Chinese is interesting (and hard), isn’t it?

According to Wikipedia, almost 1.3 billion people speak Chinese. It spreads to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Southeast Asia, and other regions with Chinese communities. This is huge but this language is somehow intimidating. I have only 1 friend who is learning Chinese, but 20-30 friends learning French or Spanish 🙂 I always think that Chinese is totally different and I should dedicate myself completely to it if I ever want to learn it. With all the interesting characters, this language seems totally different from the ones written in Latin alphabet. That’s why we tend to learn languages that are similar to ours. So, is the transcription the only difference? As far as I know, the answer is “no” because the pronunciation is also unpredictable, the same word (technically not the same word, but it seems to be the same word to us!) can be pronounced in -maybe- 10 different ways 🙂 Here, I have an example as to how Chinese is very hard. I do not know if people who know Chinese agree with me or not. I think we need to be enlightened about the nature of this language 🙂

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ali Ottoman on February 7, 2012 at 02:59

    As far as ı know Chinese, like Vietnamese and Tay, is a tonal language.
    A word or phoneme will acquire a different meaning according to the tone or intonation with which it is used. Whereas indo-european languages like Spanish, for instance, reliy on tonality to express mode: ie., an order or interrogation, tonal languages like Chinese will use intonation to create another phoneme, another meaning.

    A friend once said a sentence in Chinese which could mean “I’m cutting wood in the forest” or “I’m reading a book in the library” depending on the intonation given to the words.

    He also said that Chinese people had to take the time to get accustomed to the overall pitch of a conversation before they took part in it, Otherwise, if for instance moving from a quiet to a heated debate, they might misperceive the tonalities of the words pronounced in a higher pitch due to the ambient tension, and therefore get their meaning wrong..

    What a brave Chinese world!


  2. Posted by Xav on February 10, 2012 at 15:30

    So difficult to learn, and so easy to forget……… 😦


  3. Being different from most European languages such as English, Spanish, etc., the pronounciation of Chinese is quite different from Chinese characters (han zi 汉字) which is called “fang kuai zi (方块字, square characters, literally translated)”. In English and some other European languages, it’s possible for speakers to guess and get how the word is pronouced when looking at the words while it is almost impossible in Chinese. There is one condition when the pronounciation is possibly be guessed – a group of Chinese characters called “xing sheng zi ( 形声字)”, the characters in which one part indicates the meaning while the other indicates the sound. However, this skill is based on the situation when the speaker has already acquired or learned a reasonable volumn of Chinese characters.

    Moreover, there is something that makes Chinese more complicated. Chinese used in Mainland China, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan and southeastern Asia (Singapore and Malaysia) differs from each other. Mainland China uses simplified Chinese characters. People in mainland China speaks Mandarin/putonghua. In Hong Kong/Macau, people speak Cantonese which is a dialect of Chinese having 9 tones (there are 4 tones in Mandarin), but also a Chinese langauge used widely in overseas Chinese communities as Chinese people who firstly emmigrated abroad were mostly from Canton/Guangdong province and other eastern coast cities. In HK/Macau, people use traditional Chinese characters. In Taiwan, they don’t use pinyin as phonetic symbols, but a quite different kind of phonetic notation. Also, Taiwanese Chinese has very strong accent and different use of words and expressions. In Singapore, Chinese is called “hua yu 华语”. Simplified Chinese characters are used in Singapore. In Malaysia, people call it “guo yu 国语”. They also use simplified Chinese characters. But there is a large number of Malaysian Chinese who speak Cantonese and Hakka. Although, there are differences among them, people still can understand each other no matter which kind of Chinese you speak. Just like that there are British English, American English, Australian English, etc..

    It sounds really “scary” and difficult, isn’t it! But Chinese are interesting and beautiful. It’s ancient and modern, complicated and simple!


    • Many thanks for your imformative comment. I was told that, in China, people from different parts of the country hardly understand each other.


      • Well, I believe Chinese native-speakers do understand each other even if there are different accents unless for those who don’t speak Mandarin at all.

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