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ABCinChina

World's greatest polyglot say's Mandarin is the hardest language in the world

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renzhe
renzhe, I can follow your point 100% and definitely agree on the "homonyms" issue. However, I prefer to see Mandarin as "simple". If you start a language and you see it as "difficult" it will give you a good excuse later not to go through with it. I see Mandarin as easy and if I don't make it it's 100% my problem alone.

Oh, I agree.

I personally hate the defeatism of many people who go on about how impossible it is to learn Chinese. It's a language like any other, and if you put your mind to it and roll up your sleeves, you can learn it, just like any other language.

It's just that there is the other extreme, people going on about how easy Chinese is, which tends to make me feel like a total idiot for not speaking it fluently already :wink:

Chinese has unique challenges, and some things are easier compared to other languages. Just be realistic about it, have a good positive attitude, and give it an honest and consistent effort, and things will be fine :clap

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leosmith

flameproof:

how long does it take to learn to read Thai?

I would say anything from a few hours up to 2 days. It's an alphabet with 50 or so letters. Sure you won't understand (yet) what you read though.

Apparently you disagree with my posts on this. It took me a few hours to learn Japanese kana. It took me several months to learn to read Thai.

adrianlondon:

By the third-tone-second-tone stuff I meant the tone markings.

For example, hǎo in mandarin is the third tone we all know about. That little "v" tone mark above the latter "a" in Thai would mean you pronounce it in a rising tone, very close to the mandarin second tone. So, it's the tone markings themselves which are irritating me.

Written Thai doesn't use the same tone marks as pinyin. So you're looking at romanization of Thai, right? The only system I know of that uses pinyin-like tone marks is Becker, and a falling-rising tone ("v") is a still a falling-rising tone - it would be in the ballpark of a 3rd tone in Mandarin.

The only thing I can think of is that your romanization system might be trying to mimick Thai tone marks, rather than the actual tones. In Thai, if the begining consonant is a low consonant, then the tone won't match the tone mark. For example, normally a low tone mark (mai eek) produces a low tone (siang eek). But in the case of a low consonant, the low tone mark (mai eek ) produces a falling tone (siang too). Also in the case of a low consonant, the falling tone mark (mai too ) produces a rising tone (siang dtrii). The low and falling tone marks are the only ones used with low consonants, by the way.

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adrianlondon
Apparently you disagree with my posts on this.

Eh? Was that aimed at me? Please tell me where I said I disagreed with any of your comments on Thai script. I hope you don't find anything, because I don't disagree ;)

ou're looking at romanization of Thai, right?

Of course. Their equivalent of pinyin.

a rising tone ("v") is a still a rising tone

Ah, I think you're not getting my point. Yes, it is a rising tone in Thai. But I am used to pinyin, where "v" is not a rising tone (ok, unless in front of another pinyin 3rd).

I'm getting my "romanizations" mixed up. I thought that was clear. It seems I'm also messing up my English now! Oh well. I need to get back to London and practice ;)

Thanks for your description of the tones, it's helpful.

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leosmith

Wow, I totally messed up that las post. I guess I need to avoid posting too close to bed time.:oops:

Was that aimed at me?

Not at all - it was meant for flameproof. I edited the entire post, and made it clear this time.

Their equivalent of pinyin.

There are so many Thai romanization systems though. What book were you looking at?

But I am used to pinyin, where "v" is not a rising tone (ok, unless in front of another pinyin 3rd).

In Thai, the falling-rising ("v") tone is usually called a rising tone. The tone that only rises is usually called a high tone. So I edited my post again. But my point was that the "v" means essentially the same kind of tone in either Thai or Mandarin. The Thai "v" doesn't lag on the bottom, and it isn't prolonged like the Mandarin "v", so maybe that's where your hearing the difference.

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jiaoshou

Well... the American University of Beirut does not offer a degree in philology, nor has it in its existence since the late 19th century offered much more than Arabic and English and a very small handful of introductory European languages.

Living in cosmopolitan Beirut, I have met a lot of people who claim to know lots of languages. While their basic survival skills are remarkable, one wonders lexically how advanced such a person actually is. Also, rough interpretation into solid English or Arabic or whatever near-native language you have in the absence of specialists, is a very touchy-feely, yet seemingly impressive, art.

When I travel to places with my meager 8 languages, many people laud my language skills. But most of it is just surprise and pleasantries. Just like the 司机of lesson 11 of New Practical Chinese reader, part I:

您会说 汉语啊!

您的汉语很好!

To which I can only say 哪里, 我的汉语不太好

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skylee
When I travel to places with my meager 8 languages' date=' many people laud my language skills. But most of it is just surprise and pleasantries. Just like the 司机of lesson 11 of New Practical Chinese reader, part I:

您会说 汉语啊!

您的汉语很好!

To which I can only say 哪里, 我的汉语不太好[/quote']

Do drivers on the mainland really call Chinese 漢語? It sounds so odd. I would think that people would use 普通話 or 中文 instead. But what do I know.

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ABCinChina

Skylee, indeed they do sometimes call Chinese 汉语 in the mainland。The first time I heard it, I was confused, but it's just another way to say 普通话 or 国语。

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imron

Yep, 汉语 is used all the time here, at least in northern China.

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renzhe

I think that "普通话" is mostly used when differentiating between different Chinese dialects. As a foreigner in China, people have only ever commented on my "汉语"

The only time I've heard the terms "普通话" or "国语" was when I was with my girlfriend in Hong Kong and she was checking whether waiters/shopkeepers spoke Mandarin.

