What has kept you from learning Chinese?

[color=red]Moderators, please consider not moving this thread to the “Learning Chinese” forum because I’m addressing people who have not considered learning Chinese seriously.[/color]

For years and years I’ve been told not to allow the kids to speak to me in Chinese at my buxiban because of the franchise’s policy. Although the tones were a big problem, I managed to learn a few basic phrases, but learning the characters were too daunting a task to even contemplate doing. Lately, however, my eyes have been opened to the simplicity of some Chinese characters, which has encouraged me to study them seriously:

人 means person, but if the person stretches out his arms to augment his size, it becomes, 大 (big). 天 means heaven, day or sky. It represents the stratum above the person’s head. 矢 means arrow. To me it looks like a shaft either moving up to/down from the sky. There are many characters like these that are very easy to memorize if you know the story behind them.
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If you are on the brink of deciding to study Chinese seriously, I would like to encourage you to do so.

Another interesting fact is that because of the Pareto Principle, you do not have to master all the characters to extract useful information from a sign or newspaper. With only a few hundred characters, you could do quite a lot.

I’m far too busy making flashcards… :unamused:

I don’t like people laughing at me. My attempts to speak Chinese with the locals have always left me feeling chagrinned.
The last time I spoke Chinese the respondent said, “Are you trying to speak Chinese to me?” I gave up after that.

I want those flashcards.

[quote=“superking”]I don’t like people laughing at me. My attempts to speak Chinese with the locals have always left me feeling chagrinned.
The last time I spoke Chinese the respondent said, “Are you trying to speak Chinese to me?” I gave up after that.[/quote]

That’s another factor that kept me away from learning Chinese. Chinese speakers never understand what one says and foreigners who have mastered the language make you feel so insignificant at times. The beauty of the characters is that you could read or write them without worrying about accent. Some characters are used in Chinese as well as Japanese and are pronounced differently, but the meaning is still the same.

  1. Lack of time (10 hour work days)
  2. Lack of certainty (if I’m leaving Taiwan in 1~6 months where is the incentive)

I don’t learn languages well–I don’t have the knack. It took me years and years to learn Spanish (speaking and comprehension). and Spanish is supposed to be one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn (so I’ve been told).

If it took me so long to learn Spanish, how many eons will it take me to learn Chinese? ‘:oops:

The beauty of the alphabet is that you can read words without worrying about the accent. Some words are spelled the same in English and French and are pronounced differently but the meaning is still the same.

[quote=“Tyc00n”]1) Lack of time (10 hour work days)
2) Lack of certainty (if I’m leaving Taiwan in 1~6 months where is the incentive)[/quote]

  1. You don’t necessarily have to attend formal classes. You could buy flashcards or software or use on-line software to learn at least some Chinese.

  2. Even if you leave, Chinese as a language will continue to become more important wherever you may be in future.
    That’s my incentive.

If that works for you, great. But you do know, though, that most of those stories don’t have any connection with reality, right?

The beauty of the alphabet is that you can read words without worrying about the accent. Some words are spelled the same in English and French and are pronounced differently but the meaning is still the same.[/quote]

That was another problem I had with Chinese. Why should I fill my brain with thousands of characters if 26 letters would do? Now, I see it as a challenge. We hardly use 10% of our brain before we expire. Why not use another 1%?

Also, I have a book in which the author mentions something interesting. He took up juggling just to see what effect it would have on his way of thinking. By adding a new element to your intellect, you become a different person. It might be a change for the good.

Why not take the same fact (mastery by other foreigners like you) and put a positive spin on it? If they succeeded, so can you! :slight_smile:

[quote=“david_in_taipei”]It took me years and years to learn Spanish (speaking and comprehension). and Spanish is supposed to be one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn (so I’ve been told).

If it took me so long to learn Spanish, how many eons will it take me to learn Chinese? ‘:oops:’[/quote]

Well, again, try to put a positive spin on it – one of the things making Spanish difficult is the grammar. But Chinese grammar is really quite simple in comparison. Plus, you might find you have a knack for tones (especially if you’re at all musical). :idunno: So go for it! :slight_smile:

AAF, firstly I’d like to echo Dragonbones’s encouragement. But I’d also like to respond to what you wrote in a “cautionary” way, not to discourage you but to clear up a couple of possible misconceptions.

