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Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard ?

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I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn't remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 "to sneeze". I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the "Harvard of China". Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word "sneeze"?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China. English is simply orders of magnitude easier to write and remember."

 

by David Moser

University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies

http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

 

 

my native languages are turkish and kurdish..I'm learning Mandarin(Chinese), Chinese shares very little vocabulary with European languages(and with my native languages)

Is there an easy way to learning Chinese?

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That's interesting. Is there any research on how many characters are typically known to Chinese-speaking people, at various levels of education? Like, and I don't know anything about this, but for example a typical 5 year old might know a dozen, a 15 year old might know 40, and a typical PhD candidate might know 100? Or does it even work that way?

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Is there an easy way to learning Chinese?

Chinese really isn't that hard, it's just a lot of memorization. The syntax and sentence structure is very clean and logical. The easiest way to learn it is to immerse yourself in it, and just keep practicing. Like anything else, the more you practice the easier it will become. Also, note that writing it is much harder than speaking it, so be sure to practice writing as often as possible. That's the only way to pick it up and remember it. Memory is the key here. If you have a poor memory, learning the chinese characters ( 汉字 ) will be especially hard.

 

Just like Rome wasn't built in a day, you can't learn all of the chinese characters in a day, either. The more you use it, the better you will be.

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Uh Pangloss? Being literate usually requires the knowledge of 3 to 4000 characters.

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Grammatically, Chinese is much simpler than indo-european languages though. I think you could get by fairly well knowing under 1000 characters.

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You would only get around a third of all characters in an average newspaper, though.

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I learned today

In Chinese language, which interprets every word with a shape, risk-crisis is written by putting two shapes side by side: Danger and opportunity.

 

interesting..

 

Is "danger" plus "opportunity" equal "crisis" in Chinese?

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Also, note that writing it is much harder than speaking it

Unless you are tone-deaf; then you're stuffed.

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Chinese is much easier to learn if you actually live in China. I stayed there for 3 months and learned so much as you're surrounded by the language. As someone above said the Chinese characters aren't actually that difficult to learn as it's more about memory which just takes time. Que cards are very helpful and I also have a program on my computer that flashes Chinese characters at me every 10 seconds which is quite helpful!

Edited by Maestro

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If one sees an unknown Chinese character, is there a way to learn what it means other than asking someone or searching through thousands of characters?

Edited by EdEarl

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I learned today

In Chinese language, which interprets every word with a shape, risk-crisis is written by putting two shapes side by side: Danger and opportunity.

 

interesting..

 

Is "danger" plus "opportunity" equal "crisis" in Chinese?

 

No.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1212

 

And it doesn't associate "every word with a shape". Nearly all words require two or more characters.

If one sees an unknown Chinese character, is there a way to learn what it means other than asking someone or searching through thousands of characters?

 

Characters generally have a phonetic and a semantic component. These usually give you an idea of how it is pronounced and what it means. Of course, if you know Chinese well then you are more likely to be able to guess.

 

It is also important to separate the writing system from the language. When I started learning Chinese I found the biggest problem was simply vocabulary. When learning a European language as a speaker of another European language, for example, a lot of vocabulary comes for "free" because they are similar to, or related to words you know. When learning a language from a completely different family then you are starting from scratch.

 

Chinese seems to be very idiomatic (like English) so there are a lot of phrases that don't mean what they appear to mean.

 

Apart from that, it is grammatically fairly simple and regular (more so than English) so not too difficult to learn.

 

I learnt quite a lot (even surprised myself by having a simple conversation when in Asia one time) but am not able to read anything in Chinese (even though I can read Japanese).

Edited by Strange

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Characters generally have a phonetic and a semantic component. These usually give you an idea of how it is pronounced and what it means. Of course, if you know Chinese well then you are more likely to be able to guess.

 

It also depends a bit whether you use traditional or simplified. In the former you can see more easily what the characters is derived from.

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It also depends a bit whether you use traditional or simplified. In the former you can see more easily what the characters is derived from.

 

Very true. There are cases where two traditional characters (often with completely different meanings) have been merged into a single modern character so the semantic content is lost completely.

 

Personally, I think China should just switch to pinyin. But it is never going to happen. Too much cultural "baggage".

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If one sees an unknown Chinese character, is there a way to learn what it means other than asking someone or searching through thousands of characters?

This is helpful, but I suspect you may have already known about it: https://translate.google.com/

.

Have never used this myself so cannot comment on quality, but seems like this is an option when the character is not digital: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scanner-translator-free-convert/id845139175?mt=8

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Very true. There are cases where two traditional characters (often with completely different meanings) have been merged into a single modern character so the semantic content is lost completely.

 

Personally, I think China should just switch to pinyin. But it is never going to happen. Too much cultural "baggage".

 

Maybe. Although I do understand the reluctance. The same could be said for the simplification of pretty much any other language.Also it is interesting to see how the characters were formed. For example nán (male) 男 is put together from "field" (田) and power (力). Or look at woman (女) which becomes "tranquil" when under a roof (安, ān) and "safe" when ān is put in with everything under a roof (Ānquán, 安全). Or add "tender" (夭) to woman (女) and you get (妖) well, can be something bewitching/supernatural/enchanting, depending on context. Pinyin would lose all the history of the words and make it something else entirely.

 

In fact, that has happened in Chinese history already, starting when the Qin empire standardized the language and writing system. As a consequence there are still different languages/dialects spoken throughout China, but they often do not have the corresponding writing anymore. The surviving written forms are Mandarin and Cantonese, which, in turn are an amalgam of various dialects.

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