caught her attention about Chinese is that it is a tonal language, in which the meaning of a word changes depending on the tone used to pronounce it. "For example, the word ma in the first tone means "mother". However, in the second tone, it means "hemp", in the third, "horse", and in the fourth, "to insult". What's more, there are no written instructions on which tone to use in each case. You simply have to memorize the tone for each concept".