[quote=“AAF”][color=red]Moderators, please consider not moving this thread to the “Learning Chinese” forum because I’m addressing people who have not considered learning Chinese seriously.[/color]

For years and years I’ve been told not to allow the kids to speak to me in Chinese at my buxiban because of the franchise’s policy. Although the tones were a big problem, I managed to learn a few basic phrases, but learning the characters were too daunting a task to even contemplate doing. Lately, however, my eyes have been opened to the simplicity of some Chinese characters, which has encouraged me to study them seriously:[/quote]Language ability starts from oral/aural ability, really. It’s true that there are some good translators who can’t speak Mandarin very well. But if you want to use the language for everyday communicative purposes it would be much more efficient to do a fair bit of work on your listening and speaking before getting seriously into characters.

[quote=“AAF”]人 means person, but if the person stretches out his arms to augment his size, it becomes, 大 (big). 天 means heaven, day or sky. It represents the stratum above the person’s head. 矢 means arrow. To me it looks like a shaft either moving up to/down from the sky. There are many characters like these that are very easy to memorize if you know the story behind them.
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[/color][/quote]Very few Chinese characters are pictograms. But there are various mnemonic devices you can use to help you remember characters. Just remember that most of these kinds of stories are not based on the true origins of the characters.

[quote=“AAF”]If you are on the brink of deciding to study Chinese seriously, I would like to encourage you to do so.

Another interesting fact is that because of the Pareto Principle, you do not have to master all the characters to extract useful information from a sign or newspaper. With only a few hundred characters, you could do quite a lot.[/quote]To make sense of what you’re reading you need to understand roughly 95% of the words in the text. With authentic reading materials (i.e. not simplified ones for kids) that’s actually a few thousand characters at least, depending on the kind of text you’re reading. Then you’ve got the fact that “words” doesn’t mean “characters”. You might know 100% of the characters in a text but still be unfamiliar with many of the words! That’s because in Chinese, words are often combinations of two or more characters. The majority of words consist of two characters, and while the meaning of some is obvious from the combination of the meanings of the individual characters, others are not so easy. You could compare them to English phrasal verbs where the meaning of the individual particles, for example “throw” and “up”, is quite different from their combined meaning: “throw up”.

Don’t think, however, that knowing characters makes it any easier to understand most one-character words either. A great many characters have multiple meanings and even multiple pronunciations.

I’ve put a fair bit of time into Chinese study over the last six years and I’m still doing so. But I’m still only at a pre-intermediate level. It’s a bit frustrating because if I had been learning a Latin language I’d be at a high-intermediate level at least with the same amount of study.

So I wish you all the best with Chinese study in whatever form. It’s certainly nice when you can start to read road signs and place names (and it doesn’t take long to start to be able to do that). But do be realistic. If you want to attain a decent communicative level you’ll need to put in serious study time: double or triple the time you’d need for most languages of European origin.

I started to learn Chinese and seriously the chinese schools are like the SS officers my grendmother told me about.
Learning Pinyin and MPS is just not good enough you have to learn those bloody caracters even if you don’t want to or don’t feel like you have the abilety to memorise them. I have a hard enough time just remembering a word.

For those that are not the brightest they give nooo option.

My teathcer ask me why is it so dificult to you? Your english is soo good. Well I started learning english at the age off 9 and worked in English based companys where all the information was in english +++ movies, internet and I worked in australia for 1/2 year. I was alway in the bottom 3 in my english classes.

And when they learn you caracters they just chose some random caracters. nin is the first one you learn and then later on it’s ni. What they don’t teatch you is that nin-ni=the chinese caracter for hart.

You have to learn it the moust dificult way posible.

I will fail this class, but it really don’t bother me mutch. I knew I would the moment I found out I had to memorise caracters. How do they exspect that when I don’t even remember waht I had for dinner.

[quote=“Dragonbones”]

[quote=“david_in_taipei”]It took me years and years to learn Spanish (speaking and comprehension). and Spanish is supposed to be one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn (so I’ve been told).

If it took me so long to learn Spanish, how many eons will it take me to learn Chinese? ‘:oops:’[/quote]

Well, again, try to put a positive spin on it – one of the things making Spanish difficult is the grammar. But Chinese grammar is really quite simple in comparison. Plus, you might find you have a knack for tones (especially if you’re at all musical). :idunno: So go for it! :slight_smile:[/quote]

It’s those d*mn tones–can’t hear them, couldn’t say them.
Musical? In my dreams! I can’t even play ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano ‘:lol:’

Yes, I’ve heard that Chinese grammar is simple–no past tense, etc. But I guess I’ve got brain freeze for the characters. My mind only likes to see the Roman alphabet I guess. When I was in Vietnam, I had a least a small chance of pronouncing what I read well enough to be understood by the locals. When I see something like this: 街道, my eyes glaze over like a dead fish.

