Over the years, the misconceptions about learning Chinese has been exaggerated. A lot of people acknowledge that learning Chinese can be a huge challenge, but if it is done correctly, it is very rewarding. A lot of parents, government officials, and business leaders have come to the conclusion that learning Chinese an be extremely beneficial. China is huge in the business world, and being able to converse in Chinese can be a major plus when getting into the business world. It can open up a lot of different opportunities for job placement.
Weicong Liang is the Teaching Supervisor at the Business Confucius Institute, University of Leeds, and a Chinese Instructor. He realizes that this is true, and he has helped to demystify the rumors of difficulty that surround learning Chinese. According to Liang, he has found that students from Britain have an ear for different languages, and they tend to be unusually sensitive to different Asian cultures.
Due to all of these things, they have a large advantage when learning a difficult language like Chinese. Just like in most places, though, Chinese is not usually the first foreign language that students and people choose to learn. Generally, they choose a different European language like German, French or Spanish, because they are more widely used in their area.
However, this does not mean that Chinese is always difficult for other cultures to learn. Generally, it depends on the type of learner someone is and how dedicated they are to learning Chinese. It is an amazing language that can be utilized in many business industries, and the culture can be fascinating.
For people that speak and read English fluently, Chinese grammar can be easier to grasp, because in many ways, Chinese grammar is a lot like basic English grammar. Just like in the English language, a simple sentence in Chinese is structured the name way. They both consist of an object, a subject, and a predicate. For example, the English sentence, ‘I was my hands’ would be translated the following in Chinese, ‘我 Wo (I) 洗 xi (wash) 手 shou (hands)’. As a matter of fact, Chinese grammar is actually considered even simpler than English grammar, because it doesn’t have as many parts and situations. For instance, in the English language, we have different forms based on gender, and we form words different for singular and plural forms. Chinese grammar does not. Overall, there are still a few differences between the English and Chinese language, but they are easier to bridge together than some of the other languages in the world.
One of the biggest differences between the Chinese and English language is that the Chinese language has a lot more measure words than the English language. For the most part, measure words in Chinese are usually similarly placed where they would be in English. For instance, the word ‘piece’ in the English phrase ‘a piece of paper’, in Chinese the main object, (‘paper’ in the phrase before) actually have their own measure words, but in Chinese a lot of objects that have similar characteristics might use the same measure words to describe them. For instance, in Chinese, 照片 zhaopian (photo), 纸 zhi (paper), 邮票 youpiao (stamp), 报纸 baozhi (newspaper), and 画儿 huar (painting) all use 张 zhang (piece), as their measure word. These examples are very similar, but even the Chinese word 床 chuang (bed) uses 张 zhang (piece) because both of the objects have a flat surface, even though in English we would never say ‘a piece of bed’.
The use of characters is also a major difference between the Chinese and English language. For instance, we’ll look at the character 人 (ren). When 人 is used by itself, it simply means a human being or person. When you come two 人‘s together it makes the new character, 从 (cong). This character actually means ‘to follow’, as in, one person following another. The 人 character can be taken even further, and when there are three 人 characters together, it makes 众, which the character for a crowd. Another example of how this system works is the following. A single 木 is the character that is used for wood or a single tree. When you put two 木 the character becomes 林, which is stands for woods. Finally, you can add another 木 to create 森, which stands for a forest.
In the Chinese language, you can build more complex components by learning the basic single-structure characters. Think of it like learning the English alphabet, and then learning to form the letters into words.
When it comes to pronunciation, a lot of British students tend to have an easier time with Chinese pronunciation. Whereas students whose native language is other, like Italian or French, they usually find Chinese pronunciations a little more difficult. The biggest issue for those that don’t have issues with pronunciations is learning the four different tones of the Chinese language. They are not present in the English language, but they can easily be mastered with practice, and it is believed that with practice most students can pick up the four tones within the first semester at a university.
After studying for six months, most students are able to adequately to perform tasks like order food, make appointments, book hotel reservations, pass through customs at a Chinese airport, discuss the weather, book film or travel tickets, describe different interests and opinions, take public transportation, and ask for directions of various places. Depending on the student, some are even able to travel to other Asian countries like Japan, Singapore, and Thailand that are linguistically related to Chinese. A lot of students that study hard for a year learning Chinese can usually even get accepted into a Chinese university. The Year of the Horse education pack was designed to help students in primary schools begin their journey in seeing the similarities between Chinese and UK culture, which helps to prepare them for future learning.
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