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monto

Han Language - 汉语;Mandarin - 官话;Chinese - 中文;国语 - 普通话

1)Han Language - 汉语:

This term is always right, precise and scientific. It is linguistic and legal term for the language.

which belongs to 汉藏语系汉语族汉语大语种(I need this term in English:mrgreen:).

2)Mandarin - 官话:

Mandarin: According to "Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged":

2 cap a: the primarily northern dialect of Chinese used by the court and the official classes under the Empire

b: the chief dialect of China that is spoken in about four fifths of the country and has a southern variety centering about Nanking, a western variety centering about Chengtu, a northern now standard variety centering about Peking".

3) Chinese - 中文:

Chinese: We all understand what it means by "common sense". But actually it is neither precise nor scientific, or we say it stands for a group of languages rather than a single language.

中文: This is lately coined term, totally influenced by the English term "Chinese", getting to be known by the mainlanders through overseas Chinese or people of Hongkong and Taiwan.

I had never come across this term from primary to high schools. Anyway, it is often seen nowadays.

However, Do care not to use it in:

i) any legal paper;

ii) any official document;

iii) any research paper on linguistics.

4) 国语 - 普通话:

These are branches of Han Language, but not exactly dialects. They are officially chosen manners of writing and speaking of Han Language.

普通话 is by the government of PR of China; 国语 by whom, I am not quite sure. I only know that when KMG ruling the whole China, 国语 was there.

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skylee
I only know that when KMG ruling the whole China, 国语 was there.

What is KMG?

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atitarev
国语 - 普通话

The only time I've heard the terms "普通话" or "国语" was when I was with my girlfriend in Hong Kong and she was checking whether waiters/shopkeepers spoke Mandarin.

I hear in Hong Kong they now use the term 普通话 more often than 国语 when referring to the standard Mandarin.Also the written style in Hong Kong is now a little closer to mainland China rather than to Taiwan but this one I am not sure about.

Yep, 汉语 is used all the time here, at least in northern China.

I was under impression it's one of the most common names for the Chinese language. Our 老师 and 同学 in Melbourne use it all the time. We only use 普通话 to highlight the standard pronunciation and word choice. It's also the most common in textbooks, together with 中文.

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Lu

汉藏语系 Sino-Tibetan language family, I think the English is.

Han Language - 汉语;Mandarin - 官话;Chinese - 中文;国语 - 普通话

I think it's slightly different than this.

官話 should probably be translated as Mandarin, but not the other way around. If you want someone to speak Mandarin (as opposed to Taiwanese or English or whatever), you ask them to speak 普通話 (on the mainland) or 國語 (on Taiwan). Asking a modern Chinese to speak 官話 will only get you weird looks (I suppose, I haven't actually tried this out).

So, does 漢語 include Wenzhounese, Cantonese, Minnan etc etc? After all, these are all spoken by Han people. 'Han language' is not an existing English term, I believe, it's translated Chinese.

I think 中文 = Chinese, including all dialects.

The ROC/KMT used to call Mandarin 國語, but now they are slowly starting to change this to 華語. I'm not sure how correct this is (would 華語 include dialects, or is it a specific term for Mandarin?). I think I only heard the term once in real life, when an old man in Henan complimented me on my excellent 華語.

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wai ming
The ROC/KMT used to call Mandarin 國語, but now they are slowly starting to change this to 華語. I'm not sure how correct this is (would 華語 include dialects, or is it a specific term for Mandarin?). I think I only heard the term once in real life, when an old man in Henan complimented me on my excellent 華語.

As far as I've encountered the term, 華語 seems to refer to Mandarin as opposed to dialects; at least, that's how it is used in South-east Asia - it's pretty common for Singaporeans and Malaysians to use 華語 to refer to Mandarin as opposed to Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka etc.

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atitarev
So, does 漢語 include Wenzhounese, Cantonese, Minnan etc etc? After all, these are all spoken by Han people. 'Han language' is not an existing English term, I believe, it's translated Chinese.

Technically, yes, it's true but like in English, "speak Chinese" often means "speak Mandarin" for shortness; standard Chinese is Mandarin (Putonghua or Guoyu), anyway.

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Strawberries513

~~~ edit

sorry, I wrote this when I was in a very bad mood and very tired. Apologies.

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imron

What other languages have you studied?

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Madot

Dear Strawberries,

You have just contradicted yourself. You say that anyone complaining absout tones or writing is just lazy, but isn't that the point? If the language were easy, you could learn it without much effort, even if you were lazy. If being lazy, not putting in the required effort, means you can't learn the language, then, by definition it is a difficult languaage requiring effort! No?

In one sense, of course, NO language is difficult. I mean children learn to speak their native languager at roughly the same age all around the world. What makes a language difficult is the amount of difference between one's native language and the language they are studying. For English speakers, Chinese is arguably the hardest foreign language to learn because of the vast linguistic differences between the two languages.

Strawberries, if you are a very talented language learner who doesn't find the tones (or the writing) difficult, good for you! You are quite unusual, however, and your experience is not generalizable to the vast majority of learners of Chinese (unless of course, you come from a tone-based character language like Chinese.)

Mado

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renzhe

Strawberries is either a native speaker of a language from the Sino-Tibetan language group, or he/she's been studying ancient Sumerian and Egyptian.

I have witnessed Cantonese speakers pick up Mandarin in months, and the same thing with Vietnamese speakers.

I have, on the other hand, witnessed extremely talented language learners from Europe pick up Mandarin in years, badly.

I've never seen anything approaching the difficulty level of Chinese, and I've dabbled in Croatian, Spanish, English, German, Latin, Greek, Turkish and Arabic. This most certainly has to do with my language background. If I were a Beijinger, I'd probably find Cantonese a breeze compared to, say, English.

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