Sunday, 10 July 2011

Chinese Learnin'

I've spent, much to my disgust, a great deal of time looking at the English language in the past few years and if I've come to any real conclusion, it's this- it is a horrible, lumbering pig of a language. Be grateful that it's the language that most of you have grown up with. Learning it from scratch is no picnic. The whole thing is full of quirks and exceptions making grasping even the basics a complete nightmare for non English speakers. And then they have the added problem of having a teacher like me...

But I digress...Chinese, when compared to English, is brilliant. Well, so far at least. Structurally, it just makes sense and putting together sentences is logical and sensible. As is the way they build words. From a base word like 'teach', you can add another sound and access the whole gamut of education related words. It makes understanding through leaps in logic actually worthwhile- you'll often hit upon the right meaning or structure.

It's not entirely rosy however. Chinese is a tonal language. And if you're asking what a tonal language is, welcome to my club. Well my old club anyway. What it basically means is that certain sounds can be pronounced in one of four (or five) ways and have very different meanings. Which is tough for someone who has never really had to think like that. If I say 'APPLE', 'AppLE' or 'APple' you'd all know I'm talking about a piece of fruit. It's not the case with Chinese. Plus the vocal gymnastics required in changing tones within a sentence is straining my tongue in terrible ways. Both straining AND training, ladies (Sorry Carol).

Keep in mind all of this is from someone just starting out with Chinese and I may face other more horrifying roadblocks as I continue down this path. So look out for the second part where I bemoan how tough it is. Still, it's very satisfying learning a new language and slowly starting to understand more of what I hear out in the world. I think I always knew it would be, I'm just glad I'm finally making a real go of it. Anyway, go learn a language, I highly recommend it. It sure beats speaking English in an increasingly loud voice when those foreigners don't understand you, right?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you thank you. Chinese's only one of the great products coming out of our 5000 years of history...actually it should be more than five thousand years by now since I was told that when I was a kid. At least 5016 years of history by now. impressive? Yes!

    Totally ok with the ladies thing. Or not. WE WILL SEE.