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How To Learn Chinese Quickly And How To Keep Going

How To Learn Chinese Quickly

As globalization hits China, new foreign words are entering the Chinese vocabulary at a rapid speed. That is to say, the language is growing. A plurality of the recent foreign vocabulary were first used in Shanghainese and then adopted into Mandarin. But unlike in Japanese, in which loan words came directly into standard Japanese and therefore sound like the original words, this transfer in Chinese resulted in loanwords being pronounced differently than those in the original language. Today, many Chinese words don’t even use the sounds of the original language but use characters to represent the original concepts. For example, “calculator” is written as “calculation machine” rather than something like “Ka-ku-la-da.” Yet other words retain their sounds. Consider the word, “bao bi,” which means “baby,” for instance. Still, the majority of nouns from the western world are represented by characters, such as for “tv,” “red wine,” and “washing machine.”

So why am I telling you this? Because many Chinese language students think the way to improve their Chinese vocabularies is by memorizing loads of words. Not so! Instead, by memorizing individual characters and their related concepts you can piece together many words without having to memorize them. How would you say “blue tooth” in Chinese? Well, some students would simply answer “I don’t know — I haven’t learned that word yet.” Idiocy! In Chinese “blue tooth” is simply the character for “blue” folllowed by the character for “tooth:” “Lan-ya.” So many Chinese words, especially nouns, follow this pattern, making it easy for you to know lots and lots of words without having to waste time and energy learning them all.

Students who never get far in their vocabularies tend to rely on Chinese Pinyin, memorizing the sounds but never memorizing the meanings behind characters. Pinyin as a method is to help people learn the pronunciation of Chinese — not to be a crutch. But just knowing the sounds won’t take you far. In contrast, there are plenty of Chinese phrases that you can interpret if you only know the characters that are being spoken.

This, in combination with the fact that the language features one of the easiest grammars in all of linguistics can make the language actually easy to learn. Imagine that! Most people are surprised to learn that translation between Chinese and English is easy, as they both adhere to the framework of subject + verb + object. Verbs need no conjugations, making the language even easier. And yet there is no gender or plurality that makes other languages hard to learn. Even the idea of tense is a wishy-washy one in Chinese. Understanding just how easy Chinese is compared to other languages should motivate you to take the time to memorize the meanings behind characters, the only true strategy that will help conquer the hardest part of Chinese: vocabulary learning.

If you’d like to practice your vocabulary via writing, just use this chinese learning opportunity, and write a couple Chinese essays for use to correct.

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Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash
Quinn Cash is a contributor to HSK Tests Online and a Chinese/English translator.

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