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Old 12-15-2012, 11:38 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,683 posts, read 45,344,192 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyh View Post
In order to be competent in the Chinese language, Mandarin specifically, one needs to be able to read at least 3-5k Chinese characters.

I think Chinese language for many outsiders seems like a very complicated language to learn, mainly due to its writing which is drastically different from the Latin script. Grammar wise, it's simple and straight forward, with no conjugations. However, I still think it's one of the toughest languages, especially when it comes to classical Chinese - gosh, I'm still dripping sweat whenever I read a passage written in that form!
Honestly I feel for Chinese schoolkids, but then again I guess for us we read each word as a word, not letter by letter, so in a sense we recognise words the same way a Chinese person would recognise characters. Still, having thousands of characters, it seems mind-boggling. And those characters are so like intricate, doesn't it hurt your eyes to read them? Like sometimes the components are so small I can barely see them!

The tonalism was the thing that I had trouble with when learning even just basic phrases going to China and Taiwan. I tried ordering from McDonalds and I don't think they understood anything I said lol.
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Old 12-15-2012, 11:50 PM
kyh
 
Location: Malaysia & Singapore
383 posts, read 1,061,345 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Honestly I feel for Chinese schoolkids, but then again I guess for us we read each word as a word, not letter by letter, so in a sense we recognise words the same way a Chinese person would recognise characters. Still, having thousands of characters, it seems mind-boggling. And those characters are so like intricate, doesn't it hurt your eyes to read them? Like sometimes the components are so small I can barely see them!

The tonalism was the thing that I had trouble with when learning even just basic phrases going to China and Taiwan. I tried ordering from McDonalds and I don't think they understood anything I said lol.
Well, there's this thing called 'accustomation', lol. But I still find the Chinese novels (esp written in vertical scripts) quite a pain to read. Dailies, no problem.

The intonations are pretty simple too - just 4 intonations, and that's it. I'm surprised to find so many non-Chinese-speakers struggling to master this. Haha.
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Old 12-16-2012, 12:07 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,683 posts, read 45,344,192 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyh View Post
Well, there's this thing called 'accustomation', lol. But I still find the Chinese novels (esp written in vertical scripts) quite a pain to read. Dailies, no problem.

The intonations are pretty simple too - just 4 intonations, and that's it. I'm surprised to find so many non-Chinese-speakers struggling to master this. Haha.
Yeah I guess it's just practice, it's just something totally new for us. Imagine learning Cantonese or Thai, with 7-9 tones, lol.
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:01 AM
 
1,099 posts, read 1,667,247 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
Taiwanese is very similar to Mandarin and is easy to pick up.
I guess you mean Taiwanese Mandarin (Guoyu), which is very similar to mainland Chinese Mandarin (Putonghua) with a few differences. Taiwanese (Taiyu) is a dialect of Southern Min / Minnan / Southern Fujian, which is mutually intelligible with the Hokkien spoken in SE Asia. It is also more often heard outside of Taipei.
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Old 12-16-2012, 11:40 AM
 
5,090 posts, read 8,062,897 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Yeah I guess it's just practice, it's just something totally new for us. Imagine learning Cantonese or Thai, with 7-9 tones, lol.
Just a slight correction in case of a misunderstanding. Thai has 5 tones usually described as high, falling, middle, rising and low. Some of the hilltribers use more tones though, but then they aren't speaking Thai. I can still get screwed up with some words that to the western ear sound similar, but differ widely in meaning because of the tone. "Mai" (rhymes with "fly") is a good example where the correct tone makes all the difference. Fortunately, there aren't too many situations like that. In many cases, Thais can usually tell what you mean from the context, even if you use the wrong tone. At worst, you might sound like you're speaking gibberish. I completely agree that it really gets down to practice. The more often a person uses a language, the easier and more natural it becomes. The awkward early stage is having to make mental translations between different languages. But after a while with enough use, you don't really think about it that much because you already have a mental image of the subject.
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Old 12-16-2012, 11:54 AM
 
Location: The Big O
590 posts, read 663,638 times
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[quote=Trimac20;27361331]Honestly I feel for Chinese schoolkids, but then again I guess for us we read each word as a word, not letter by letter, so in a sense we recognise words the same way a Chinese person would recognise characters. Still, having thousands of characters, it seems mind-boggling. And those characters are so like intricate, doesn't it hurt your eyes to read them? quote]

You mentioned something important. In English, we have more words than Chinese has characters. You can read a Chinese newspaper after knowing 2,000 characters, but need to know more English words to read an English newspaper.

