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Guest phantom004

What makes Chinese so difficult?

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Guest phantom004

I was thinking about learning chinese as my third language but have heard that it's really difficult and want to know what makes it so hard. My mums good friend tried to learn it once to become a translator because apparently you can get a lot of money for it but gave up after a few months. So is it the characters, pronouncing, a lot of diferent cases etc. I just would like to know if I should look into it seriosly.

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Tsunku

In the beginning, Chinese isn't really all that difficult. The tones and characters are a pain, but the grammar is fairly straightforward in the beginning. Later on it gets a little more complex, but still, you don't have to deal with conjugations, or noun gender, and the basic pattern remains SVO, like English. When I started off Chinese I found it surprisingly simple. Now that I've gotten farther with it, it's gotten a little trickier, but you shouldn't let Chinese intimidate you. It's got a reputation for being more difficult than it really is, in my opinion.

Of course on a Chinese forum, we're gonna tell you it's worth it, otherwise we wouldn't be here. :)

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kangkai
In the beginning' date=' Chinese isn't really all that difficult. The tones and characters are a pain, but the grammar is fairly straightforward in the beginning. Later on it gets a little more complex, but still, you don't have to deal with conjugations, or noun gender, and the basic pattern remains SVO, like English. When I started off Chinese I found it surprisingly simple. Now that I've gotten farther with it, it's gotten a little trickier, but you shouldn't let Chinese intimidate you. It's got a reputation for being more difficult than it really is, in my opinion.

Of course on a Chinese forum, we're gonna tell you it's worth it, otherwise we wouldn't be here. :)[/quote']

I feel exactly the opposite. I've been studying Mandarin for about a year now and I started feeling the payoff after 9 months. I thought getting started with Mandarin is quite hard - you have an overwhelming amount of characters and I'm still having a hard time with some of the sounds and the tones.

I should note that my work is completely self study and I'm living in the middle of the cornfields - Champaign, Illinois. The only saving grace is the large Chinese population among the students, and how helpfull they are. So, my situation is not quite ideal for learning Mandarin, but I love every second of it, so it does not matter. :)

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Tsunku

My first Chinese teacher was really good. I felt like she did a good job of making the language accessible and non-intimidating. I really feel like the way the language is introduced plays a large part in your attitude towards it. The teachers at my school now are extremely strict and rigid, and if I had started off with them, I might have felt differently about it, but I distinctly remember thinking, to my surprise, that Chinese was actually pretty easy at that point!

I met a guy in China who lived in a really small village and had taught himself English that was better than that of a lot of university students I knew. I really admire people who have the discipline for self-study, especially in a place where you get hardly any chance at all to practice it. It was easy for me to do self-study in China of course, but in America I really need the discipline of a class or else I'd just get bogged down in everything else in my life and Chinese would end up low on the priority list. I used to try and teach myself languages when I was a kid and ended up fairly conversant in Swedish as a result (don't laugh, I had some close Swedish friends and my grandfather was Swedish 8) ), but I had a lot more time on my hands then.

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kangkai
My first Chinese teacher was really good. I felt like she did a good job of making the language accessible and non-intimidating. I really feel like the way the language is introduced plays a large part in your attitude towards it. The teachers at my school now are extremely strict and rigid, and if I had started off with them, I might have felt differently about it, but I distinctly remember thinking, to my surprise, that Chinese was actually pretty easy at that point!

I'd love to take regular classes at the University of Illinois, but my work schedule does not alow it. Better yet, go to China but again I have the golden shackles. So I'm stuck trying to learn it on my own, in my own time.

My progress is slow, but since it is my hobby I'm not complaining. :)

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Tsunku

That article is really cool. It illustrates really well the difference between learning a language closer to our own and learning Chinese. When I learned Spanish, reading was the easiest part for me, while my speaking and listening lagged. With Chinese, it's just the opposite.

Notice though, that the majority of the reasons given for Chinese being difficult are related to the writing system. Learning to speak Chinese isn't nearly as difficult as learning to read and write. So it really depends on what your goals are. Becoming literate is a real challenge, but I've seen people pick up the spoken language quite quickly. A friend of mine goes to a school where they don't even introduce characters until the second year. So yeah, I didn't mean to imply that Chinese is just a walk in the park, but only that not every aspect is as difficult as you might think.

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smithsgj

Just read it. While an awful lot of it is just complaining (which is silly -- Chinese just *is*) it makes in my opinion one extremely valid point about cross-skill reinforcement.

By "skills" I mean as defined on the titles of some of these forums -- reading writing speaking listening. For an English speaker (for example) learning French can be easier than Chinese, because there's an easy transfer process between the skills. You read something, figure out what it probably means from the context, but don't have time to check it in a dictionary. Later you hear it on the news; or in a conversation, when you can query the meaning with the other person. Pretty soon you've got the word down, and you can start using it in your own speech.

Because there's no clear mapping between sound and written symbol in Chinese, you just can't make these associations; and that slows down the learning process no end, I think.

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Guest ciwei

I think smithsgj makes some very valid points. In a similar vein, I remember reading a book many years ago, called "Learning Chinese" (I think) by John DeFrancis (I think!). The book wasn't a self-study guide but rather about the Chinese language itself and some of its pecularities. One thing the author asserted was that for a Western student, it would take five years of studying Chinese to reach the same level of fluency that one would obtain with two years of study of another Western European language. For me, this has been both a source of encouragement when things seem to be going slowly and of frustration when I realise how long it's going to take to make any progress!

Ciwei

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smithsgj

The book may have been "Chinese language (I think!!) -- Fact and fantasy".

My favourite bit is the idea of roman-letter significs, with Chinese radicals. So you have C-A-N with a side-hand radical for "keyi", with a metal radical for a tin-can, and san-dian-shui for toilet.

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