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renzhe

This is a rant

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tooironic

I think most learners can identify with what the OP is saying. On the other hand, I'm of the opinion that the huge challenges Mandarin poses is a good thing because it makes it a much more interesting language to learn. I've had a big dip into a number of European languages and, whilst they were fun for a while, they never kept my attention like Mandarin and Korean did. I think that's probably because they are so challenging - and you get a real thrill when you finally master a concept that originally was so daunting.

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querido

I agree with tooironic.

Roddy mentioned chess.

Both Chinese and chess are, for me, nearly limitless worlds in which one can work to solve problems, continuously expand one's knowledge and believe one is improving, while (for most people) never becoming a Grandmaster, never arriving at an end.

There's another important resemblance: they're both performance arts; study from books, yes, but one must go out and play (converse).

These are not bad properties for something that is to be a lifelong interest for someone suitably inclined. Some would point out this could be said of any second language, but I think the theme of the original rant was that it's true of Chinese a little more.

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realmayo

Don't worry renzhe, if you ever learn say Cantonese or Vietnamese you'll do so at light-speed compared to a westerner who knows no Mandarin Chinese... will give you a nicer feeling in your stomach!

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來撒母耳

Wow, even though I'm not in this particular situation, this thread has been a breath of fresh air for me. Just thinking I'm not abnormal for taking so long to 'get' Chinese. I remember when I was first introduced to Chinese words meanings I stared blankly back at the lady trying hard to teach me and all I could come up with was "They look like pictures, my brain doesn't want to connect this with meaning"

I compare this to windows and mac, mac might be easier to understand idealistically, and be more beautiful (not unlike Chinese,) but this windows user only speaks micro-ease, and mac has a high learning curve for me, yet I was able to switch from windows to linux almost effortlessly.

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roddy

Renzhe, I'd like to know how you are getting on with Portuguese.

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renzhe

Good call, roddy :)

At the moment, I can deal with the regular stuff: tickets, restaurants, bars. I've managed to get through some bureaucracy (like visa appointment) too, as well as a health check for social security (don't ask), but that one was mostly hand waving. To be honest, with the move, fixing the leaky roof, getting visa, social security, health insurance, bank account and other stuff sorted out, I haven't had that much free time (I work full-time too).

My learning has been almost 100% passive so far (the textbook was in the process of being shipped for much of the time). I have bought a very stupid teenager book and I'm reading it with the help of a dictionary and gathering common vocabulary. Once that is done, I'll move to a more serious book. I've tried Anki several times, but there are no good decks, and I kept forgetting to do it.

Portuguese phonology is extremely complex, more complex than Chinese. This was a bit surprising. I'll need precise tutoring in order to shed the foreigner accent. I'm told that only Romanians can learn to speak accent-free Portuguese, and I know a challenge when I see one!

Got to practice Chinese when some friends visited last week. It's still functional, but slowly degrading and I'll have to combat that with TV shows and newspaper articles. Conversation too, but there are extremely few conversation partners here, and conversation with only one partner alone is not enough, in my experience.

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roddy

Thanks!

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sleepy eyes

Funny I missed this thread. I'm a native Portuguese speaker. Obviously I cannot relate to your experience, but I can relate to your frustration with Chinese. I've always felt, and I think this is immensely understressed here, that what we, foreign people in China, lack is... immersion in chinese. For several reasons that any expat or student here knows well, varying between north and south. There's no amount of orthodox study that will take you to the upper echelons without some sort of immersion in the language, any language. Since the first day I've been here I've heard the same advice over and over by all sorts of people: a singaporean talking in mexican spanish, a western sinologist, a sinology student from a top of the top school, a latinist, chinese friends, old people, chinese language teachers etc. etc. etc.: if you want to learn chinese well (and fast), get a chinese girlfriend. That's the immersion you can find here, at least outside of the North. I was too P.C. to even consider the realiy of it, but I now see, with a whole lot of embarassment, that it's quite true. Oh, and I know this was a digression, sorry.

On that note, I've just read a very interesting book about a linguist pursuing Mandarin through fully immersing in the language while in China with her family. It's called Dreaming in Chinese. A lot of food for thought there.

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imron
if you want to learn chinese well (and fast), get a chinese girlfriend.

That's the sort of advice that sounds good in theory, but doesn't always work.

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sleepy eyes

From my experience, rezaf got the short end of the straw. They may want to speak/practice english or whatever every now and then, but are always open to speak chinese. By always, I mean always. Then again, I'm dealing with university students, and that's in the Southwest. Maybe I'm luckier than I had realized. -___-

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renzhe

I do have a Chinese girlfriend, actually, but unfortunately I'm not living in China atm. Of course a partner helps, but I'm still missing the proper immersion. My Chinese is OK, but it levels off after a while, and eventually reading and watching TV does not help as much as it used to.