Like our words are based on 26 letters, Chinese characters are based on a similar number of 'types of strokes'. When considering all this, Chinese isn't so difficult. In my honest opinion from teaching English, I think English is more difficult than Chinese.
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Old 12-16-2012, 12:22 PM
kyh
 
Location: Malaysia & Singapore
383 posts, read 1,061,345 times
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[quote=Data1000;27366076]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Honestly I feel for Chinese schoolkids, but then again I guess for us we read each word as a word, not letter by letter, so in a sense we recognise words the same way a Chinese person would recognise characters. Still, having thousands of characters, it seems mind-boggling. And those characters are so like intricate, doesn't it hurt your eyes to read them? quote]

You mentioned something important. In English, we have more words than Chinese has characters. You can read a Chinese newspaper after knowing 2,000 characters, but need to know more English words to read an English newspaper.

Like our words are based on 26 letters, Chinese characters are based on a similar number of 'types of strokes'. When considering all this, Chinese isn't so difficult. In my honest opinion from teaching English, I think English is more difficult than Chinese.
Well you have your points there, but I beg to differ.

Many (note, not all) Chinese characters, if standalone, doesn't make any sense at all - in the same way an alphabet works in English. More often than not, they have to be paired with more than one character in order to form a meaning. This would then be analogous to an English word.

In addition to that, you don't have to read the whole English dictionary in order to pronounce or spell out an English word the right way. You can attempt to spell out a word, and the chances are you'd probably get it right (or somewhere close to the correct spelling). In Chinese, if you haven't heard of a certain character before, you won't even know how to write it - you won't even be sure of which strokes that form that character!

In English, you have certain words that share the same or relatively similar pronunciation, but the variety is generally limited, and a person with a working knowledge of English would be able to guess or discern it rather quickly. E.g., flour, flower; mill, male, meal (not same, but rather close)

In Chinese, a 'ma' can have up to dozens of characters - 马 吗 玛 妈 嘛 麻 骂 码 蟆 抹 蟇 孖 杩 蔴 祃 蚂 (and a lot more)! If you get the intonations wrong, chances are that you'd end up with the wrong character! And even if you manage to pronounce it correctly, you'd still have to decide which of the long list of 'ma' of that intonation to go for.

Also, in Chinese, characters that are used to form another character with some extra strokes could end up with a totally different pronunciation. E.g., 木 is ‘mu', 林 is 'lin', 森 is 'sen', 麻 is 'ma', 楚 is 'chu' - see how big a difference can some strokes make in its pronunciation?
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:13 PM
 
Location: The Big O
590 posts, read 663,638 times
Reputation: 435
[quote=kyh;27366359]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Data1000 View Post

Well you have your points there, but I beg to differ.
I actually agree with everything you wrote. Yes, English and perhaps every language has their own advantages in ease of learning. However, in terms on seeing a word and knowing how to pronounce it, English is not near the top of the "easy" list. For example, "comb, tomb, bomb" all have different pronunciations for the "omb" part.

English has many rules, but there are so many exceptions to the rules.

In regard to Chinese, I can now read a lot of Chinese, but my writing is extremely poor and limited. It is much easier to recognize a Chinese character than having to write it. However, that is not important to me because my purposes of learning Chinese is primary oral communication.
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:34 PM
 
5,090 posts, read 8,062,897 times
Reputation: 3066
[quote=Data1000;27367747]
Quote:
Originally Posted by kyh View Post
However, that is not important to me because my purposes of learning Chinese is primary oral communication.
So then your purpose is for general everyday communication? Conversation, getting helpful information, etc.
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:53 PM
 
Location: The Big O
590 posts, read 663,638 times
Reputation: 435
When I am in China at social gatherings, I like to be able to take part in conversations. I also like to be able to give presentations in Chinese. If I was forced to improve my Chinese, it would have been difficult. However, because it is interesting to me and a bit like solving a puzzle, it becomes easy to study everyday.

During the past ten years, I have noticed that Chinese people are less surprised that I speak Chinese. This tells me that more and more non-Chinese people have learned how to speak Chinese. I'm not so special like I used to be! : )
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