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wushijiao

Some advice for beginners

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kangdanlin

for me one of the best advice is to create crazy conversations..try to use the words to say crazy things..if you dont want to get bored with the standard lessons like ni hao! ni hao ma etc

make it more like your personality

this is the way i learned english and this will be the way i will learn mandarin.

my chinese teacher made some big eyes when i asked how to say to a girl "i like your ass" and stuff like that.....this is a crazy way to evoid becoming bored....but...i am a crazy guy...so is perfect:):mrgreen: for me

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crazy-meiguoren

I'm taking an online class in Chinese at a community college. We are using an ActiveChinese CD as our textbook. The campus is about an 60 to 70 minute drive from my home, so I don't have much opportunity to chat with my teacher. There are a couple of Chinese co-workers I could talk to, I'm sure they might be happy to help. I must admit, though, that my initial interest in Chinese was motivated by being attracted to one of them. My attempt to hit up on her failed... :(

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wushijiao
My attempt to hit up on her failed...

That’s too bad! Better luck next time!

At least in my experience, however, if you really want to learn Chinese well, you need to have a tremendous inner source of passion for doing it. That was the main idea of this post. And for me at least, it always works better if that passion comes from different sources. That way, if at any one given point in time, one of your sources of inspiration (a Muse) leaves you or fades from your interest, or you get disillusioned from one source, you can always get inspired from other sources (Chinese current events, history, martial arts, Daoism, Chinese Buddhism, learning about Chinese cuisines, meeting/ hanging out with Chinese people….etc).

Good luck! :D

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crazy-meiguoren
At least in my experience, however, if you really want to learn Chinese well, you need to have a tremendous inner source of passion for doing it. That was the main idea of this post. And for me at least, it always works better if that passion comes from different sources.

I do have an inner desire to learn the Chinese language. I have had a long time fascination with the Chinese culture and history. Back when my European ancestors were living quite primitively, the Chinese had all kinds of inventions that have me impressed - earthquake resistant building techniques, carts with statues that always pointed south no matter which way it was turned, and quite a few other inventions that don't come to mind right now.

Adding to the passion is the encouragement I get from my instructor, a very supportive person. So far I have received top grades in my assignments. So far, my lessons have covered topics such as introducing yourself to others, ordering drinks, giving directions, and making social appointments.

Today, the second language of choice in the USA is Spanish, because of the high number of Spanish speaking immigrants we have. However, I am looking beyond today, believing that Chinese speaking skills will be needed in the near future. China is rapidly rising on the world scene today. It is a far different country than the China I knew about as a kid.

There is an increasing number of Chinese immigrants moving into my neighborhood. I had a lighthearted moment with an older Chinese couple while I was out jogging. I said Hi to them as I was going by. They said, "We're Chinese. We don't know English." I told them, "I don't know Chinese either!" At that, we all had a good laugh.

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PMMeddings

I'm a professional linguist - a translator - but my "business languages" are European - Swedish, Norwegian - which are as close as you can get to English in terms of grammatical structure etc.

My first impressions of Chinese, after months of browsing around and reading on the web, is that the Grammar actually seems to be simpler than English, once you get over the key rules (which are very different).

The pronunciation is a bit of a so-and-so and the fact that you can't really use tone of voice to convey mood, because that's an integral part of the language. The same word in a different tone is... a different word altogether. That can only come with practice.

The writing is something else entirely - obviously - but then I suppose the theory that the brain learns the "shape" of words at the same time as learning the c-o-m-p-o-n-e-n-t l-e-t-t-e-r-s comes into play. Again, only practice will prevail.

One useful trick I've found in learning any language is with the grammar and particularly syntax. I was taught this by a bloke called the Reverend Darroch, who taught me Ancient Greek for four years at school back some time in the early 14th Century.:mrgreen:

Try speaking English with the grammar and syntax of another language. I've found this particularly useful in learning German:

"When I watch TV, I don't like my favourite films being interrupted by adverts all the time".

Convert it into German syntax and grammar and you get this:

"When I far-see, pleases it to me not, that my favourite films of advertising ever interrupted become."

If you start translating this into German itself, then you can start worrying about conjugation, case, yada yada yada:

"Wenn ich fernsehe, gefällt es mir nicht, dass meine Favoritfilme von Werbung immer unterbrochen werden."

Now, I'm probably going to make myself look a total chump here, but if you do this in Chinese, I figure there's several ways to do it, but I reckon probably the simplest which still conveys the same type of meaning is:

"I watch TV, but is I-favourite-film ever become-by advert interrupt's, and I not like it."

Here the "'s" is the "的“ particle and "become-by" is the "被” passive.

OK, here we go...

“我看电视, 但是我受到偏爱电影再三被广告打断的,和我不喜欢那。”

Feel free to comment, as I'm sure you will...

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Lu

Perhaps you'd best post this in a different forum, in its own thread. I can make a lot of comments on this but that would drag things off-topic.

(In short: yes, tone can be used to convey emotions, although this does take practice; and imo you need to leave European languages behind if you want to speak real Chinese, translation of the kind you do at the end of your post is usually not possible. You can translate 'What's going on' to German somewhat convincingly, but try that with 怎么了 and you see what I mean.