Plus, I think that Chinese is simply very hard :)

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jbradfor
if you want to learn chinese well (and fast), get a chinese girlfriend.

Memo to self: next time you get a Chinese girlfriend from which to learn Chinese, ensure she speaks Mandarin, not Cantonese :o [unless of course one is trying to learn Cantonese.....]

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renzhe

6 months in, and I'm at a level where I can survive most regular daily chores. I got a credit card, argued with the visa people and the traffic authority, and I'm fine with most restaurant visits and shopping (just don't ask me to translate fish names). The most important thing is that people do not switch to English when talking to me, which is something that used to drive some of my foreign friends (:D) insane.

I wouldn't call this fluent, but it's not bad, considering that I did NO studying. Zero. It's all passive.

I wonder how much better my Chinese would be now if I were living in China. Immersion is really important. I also have to be reminded of the people who claimed that renting an apartment in Chinese (or discussing some postgraduate material) was proof of high-level native speaker fluency. Make no mistakes -- my Portuguese is quite criminal, but it does the job.

Time to get a language exchange partner, I guess. The semester is starting, it should be relatively easy...

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Iriya
if you want to learn chinese well (and fast), get a chinese girlfriend.

Yeah, and enjoy the endless pestering for marriage. Very few Chinese girls would date just for fun, most people believe that casual relationships are too 开放 and only the decadent Westerners would do it (many people believe that the Westerners have numerous 性病). Many girls told me that getting married to your very first boyfriend is preferable. If a girl had "too many" boyfriends before marriage, then it becomes a 面子 problem, and she would "feel guilty" before her future husband.

And then there's another type of girls here, who are indeed pretty 开放. They will get it on on the first date, but will always keep nagging you for money. Once you stop buying her things or she finds a richer guy, you're out of the game.

The better way to practice conversational Chinese is QQ. There are so many people online, and most of them don't mind at all chatting with strangers. Just be prepared to be called 骗鬼 or something if you reveal that you're a foreigner.

P.S. This post wasn't supposed to be politically correct. Just wanted to give newcomers a reality check.

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rezaf
That's the sort of advice that sounds good in theory, but doesn't always work.

:lol: I was so dumb back then but I am impressed with my own Chinese at that level.

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jkhsu

I was so dumb back then but I am impressed with my own Chinese at that level.

For having studied Chinese for only half a year, your level back then was amazing!

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FastDebrid

IMO, I think Chinese is one of the toughest languages to study. It is very complicated and is far from any Western language.

I think you should be proud that you understand Portuguese well. Besides, just like you said, you have a background with the Spanish language. :)

Try watching Chinese programs, it will help a lot. ;)

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jbradfor

Hey renzhe, FastDebrid has a great suggestion. Maybe you should watch some Chinese TV or something? I know, I know, maybe you should get really inspired and start a project in which you watch the first episode of a bunch of TV programs and write about it?

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Areckx

Back to the side-topic about how we, as English speakers, read and comprehend writing, I have found that while reading Japanese and Chinese, I tend to use the radicals as a tool to stimulate different areas of my mind. I think there must be more research done on how the brain comprehends Chinese characters, and I think an entire thread could be devoted to this topic.

Basically, with English, an experienced reader reads text in series of groupings, or blocks. For example, you would read

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

in this sort of way::

The + quick brown + fox + jumps over + the lazy dog.

rather than::

T+h+e + q+u+i+c+k + b+r+o+w+n + f+o+x + j+u+m+p+s + o+v+e+r + t+h+e + l+a+z+y + d+o+g

or::

The

quick

brown

fox

jumps

over

the

lazy

dog

.

I think it's boggling how after so many years studying Chinese characters, I still tend to look at them as a hanzi by hanzi basis rather than look at them in groupings, or looking for key radicals to "log in" to the meaning...

I've also been neglecting my Spanish studies(back to the topic, lol) in favor of Chinese. I don't know what it is, but I just can't seem to find the same kind of passion in studying Spanish as I do with Chinese. I don't quite know what it is, but it just doesn't make sense without having to learn characters!!! I know that the challenges in Spanish arise in different spots than the challenges in Chinese, such as vocabulary usage and grammar, pronunciation, and other things I'm not aware of because I am not advanced enough to know them when I see them, but it just feels like reading English...

I think I'm addicted to Chinese characters guys...

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renzhe
Try watching Chinese programs, it will help a lot. ;)

I gave you a +1 for that suggestion :)

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