Measuring up to learning Chinese

13:56, July 07, 2010      

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(Source: China Daily)
The response of Chinese on learning their foreign friends are learning Chinese, is almost invariably - "Learning Chinese is very difficult."

This is true, but I don't think foreigners should be discouraged, as learning Chinese can also be easy and fun.

What makes Chinese hard for a learner whose native language uses the Latin alphabet? Chinese characters. In this case, a learner of Cyrillic, Arabic, Tibetan or Hindi faces the same challenge. Chinese is even easier than these languages because pinyin helps a lot.

If the newcomer wants, at least at the beginning, to only speak, and not to read or write the complicated Chinese characters, things become even simpler.

The more languages one knows, the easier it is to acquire a new one. Especially if the learner masters English, Chinese grammar will then appear not only similar but even less complicated than English. There is one exception: the measure words that categorize nouns. But don't we also say "a cup" of tea, "a glass" of wine, "a slice" of bread?

A relative of mine is learning Chinese by herself. I made a list of the common measure words with examples for her to memorize. For example: "When you order a roast duck, you say 'yi zhi kao ya', as a duck is a bird."

She asked me why the cat also uses zhi. Is it classified with the birds because it eats birds?

"No, cat is a feline."

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