How to learn Chinese language

Is it possible to learn Chinese at all?

Yes. At first, it goes slower than European languages because Chinese has tones, characters, and very different grammar. You need more time, perseverance and the help of a teacher is desirable to master the basics. And then – like any other language: learn new words, phrases, train fluency and listening comprehension.

What are tones?

This is the change in pitch of your voice when you say a syllable. Different tones, different syllables. Just as in Russian you can’t confuse bi with it, otherwise you won’t distinguish life from bits, in Chinese you need to distinguish between mā and má. You can’t do without knowing the tones. See for yourself: mǎi – buy, mài – sell. Fàngdú is poison, and fángdú is an adjective with the opposite meaning – anti-chemical, anti-viral. If in a cafe in China you ask for tang and make a mistake with the tone, be prepared to be served sweets (táng) instead of soup (tāng). And the hero of this song wanted shuǐjiǎo – dumplings, and said that he wanted shuìjiào – to sleep.

Tones are even more important than consonants. Some dialects of Chinese simply don’t distinguish between s and sh, z and zh, or n and l, for example. If they tell you in the market that noodles cost sy yuan, you need to focus on the tone, and not on the consonant sound. It could be sì – four, or shí – ten.

Tones? What if I’m completely deaf?

You don’t need an ear for music to learn Chinese. If you can distinguish the statement “your stool” from the question “your stool?”, that’s enough.

So, the tones will have to be mastered. But how?

Speak everything slowly and exaggeratedly. At first you will not understand – is my voice going up or down? Keeping at the same height or gone somewhere? So exaggerate: if it’s a falling tone, let it start with a squeaky falsetto and slowly fade into a gloomy bass. If there is an even high tone, then let it last four times longer than that of the announcer. Sing it like an opera soloist the final note. Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Don’t be afraid to overdo it. To the Chinese ear, we all speak monotonously bububu, and in the Chinese, even in the most restrained speech, the amplitude jumps a lot. Then your speech will subside on its own into something more natural. If you immediately try to speak smoothly with a barely noticeable change in pitch, you will get Russian intonations and no tones.

Mimic. Repeat after the speaker literally, like a broken record. Repeat the intonation of the sentence, as if you are quoting your favorite movie, anecdote, advertisement. Mmm danone. The talking bird is distinguished by intelligence and wit. Mind and ingenuity.

Learn the word immediately along with the tone. It’s easier than retraining later.

What else is difficult in Chinese?

You cannot tell the reading of a character by its appearance. Pronunciation, spelling and meaning are three separate parts of a sign. In English, the spelling of a word is related to the pronunciation. You learn an English word and its Russian equivalent. Dog = dog. And here it is necessary to learn and work out all the ligaments – remember reading and meaning by the hieroglyph. By sound – meaning and hieroglyph, and so on. Dog = 狗 = gǒu.

It’s unrealistic to remember a picture for each word, isn’t it?

Firstly, usually a word consists of two hieroglyphs, that is, there are much fewer signs than words. Secondly, hieroglyphs are not pictures. They have a structure and components, like a constructor. The hieroglyph consists of lines. A feature is, roughly speaking, what is drawn without lifting the pen from the paper. Lines are made up of graphemes. A grapheme, unlike a line, has a meaning.

灬 – fire

石 – stone

言 – speech

Hieroglyphs are made up of graphemes. The hieroglyph also has a reading.

How are hieroglyphs formed from graphemes?
A hieroglyph can have one grapheme or more.

One: 又 – palm

Two: 对 – correct

Three: 树 – tree

Pile: 赢 – win

There are not so many graphemes themselves, the most frequent are a hundred. Learn graphemes that you have come across more than once. If you master it, you will be able to add hieroglyphs from graphemes, like from cubes, and you won’t have to memorize many thousands of incoherent pictures.

Graphemes in a square can be adjacent vertically – 李, horizontally – 和 or so: one covers, and the other inside, like a filling in a dumpling – 国. And any combination is possible. If you know graphemes and understand the structure, even the most complex hieroglyph will look unfamiliar, but understandable.

Hieroglyphs are very difficult to write? How to learn it?

Circle the copybook, as in childhood. Our hands are used to round and slanted monograms, so it takes a lot of practice. Lay the tracing paper on a piece of copybook and trace the hieroglyphs right on top. It’s harder than it looks. Uncomfortable hand. By writing hieroglyphs, individual graphemes, and even just strokes, you get used to new movements, the order of strokes and the correct trajectory of the hand.

Is it important in what order to write the strokes?

Yes very. First, the Chinese for thousands of years have well thought out what order would be the most convenient. Secondly, when you accelerate even a little, the features begin to change, merge. Your hieroglyphs can be recognized only if they change in the same way as everyone else. For example, the character for mouth looks like a square 口. It is written in three lines:

Bottom left – printed hieroglyph mouth. And in the center and on the right is the same hieroglyph, handwritten in the correct order, but quickly.

If you write the strokes in a different order, you will not get a hieroglyph, but just a picture.

The three options below are more like a square than the three options above, but they have nothing to do with the hieroglyph mouth. The trajectory of the movement of the hand is more important than even the appearance.