"Now I understand why the younger generation is so different from our older generations…
E.g. The Chinese Character for LOVE. The new LOVE Character does not contain the "heart" pictogram (in red)."
My wife attended Mandarin classes (once a week) for more than a year and is now in Standard 2 level! I am sure people in KL would be envious of the low monthly fee of Rm20! She looks forward to attending class and would be disappointed whenever there were functions to attend or when she was away. Her main problem at her senior age has to do with memory - the usual inability to recall what she had learned just a week ago. But because of her fairly regular use of Mandarin whenever she had the chance, her conversational Mandarin is good, though often with a sprinkling of Hakka pronunciation instead. This was because when she first started to learn from the factory supervisor, he explained in Hakka! In fact, even though I am not any where near her level, there are certain expressions in Cantonese which I could relate to in Mandarin but which she could not understand because I watched more HK Cantonese serials and films. The beauty of Chinese language and its characters is that it can be understood by all the different dialects! But there had been changes since, with the introduction of Pinyin and the introduction of simplified version of the Chinese characters, like the above example.
Now, we have people with different levels of knowledge in Chinese: the old school who use the original Chinese characters; the new school who use the simplified version; the old and the new schools who use both versions; as well as those who learned from Romanized version as in Pinyin. Like in all languages, there will be those who could understand and speak it, yet actually illiterate (cannot read or write it), like myself. But I am learning it in a way, when I watched Mandarin films, especially those with English or Bahasa Malaysia subtitles, by paying more attention. I also take note of advertisements which have names and descriptions in Chinese characters and try to make some sense from them. Sometimes, by knowing a few characters, I could infer the rest! For example, 'chut yap peng onn' (in Cantonese) which means literally '(go) out (come) in safely' which is normally hung outside a house.