Lastly, I was taught that the language closest to English is in fact Frisian, and after that Dutch.)

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chinahandinfo

Great advice all round! thanks a bunch guys! It's so important to get out ''on the streets'' and use what you have learnt in the classroom.

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TheLostOne

Thank you, I did not even know a form like this existed! You do not know how much this has helped me, just with feeling better about my choice. I chose to work in China for 2 years as a teacher and yet I was getting scared in my first class. I tend to run away from things that scary me to much.

I think I may stick to it and stalk these forms, praying I do better then when I tried Spanish. At least this time I like the language and I have a want to learn it. I got time and shall use it to practice.

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wushijiao
I chose to work in China for 2 years as a teacher and yet I was getting scared in my first class. I tend to run away from things that scary me to much.

I think I may stick to it and stalk these forms, praying I do better then when I tried Spanish. At least this time I like the language and I have a want

Well, re-reading this post (for the first time in a while), it does seem a bit cheesy, but I did want to convey how exciting, fun, and interesting it can be to live in China, and to start learning the language.

I think if you read these forums it will help you get through and solve any issues that come up, since most likely somebody else has experienced it as well.

Good luck!

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Kai13

Such a great post!

Hi.

I'm going to college this year, and will learn mandarin as my major (japanese as minor) and I'm still far from seing all of the usefull stuff this forum has, but this post is so helpful! I can't wait to see the rest.

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Doudaole

This thread seems to be moving at a sub-glacial speed, but it's a sticky so I'll go ahead and make my opening salvo here.

I've lived in Shenyang (In northeast China) for almost a year and a half now, and I'm not saying that as way to promote any amount of expertise or knowledge on my part. Far from it! I just want to relate my experience with the language and culture a bit.

My Chinese skills are still rather limited, well actually they are awful!

I have some major frustration with the thrust of the teaching material that is available. 99.999 percent of it is focused on Mandarin and Cantonese. I know absolutely nothing about Cantonese (other than it's not Mandarin.) So what? So the material is all focused on Mandarin, isn't that what everyone speaks? Well, actually no, it's not actually what anyone speaks, heres the deal as I see it.

It seems that there is some actual resistance among the Chinese people to speak anything but their home city language, although a lot of movies, almost all of the news and most university professors in the north make use of mandarin, it's still not what is commonly spoken anywhere as far as I can tell.

Yes, Mandarin seems to have a lot in common with the Beijing dialect, but isn't mandarin actually based on the educated and wealthy class of nearly 100 years ago? I'm not sure, as I'm having a hard time finding a good history about it on the internet.

Actually mandarin seems to have about as much in common with the local Shenyang dialect as say, someone's speech from Chicago would have in common with a drunken Cajun who had just been in a bar-fight and had eight-twelve teeth knocked out of their head, imagine this person trying to recite the Gettysburgh address while being tazered. Yes, I think it's that different. I listen to and practice speaking in Mandarin on the net and with books CD's etc. and yes sometimes I can understand some phrases on the news or in media in general however when trying to talk with hotel clerks, taxi drivers or someone walking down the street, there suddenly is a commnication gulf as wide as the grand canyon. The words they produce still most often sound like whirr, whirr whirr whir, whir whir whir!!!

And yes, I have some Chinese friends who sometimes help me study, but they have a rough time trying to understand that I want to learn the local dialect. They of course can speak both mandarin and the local brands of Chinese I'm starting to make some headway now that I am beginning to at least identify the problem. People here that can speak mandarin tend to code-switch (instantaneously switch back and forth) with Mandarin and the local tongue, and nobody seems to comprehend that while I can sometimes speak and be understood in Mandarin, I'm still getting whirr whirr whirr in response.

There are apparently no educational materials that even begin to address this issue. Perhaps it's not an issue for other people, maybe it's just me, but actually I'm pretty sure it's not just me as there seem to be very few non-Chinese people here who approach anything like fluency with the local dialect. Yes, there are foreigners who speak mandarin pretty well, but mostly only Mandarin. It's crazy, but I feel like there's this huge 18trillion ton elephant standing in the middle of China's language dept. and nobody's talking about it.

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chrix

This is actually a well-known issue in Chinese language language education, and I think most of us here have been apprehensive about choosing the right place to study Chinese abroad (one of the reasons I went to Taipei, a majority of people speak Mandarin there, also in their everyday lives). Some people have a knack for picking up language spoken on the street, and have studied that when outside of the classroom.

But in general, another problem is with any language you learn, teaching will usually focus on the formal language and avoid a lot of colloquialisms and slang, and so you will even run into problems in places where they "only" speak Mandarin.

The more remote the everyday language is from formal Mandarin, the harder it would be for you to pick it up without any formal efforts, so Cantonese will be harder than Sichuanese and so forth...

