Studying Chinese isn’t THAT Difficult (学习汉语不太难) Posted by sasha on Aug 4, 2010 in Uncategorized
As I’ve said before, Chinese can be quite intimidating for beginner learners. Believe me, I’ve been there. The tones (声调) and the characters (汉字) alone can be enough to send you running for the hills. For yours truly, throwing in the towel often seemed like a good idea when I first started learning Chinese. Luckily for me, I was living in China, so I really had no choice but to push on. While the tones and the characters can easily make your head spin, I encourage you to keep working at it. Once you have a solid understanding of the tones and the pin yin system, you can really dive into learning and speaking Chinese.
As you progress, you will come to realize that in Chinese, the 语法 (yǔ fǎ – grammar) really isn’t so difficult. Compared to 英语 (yīng yǔ – English), Chinese grammar is a breeze. As an English teacher in China, I have come to realize just how difficult English grammar is for Chinese students. While native English speakers botch their tones and struggle to read characters, their Chinese counterparts have the most difficulty with the vast amount of grammar present in English.
In an attempt to show you that 学习汉语 (xué xí hàn yǔ – studying Chinese) is 不太难 (bù tài nán – not too difficult), I’m going to show you a few examples comparing Chinese grammar with English grammar. Here we go!
When teaching my 学生 (xué shēng – students) English, I notice that they have a lot of trouble with personal pronouns, the different forms of the verb “to be”, and possessive pronouns. Luckily, for us Chinese learners, things are much simpler in Chinese. Let’s start with simple pronouns.
I/me 我 – wǒ
You 你 – nǐ
He/him 他 – tā
She/her 她 – tā
It 它 – tā
We/us 我们 – wǒ men
You (plural) 你们 – nǐ men
They/them 他们 – tā men
In Chinese, 我 can be used as “I” or “me.” Whereas with English, you have to be drilled on when to use one and when to use the other, in Chinese you always use 我.
It’s the same with he/him, she/her, and it. For all of these words in English, you simply say “tā” in Chinese. The pinyin and the tone remains the same, while the character changes depending on the subject (他，她，or 它). That means, for speaking purposes, you only need to remember one syllable!
Finally, simply add 们 to any pronoun to make it plural. Again, you don’t have to worry about nitty gritty detail like when to use “we” and when to use “us.” No matter the situation, you will use 我们.
Next up, let’s take a look at the different uses of the verb “to be” in English and Chinese:
I am 我是 – wǒ shì
You are 你是 – nǐ shì
He is 他是 – tā shì
She is 她是 – tā shì
It is 它是 – tā shì
We are 我们是 – wǒ men shì
You are 你们是 – nǐ men shì
They are 他们是 – tā men shì
In Chinese, you simply have to know the word 是, and you’re all set. While I constantly have to correct my Chinese students when they say, “he am” or “I is”, you won’t have to worry about this when studying Chinese.
Finally, let’s learn about possessive pronouns and how easy they are in Chinese when compared with English:
My/mine 我的 – wǒ de
Yours 你的 – nǐ de
His 他的 – tā de
Hers 她的 – tā de
Its 它的 – tā de
Ours 我们的 – wǒ men de
Yours (pl) 你们的 – nǐ men de
Theirs 他们的 – tā men de
As you can see, in order to make a pronoun possessive in Chinese, you simply add the particle 的.
Now that you see how simple Chinese can be, let’s check out a few examples to see this grammar in action:
我是老师 (wǒ shì lǎoshī) = I am a teacher.
她是学生 (tā shì xué shēng) = She is a student.
你们是朋友 (nǐ men shì péng yǒu) = You (pl) are friends.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, in Chinese there is no equivalent for “a.” There’s also no word in Chinese for “an” or “the.” For English learners, remembering when and how to use articles can be stressful and complicated. For Chinese learners, this problem is non-existent!
Here are some examples of sentences using possessive pronouns:
我的书 (wǒ de shū) = my book
他的自行车 (tā de zì xíng chē) = his bicycle
他们的妈妈 (tā men de mā mā) = their mother
Instead of having to learn more words as in English, you just attach 的 to a pronoun and you are all set! What a breeze!
Before we call it a day, let’s combine everything I’ve talked about so far in this post:
你是我的老师 (nǐ shì wǒ de lǎo shī) = You are my teacher.
他是我们的朋友 (tā shì wǒ men de péng yǒu) = He is our friend.
他们是你的学生 (tā men shì nǐ de xué shēng) = They are your students.
These are only a few, simple examples of how learning Chinese can actually be somewhat easy. Each month, I’ll do my best to give you more insight into Chinese grammar, increasing the difficulty as the months progress. Now that you’ve got the 拼音，声调，and some basic 语法 down, moving ahead with your studies should be much easier. 努力学习 (nǔ lì xué xí – study hard)!