The thing that kept me from learning more Chinese was that I learned enough of the basics of it to realise that I wasn’t going to gain an awfull lot of insight into any sort of deep and meaningful Chinese philosophy. I can’t really help learning Chinese altogether as it is my environment, but let’s just say that I don’t care about learning it.

Ok, so don’t work on characters at first. Use pinyin textbooks, so the sounds are written with the Roman alphabet. Learn verbal Chinese. Characters can come later, if ever. As for the characters you wrote, they can be broken up into digestible pieces at the beginning, e.g., 彳 and 土. Later, when you’re learning more complex characters, you’ll start seeing them as made up of the pieces, just like a child has to learn a, b and c first, and xylophone only much later.

What has kept me from learning Chinese?

I’m shy, I don’t bother with small talk (even in English) and I’ve long since been bored with many of the typical conversations that I become a part of in my travels. I find that the Mandarin that I do know quickly leads me into frustration as I can’t seem to find the time or energy to take limited conversation skills into the next level. I do enjoy being able to read some stuff, though.

It’s just as well. They mostly just think I’m a dumb foreigner and I’m happy to let that happen as long as I don’t have to keep having conversations without any juicy details or interesting topics.

I stopped after learning about 225 characters (I can still remember most of them) and feeling frustrated about the range of things I could not talk about. My last teacher was frustrated with me, and it annoyed me. I tried to get into a different school and the bureaucratic nighmare that ensued frustrated me so much I avoided it for a semester. Then I got a whole bunch of lucrative work that I enjoy and by the time it cooled off and I tried to finally register for my classes the school had lost my application and asked me to re-submit. So I’m waiting for information (again) so I can re-apply. Summer’s coming and I should probably get some more of those lucrative summer privates so I don’t know when it’s going to happen again.

I find the daily class thing grinding and sometimes painful, actually. I always have hated school. I’m actually considering just paying for a private teacher, hopefully one that will come to my house. Teach me what I WANT to know. I want to be able to express myself the way I want to express myself, not how a textbook says I should. I’ve yet to run into someone on the street who speaks like they do in those books. I’ve barely seen or heard it on TV, either.

What’s my motivation for learning Mandarin? I ask myself that a lot. I like living here, I like my job, and I like to learn new things, but I feel a bit lost when I pick those books up. Maybe if I had a plan to do my own business and maybe even give China a try for some reason, I would happily study again.

Motivation seems to be key.

Frustrated.

[quote=“canucktyuktuk”] I find the daily class thing grinding and sometimes painful, actually. I always have hated school. I’m actually considering just paying for a private teacher, hopefully one that will come to my house. Teach me what I WANT to know. I want to be able to express myself the way I want to express myself, not how a textbook says I should. I’ve yet to run into someone on the street who speaks like they do in those books. I’ve barely seen or heard it on TV, either.
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Make sandwhich recordings.

  1. The Chinese you want to know (a word, a short sentence whatever) first, pronounced at a normal pace.

  2. The English translationas fast as you can say it.

  3. The Chinese again but really slow.

  4. Chinese again but faster.

  5. Chinese again but faster yet.

  6. Leave space on the tape to try and repeat the word, phrase or whatever.

  7. Chinese again.

If you can get it written down in Pinyin all the better. Put the Pinyin up and around where you will see it. Beside the toilet is good. Listen to the tapes whenever, I like to listen when I go hiking. Then go try and use the stuff you learned etc. etc. off into a future both profound and mysterious.

This is what I do, or at least what I aim at. Sometimes if I am fairly certain of the phrase I record it myself but more often I use the long haired dictionary. More reliable. Seems to work fairly well. I’ve taken about ten hours of classes and was asleep during those but am still inching closer towards some sort of practical fluency in the areas of life where I want to use Chinese. Of course there are a thousand and one variations posssible on the sandwhich recipe above. If it is just a review you might just want English/ Chinese. If it is really new or a really long sentence you might want more repitions etc. Whatever works. I am going to Japan later so these days I’m making Japanese/ Chinese tapes…

Reading and writing come easy to me. While I was in taiwan, it was time and finding a good school (teacher) that was an issue. Also, speaking and listening are difficult for me, along with grammar. I don’t know how many books I bought on learning grammar but never got the knack for it.

Any simple rules for improving speaking skills would be welcomed.