If the Chinese language is really such a notoriously difficult language to learn (and to speak) there ought to be no one using it anymore, right?
I dunno about you, but I do think
Actually, it is considered a notoriously difficult language for westerners to learn. I don't think that is hyperbole. "The hardest language and nearly impossible to learn" would be hyperbole. As someone who did learn Mandarin and spent a couple years in Asia speaking Mandarin with people on the streets pretty much all day every day, I can tell you it's about as different from English as you can get. Having also studied French, I can tell you it's much more difficult than picking up a Romance language. If you wanted to pick apart a section of the quoted text as inaccurate, it would be "particularly, to speak". You could pick apart the fact misplaced comma, or you could just look directly at his meaning. That implies that of the parts of learning the language, speaking is the most difficult. This couldn't be more wrong for Chinese. If you break language into four tasks: speaking, listening, reading and writing, then speaking is by far the easiest. Reading an writing in Chinese is something that most foreigners I met in Asia never even attempted.
Totally agree. It's the same in reverse too. If you started with Chinese as your native tongue, then romance languages are very difficult too. This is due to the way sentences are constructed. I was doing some translation the other day and found that I often had to reverse the order of different phrases in the sentence to get the sentence to flow. There is one upside of starting with Chinese first and that is understanding the different tones within Chinese. Most of the westerners that I know who is learning or trying to learn Chinese struggle with tones. The words for mother, numb, horse, and to insult have very similar sounds as they are simply the 4 different tones for the same pinyin combination. Most of the time, if a native mandarin speaker says those for words (in mandarin) in quick succession, most westerners wouldn't be able to tell which is which. I know someone will now point out that a lot of Chinese can't distinguish between r and l, so learning Chinese first is not any better. But I want to point out that's because they were taught incorrectly and they think it's the correct pronunciation. Both the r and l sounds exist in mandarin so there is really no reason to get them wrong except if they weren't taught correctly.
Of course, if you learn both languages young enough then both languages are "easy". It's all perspective and when you are trying to learn each of the languages. Therefore, the statement aimed at the western audience is correct, it is notoriously difficult. But if the same statement were aimed at the Chinese, they will laugh mercilessly at you because it's pretty darn easy.