I`m a trilingual speaker. I am fluent at English, Swedish and Spanish.
Some people have gotten the impression that Chinese is a difficult language. This may be due to the fact that it, unlike other romance languages, has a very different alphabet or character system. This makes the learning curve steeper in the beginning. Then things get much easier.
Being able to speak Chinese is easier than writing it. Spoken Chinese has no articles, no plurals, and no verb conjugation. Phrasing every sentence with SVO syntax is enough to make yourself understood. The tonality might be tricky, but if you have a decent ear for things- it’ll be okay.
Many learners of the Chinese language think they’ll never be able to write all of those characters. They’re too complex or they aren’t phonetic- common thoughts. Sure, they’re not phonetic, but there are multiple little radicals that make up each ideograph that you’ll see again and again throughout the written language. You can use them to figure out what the word means the same way you would use prefixes, suffixes, and word roots in an Indo-European language, even if you don’t know how to pronounce it.
In America, deaf children often develop dyslexia and deaf Chinese children do not. When a deaf child is learning to read in Chinese there are no “sounds” it is purely visual. Because most native English speakers are taught phonetics rather than sight reading, learning written Chinese is more difficult for them than for other learners.
If you need to look up a character or it’s meaning you have many more options as technology advances. On iOS, for example, all you need to do is write a character on screen and you are presented with a ranked list of most likely matches. Soon, I anticipate the ability to take a picture of a character and know it’s meaning, almost instantaneously.
It may be easy to look up small parts of texts, like individual words or characters, but large blocks or pages are not so simply translated by technology. There is too much to be discerned from context, etc.
Using multimedia and cultural influence to inspire your learning process is often helpful. Chinese films, songs, stories, cartoons- these are all mediums through which you might get a better “feel” for the language. And this approach is fun. Talking about characters and structure alone can be tough.
Check out some Chinese stories here: http://chinese-stories.com/
Find more useful tips and resources at DigMandarin
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