English is lingua franca de facto. How Chinese compares to it?
- Like in English, you have to learn around 800 words to be able to participate in conversation in the minimum level and around 5000 words for common daily usage.
- Like in English, the grammar is pretty simple, words are not changing depending on how you use them, etc. In fact, it is even simpler, because there are no irregular verbs in Chinese.
- Like in English, you have to learn how to pronounce some sounds, which are not present in other languages.
- Like in English, you cannot pronounce an unknown word by just looking at it.
- Like in English, there is a main dialect (US English corresponds to Mandarin), secondary dialect (UK = Cantonese) and many others, differing dialects, and not every dialect speaker can speak the main dialect.
- Like in English, the same word can be used as verb, noun or adjective.
Unlike English, you have to sing the tones. And this may prevent Chinese to be a universal language.
There is no equivalent of pidgin english in Chinese – this sort of English a russian-speaking person living in Germany (me) uses to speak with Estonian collegues :) I’m also using it for this article.
“Pidgin Chinese” would omit tones and use Pinyin to write words. Like with pidgin english, it would be very hard to understand by a normal chinese speaker, but it still could be a basis for another lingua franca. And I suppose many foreigners unable to get the tone right are already speaking it :)