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taylor04

You just need to improve your speaking and listening. I've traveled to provinces all over China. While most of the local people speak a dialect, all the young people can speak Mandarin. They might have an accent but its a small hurdle to get over. The other side to listening is being able to guess what they are saying. I can talk on almost any subject while only understanding 80% of what they are saying. It's a skill you have to build up, but it allows you have full conversations even if they are throwing chengyu at you:mrgreen:

A good way to get better at guessing what people are saying is listening to what they say and paraphrase it. "Oh, ............... 对不对"

Have you built a good foundation? Learning pinyin, tones, characters, grammar etc etc? Without a good foundation picking up the language is going to be difficult (not impossible), just listening to some cds isn't going to magically make you understand it.

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chrix

Yes, in the same vein, you could see if you can find some articles on Shenyang-hua in a university library or something, because there's bound to be some research on it. I don't think it will be in English or resemble any kind of textbook, but if you knew some basics like pronunciation, tones, grammatical constructions and maybe some vocabulary it might help you a to some extent.

But be careful that sometimes in Chinese dialectology they will write their examples in characters without indicating their pronunciation in the dialect described, I hope this won't be the case for Shenyang-hua...

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abcdefg
People here that can speak mandarin tend to code-switch (instantaneously switch back and forth) with Mandarin and the local tongue, and nobody seems to comprehend that while I can sometimes speak and be understood in Mandarin, I'm still getting whirr whirr whirr in response.

I make a point of telling people I can only speak Putonghua and not the local "hua." If they forget, I tell them again. The most trouble I have is in the 菜市场 where many of the vendors are elderly or are villagers only in the city for a short while.

The last thing in the world I want right now is to start speaking some kind of regional dialect as my main Chinese tongue because then I'll be screwed if I leave that little corner of the country, and I'm definitely not ready to settle down just in one place quite yet.

I have some major frustration with the thrust of the teaching material that is available.

I disagree with you and would be frustrated if the thrust of it were *not* standard Mandarin. Maybe much, much later down the road I’ll want to pick up more of a local dialect or two.

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Doudaole

Well, the speed of this thread has rapidly accelerated! My foundation with Mandarin is not too bad but I think Talyor is pointing out and agreeing with me that listening to CD's of people speaking in Mandarin will only get you to listen and speak in Mandarin.

My pinyin production is better than most Chinese people's, I can sit and take almost perfect dictation in pinyin, so yes I can definitely hear the tones and initials and vowels in Mandarin. I still need tons of work in sentence construction and grammar though.

It does seem that most people around 30 years old and younger that have been to university have a good handle on Mandarin, however they don't use it in daily life. In Shenyang, people have told me they think it sounds ugly and contrived but I'm not quite sure how widespread that sentiment is. The closest thing I can think of is Mandarin is thought of as "The Queens English" of China. Can you imagine trying to get everyone in Louisiana to speak like the Brittish royalty did in 1890? It could be taught but surely it wouldn't catch on.

OK, so for me this is a big problem and I'm just now working on finding ways to understand the northeast dialect, or more specifially the Shenyang daily use dialect. Since this is a thread of advice for beginner's I won't continue this quest here, I'll take it to other threads.

I'm quite glad to have found this discussion board, there are a lot of knowledgeable people here. I hope to add some more upbeat posts soon!

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gato

Shenyang hua is very close to standard Mandarin. Improving your Mandarin should also improve your ability to understand Shenyang hua.

Here are a few videos done in Shenyang hua / Dongbei hua for those of you who are curious. 东北话版蜡笔小新 is great!

http://www.56.com/w21/play_album-aid-7576758_vid-NDU4MjA0NDY.html

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjc2ODQ3Mjg=.html

东北话版蜡笔小新

http://www.56.com/u57/v_NDc5MzI1OTA.html

优乐美广告恶搞版

http://www.56.com/u27/v_MTY3NTgxMjA.html

沈阳话等级考试词汇大纲List1

And a vocab list:

http://haoming637.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!9A1E63766F0F0842!230.entry

咱们沈阳话!!

Edited by gato

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taylor04

Wow gato you're right, it's very close to Mandarin. That first one, the cartoon, is funny!

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anonymoose
for me this is a big problem and I'm just now working on finding ways to understand the northeast dialect, or more specifially the Shenyang daily use dialect.

I suspect part of the problem is not the dialect, but just that the kind of material covered in your books is different to what you speak on the street. A lot of dialogue-based teaching materials start from introducing yourself, talking about your hobbies and things, but never cover the stuff that people really talk about (how much do you earn, do you like chinese girls, westerners have big noses, etc). If I were you, I wouldn't worry too much about the local dialect. Just practice mandarin as much as you can in daily life (for example, find some language exchange parters, or even pay for some teachers) and if you can pick up some Shenyanghua along the way, you can incorporate that into your mandarin. As your general mandarin competency improves, I think you'll be able to understand the local dialect a lot better. After all, as others have pointed out, it's very similar to standard mandarin anyway.

The first time I stayed in China for any length of time was in Dalian, and like you, I had problems understanding locals talking to each other. However, I returned to Dalian a few years later (after having spent time in other parts of China), and found that I was able to understand much more, in spite of not having had exposure to Dalianhua in the meantime. I also went to Shenyang, and likewise had no problem understanding locals. I think when your mandarin improves, your tolerance to local variations will also increase.

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