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How hard is Mandarin to learn for an English speaker? - Page 2

post #21 of 25
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
I'm hearing impaired, so it's not as easy for me to learn spoken languages. I thought learning to write the characters was quite do-able for me, though I can certainly see the advantages of the phonetic alphabet. The tones are hard for me, I have to admit. Years later, I can remember many words but not the tones, so I would have to speak very flatly or risk saying the word in the absolute wrong tone. I never gained fluency, though years later (with no practice in between) I was able to use what I knew during a trip to China for a few necessary items, like finding the exit in one place, and ordering a pizza in another place. I wasn't even conversational, but I remembered enough words and sentences to get by with "baby talk" (again, it had been years since I studied it, so I forgot most of it). If you have a flair for languages, and if I, a hearing impaired person, could study it, I'm sure you'll be fine.
Your experience is very interesting!
You may like to read this book one day.
Learning Chinese The Easy Way ISBN: 1419686119

post #22 of 25

That helps that you are good at learning languages.

I'm terrible at learning languages and I grew up with Asian parents whose second language was Mandarin (first language Taiwanese) and I went to Chinese school while I was in elementary school and middle school and still could not pick up on it. Granted, my parents mostly spoke English to me (or Taiwanese) while growing up. At this point, I had pretty much given up on learning another language until I went to high school and took Spanish for 4 years...so if you are immersed in an environment where you have to practice and need to practice to communicate or get by, it should be doable as an adult, good luck!

post #23 of 25

I'm a native English speaker and speak relatively fluent Mandarin. I studied it for  3 years in college and then for a semester in China, and I moved to China after I graduated and have been living here for 8 years. I didn't become fluent-ish probably until I'd been living in China for about 3 years. I do have a knack for languages and pick them up very quickly in general. I know lots of foreigners living in China who have very good Chinese skills, but I also know probably at least as many who have lived here for years and can barely order food or take a taxi using Chinese. I think it comes down to whether or not you have an ear for language and are willing to invest the time and energy it takes to really learn something properly.


People always talk about how hard Mandarin is, but spoken Mandarin is not actually that difficult (aside from the tones). The grammar is very straightforward and sentence structure is similar to English (S+V+O). There's no verb conjugation and tenses are usually formed by throwing in contextual words rather than changing verbs and such. Unlike say, Japanese, there are no formal/informal language forms. The tones can be difficult for speakers of non-tonal languages but the good news is that even if you mangle the tones, Mandarin speakers will be able to understand you because context clues are more important than tonal accuracy when you're actually having a conversation. If you're saying words in isolation then the tones can mess you up, but if you're speaking in sentences people will usually figure out what you're trying to say through context.


The writing system is another story, but learning how to read and recognize characters is a lot easier than remembering how to write them. I rarely need to hand-write in Chinese these days anyhow and when you type you basically just need to be able to recognize the character you need -- much easier than producing it by hand from scratch!


Good luck, Chinese is a great language and learning it can be a lot of fun. thumb.gif

post #24 of 25

I studied Mandarin over 20 years ago in college.  At the time, there were not a lot of resources here--and all of our books came from the PRC.


Having studied French, German, and Italian, the good things about Mandarin are everything is gender neutral (no le, la, der, die, das, etc.)  You really don't have to conjugate verbs, etc.  Instead you simply add a character which designates tense--although spoken, it's the same.


The bad thing is the tones.  Four tones in Mandarin...and there's a famous story using Shi with the various tones all about 10 lions, etc.  The tones are crucial--and to me, were difficult to get exactly right.

post #25 of 25
Thread Starter 

Just bumping this thread to say...youtube is a wonderful, wonderful thing!!! There are so many beginner Mandarin lessons, with umpteen different teaching styles. I'm focussing on functional convo, not characters...it's awesome! I also set up a coffee date with a Mandarin mama...let the learning begin :)

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