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Larry Language Lover

Learning Chinese Compared to Other Languages

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Larry Language Lover

Hi, I'm just wondering of others have had similar experiences to mine.  I love learning languages, and I use natural methods and the "Comprehensible Imput" concept.   This has worked very well for me with languages like French, German, and Italian.  I usually use apps like Duolingo to get a basis and then do lots of daily listening.  I usually make swift progress and advance quickly in listening comprehension.

Chinese is a whole different story.  (I'm a native English speaker.)    I have used tons of Duolingo as well as HelloChinese and ChineseSkill.

Finished all of these as far as the "skill tree" goes.    After having done much less in the other languages, I can listen to the radio in those languages and understand most or even all of what I listen to.  Impossible to do that in Chinese!  My listening comprehension is horrible I think!

Progress is excruciatingly slow.  Is this normal?  Recently I've started listening to the videos on the YouTube channel "Slow and Clear Chinese" over and over again while looking at the written text in Chinese.  I have also made them into MP3 files to listen on the go.  I see some very slow improvement.  When does it start getting easier or better?

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calibre2001
9 hours ago, Larry Language Lover said:

Progress is excruciatingly slow.  Is this normal?  Recently I've started listening to the videos on the YouTube channel "Slow and Clear Chinese" over and over again while looking at the written text in Chinese.  I have also made them into MP3 files to listen on the go.  I see some very slow improvement.  When does it start getting easier or better?

 

Perfectly normal since Chinese has a high barrier to learning at the beginning stage. If you're serious about the language, taking classes to learn proper pronunciation (especially the tones) will pay off in the long run. And I think it helps improve listening skills too. Reading & writing can come later, it's better to build a solid foundation first in speaking & listening rather than having to re-learn pronunciation later. Then things become easier.

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Flickserve

It is definitely a time consuming process.

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Larry Language Lover

But is it normal to be fast at picking up other languages in listening comprehension and slow at Chinese?

People have told me several times that I have a gift for languages, but I seriously doubt it, especially with Chinese!

If it were a gift, I would think it would show in Chinese too.  I think what I have instead is a passion for languages and a willingness to invest time in them (which in the long run will benefit me in Chinese because it means I will just keep on going no matter what.)

It does bother me how quickly I got to a high level in listening and speaking in Spanish, French, and German and the fact that I can't get similar results in Chinese.  (Maybe my 57 year old brain has reached its limit LOL!). In Chinese it feels like being stuck in preschool or Kindergarten.  I think there probably are genuinely gifted individuals that can learn Chinese quickly.

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道艺黄帝

This may be learning what language distance is the hard way! 

 

Do you live in China/a Chinese community? If not, please ignore the following, but one thing that always stumps me is why Chinese-learners will dump hours into apps, books, computer lessons, etc., yet neglect what I believe is the most valuable resource - Chinese speakers! 

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Lu
2 minutes ago, Larry Language Lover said:

But is it normal to be fast at picking up other languages in listening comprehension and slow at Chinese?

Yes, yes, yes. Welcome to your first non-Indo-European language!

 

I'm assuming English is your first language and you live in a country where that is the main language. Western European languages have a lot of words in common with each other, and that is enormously helpful in learning them. They also share similar grammar. Every language has its own difficult bits (all the verb tenses for Spanish, the declinations in German), but knowing one (like English) helps you along in learning the rest of them.

 

In addition, in many English-speaking countries most people speak only English and have never learned a foreign language, or only learned it half-heartedly for a few years in secondary school. This means that if you get to the level where you can read a regular book or make conversation in a foreign language, people around you will be very impressed and will laud you as a great talent with an amazing natural language-learning ability. (Also because they only see the book/the conversation, not the many hours of practice you put into it.)

 

Then you get to Chinese and not only is absolutely every word different from all the words you learned before, you also have to grapple with tones and with sounds you have never even remotely produced before. And the grammar does all kinds of things that you never encountered. Then you get to the characters and it turns out that all the listening ability in the world is not helping you with reading and vice versa. So all the tricks and hints you could use for your previous languages don't work any more. So you put in the same amount of work, but progress is much slower.

 

The good news is that this is indeed entirely normal, we've all been there, and if you continue to study your Chinese will improve. But it will always improve more slowly than you have been used to with other languages.

 

Good luck, keep at it!

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Larry Language Lover
1 hour ago, 道艺黄帝 said:

Do you live in China/a Chinese community? If not, please ignore the following, but one thing that always stumps me is why Chinese-learners will dump hours into apps, books, computer lessons, etc., yet neglect what I believe is the most valuable resource - Chinese speakers! 

 

 

No, unfortunately.   I am from the USA but live in Spain.  I have however tried a few simple phrases with some Chinese shop owners here

but I feel shy with Spanish people around and these are busy shops.   The first time I tried though, the expression on the Chinese woman's face was priceless.  Her eyes got big and her mouth dropped open.  I think in this area they probably never even run into foreigners who would try to say something in their language  The second time I tried was even more positive.  The shop worker ended up showing me pictures of his area of China on the store computer and on his phone.  The next day we passed on the street by accident and he greeted me with a wave and a warm smile.

I have also sent short voice recordings on a language exchange app at the very beginning to Chinese people asking if I was understandable.  They immediately responded with the Chinese text of what I had said!  Made me so happy, I was floating for a few hours lol.

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Larry Language Lover
39 minutes ago, Lu said:

I'm assuming English is your first language and you live in a country where that is the main language.

 

 

Thanks! Yes, English is my first language but I live in Spain.

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Shelley

Welcome to the roller coaster that is learning Chinese.

 

You will have ups and downs, you will hit the famous plateau more than once and then make some amazing progress and then... there's that plateau again.

 

Its so different from any of the Indo-European languages that it is hard to compare.

 

However if you are language orientated and have the ability to apply yourself then you might make better progress than some.

 

Above all enjoy it, remember it will be a life long journey and I don't think there is ever a point in any student's life where they say "Thats it, I have learnt Chinese"

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abcdefg
15 hours ago, Larry Language Lover said:

The first time I tried though, the expression on the Chinese woman's face was priceless.  Her eyes got big and her mouth dropped open.  I think in this area they probably never even run into foreigners who would try to say something in their language  The second time I tried was even more positive.  

 

This is a good thing to try. Can try it in Chinese restaurants as well. I do it all the time when I'm visiting the US. 

 

But bear in mind that if you get a shrug plus a blank look or puzzled stare, it doesn't necessarily mean that your Chinese is awful. It may just be that the shopkeeper or restaurant worker is from somewhere in China that uses a different language. They might, for example, be from some remote corner of Guangdong or Fujian and 99% of the time only speak their local languages instead of Mandarin 普通话。Also, if they do speak some Mandarin with you, their pronunciation might not be "standard" 标准; they might have a strong local accent. Your beginner Mandarin pronunciation might in fact be better than theirs. 

 

So this is just to tip you off; to reassure you. If you don't sound like them, don't automatically beat yourself up and think it means that you are at fault or in the wrong. Take this kind of impromptu practice with a grain of salt, even though it's fun and can be rewarding. 

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