Have you just arrived in Taiwan or are you interested in Asian culture and want to learn Chinese? Learning a new language is always challenging. The close integration of language and culture means that beginners often need some time to learn and adapt.
However, many foreigners find learning Chinese particularly challenging. From its complex writing system and the 37 phonetic symbols in Chinese (equivalent to English letters) to its five tones where different tones in the same syllable can mean entirely different things. Additionally, many characters don't have a direct relationship between pronunciation and shape, making them difficult for beginners to remember.
The biggest headache for foreign learners is Chinese homophones, for example:
迷路(mí lù) - 'lost' and 麋鹿(mí lù) - 'deer'
城市(chéng shì) - 'city' and 程式(chéng shì) - 'program'
To tackle this, one can use visual aids or storytelling to remember words, and there are also apps available to help memorize them.
Next, Chinese and English grammar differ significantly. Let's understand the differences between Chinese and English grammatical structures through simple examples:
- **Word Order**
English: The basic sentence structure is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Example: She (S) loves (V) bananas (O).
Chinese: Although Chinese is also based on the SVO structure, the position of modifiers such as time and place may differ. Example: 我 (S) 昨天 (time) 在家 (place) 看 (V) 書 (O).
- **Existential Sentences**
English: Uses "there is" or "there are" to indicate the existence of something. Example: There is a mug on the table.
Chinese: Uses "有" to indicate existence. Example: 桌子上有一個馬克杯。
- **Passive Voice**
English: Passive voice in English uses "be" + past participle. Example: The book was read by him.
Chinese: Uses "被", "给", or "讓" to form the passive voice. Example: 這本書被他讀了。
English: Usually alters the word order or uses auxiliary verbs to form questions.
Example: Is she coming?
Chinese: Often just adds "嗎" at the end to form a question. Example: 她會來嗎？
English: In English, adjectives usually come before nouns.
Example: a red apple
Chinese: Adjectives also precede nouns, consistent with English. Example: 紅色的蘋果
English: Different tenses indicate different temporal concepts, such as present continuous, past simple, etc. Example: She is reading. (Present continuous)
Chinese: Mainly relies on context and temporal words like "已經", "正在", and "將" to indicate tense. Example: 她正在讀書。
Furthermore, watching and listening to daily programs like Taiwanese news, soap operas, and even food vlogs on YouTube can be excellent ways to learn Chinese. This not only helps you understand the local cuisine but also equips you with commonly used phrases. Examples of such phrases include:
- 我想要點餐 (Wǒ xiǎng yào diǎn cān) - I would like to order.
- 請問這道菜裡面有什麼(chǐng wènjèdàutsàilǐ miànyǒushén me)- What are the ingredients in this dish?
- 請問有推薦的菜色嗎？(chǐng wènyǒutuēi jiàndetsài sèma)- What do you recommend?
- 可以給我一杯水嗎？(Kěyǐ gěi wǒ yībēi shuǐ ma?)-Can I have a glass of water, please?
- 請問有純素食的食物嗎？(chǐng wènyǒuchuénsù shŕdeshŕ wùma)- Do you have a vegean food?
Lastly, the most effective approach would be to learn Chinese with the professional teachers at Berlitz Taiwan. This ensures that students can apply what they've learned in real-life situations, enhancing memory and understanding. Plus, it provides a more authentic experience of Chinese culture and spoken language.