Learning Chinese - An Introduction to Mandarin Chinese

Jun 5


Justin Mitchell

Justin Mitchell

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Learning Chinese is valuable both for travel and for business. As one of the oldest language in the world, it presents challenges not found in Western language. But don't let that stop you! To find out more about the Chinese language, keep reading...

Learning Chinese,Learning Chinese - An Introduction to Mandarin Chinese Articles like any language, is going to take some time and effort. Chinese gets a "bad rap" as being one of the most difficult languages to learn. However, there are also reasons why learning Chinese may actually be EASIER than learning a language such as Spanish or French. Whether you've decided to learn Chinese for business or pleasure, or whether you're just beginning to learn Chinese or are at a more advanced level, here are some things you expect: 1. No Verb Conjugations - That's right! The Chinese language does not require verb conjugations. For example, the Chinese word in pinyin for "to be" is "shi", pronounced "shir". To say "I am" is "Wo shi" (pronounced "Wor shir"). To say "He is" would be "Ta shi" (pronounced "Tah shir"). Notice the verb "to be" or "shi" has not changed form whatsoever. This is how all verbs in Chinese are and this makes learning new verbs much easier, because you don't need to concern yourself with multiple variations of each verb. 2. No Verb Tenses - Verbs in Chinese do not change form based on the tense you are using. Contrast this with English where we would say "I go" versus "I went". In English, Spanish, French and most languages, the actual verb form changes, sometimes very drastically, based on when the action took place. In Chinese, this is not the case. To say "I go" would be "Wo qu" (pronounced "Wor choo"). To say "I went" would be "Wo qu le" (pronounced "Wor choo le"). Notice the "le" at the end of the sentence, which indicates that the action is in the past. However, the verb itself "qu" has not changed. Regardless of whether you are doing an action now, in the past or in the future, Chinese does not require you to modify the verb form. 3. No Gender Nouns - Gender nouns are a common component in some languages such as Spanish and French. There are no gender nouns in Chinese. 4. Chinese Grammar is Relatively Simple - A sentence in English such as, "I want to go to the beach" in Chinese would be translated as "I want go beach". There are rarely any "extra" words used such as "to", "the", etc. Many beginners learning Chinese take a while to get used to speaking so straightforward and without these words so common in other languages. You must be asking yourself... So if that's all true, then why do people say it's so hard to learn Chinese!?! Learning Chinese does have its challenges. These challenges include: 1. Characters Instead of an Alphabet - The Chinese language is composed of over 30,000 characters, although only a few thousand are really necessary to learn for daily conversation. While Chinese has something called "radicals" which do make up characters, there is no alphabet in the standard sense of the word. This can make learning Chinese more difficult because you won't be able to use reading as a way to learn to speak. For example, if you know English and have a basic concept of how Spanish is pronounced, you could pick up any book and begin to read it. You may not know what the meaning is, but at least you can read and pronounce what is on paper. Chinese however is not like this. If you haven't specifically memorized the character you are reading, you don't know it and cannot say it. Therefore, it is impossible for a beginner to pick up a piece of paper and read the Chinese characters on it. This is why many people learn to speak Chinese quite well, yet can't read and write Chinese characters. 2. Tones - Chinese is a tonal language, meaning that the pronunciation of the word affects its meaning. This can be tricky to those who have not grown up with a tonal language as their mother tounge. There are examples such as "ma" which can mean "mother", "horse", "port" and a few other things just by changing the tone. While tones are important and certainly a challenge, don't let this be an excuse not to learn Chinese. The more familiar you become with the language the more straightforward speaking with the proper tones will become. Now that you have a primer on the Chinese language if you didn't already, don't wait to begin or continue your Chinese language study! To learn more about the Chinese language and for resources to help you study Chinese, please visit us at The China Book Review.