An interesting Essay About the Chinese Language

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Jan 18th 12 1:03 am
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An interesting Essay About the Chinese Language

by apache » Jan 18th 12 1:03 am

Some of you might have some experience of learning Chinese or some of you might be toying the idea of learning it or wondering why it is so difficult. Here is a well written witty article explaining the reason by an English (American) speaker who has learnt it for six years.

It has a lot of truth in the article about the challenges one will face when learning Chinese and his description about the Classical Chinese (wenyanwen) is spot on. When I read the bit about Chinese painting and character scrolls hanging in Chinese restaurant and the characters written in "grass-style" calligraphy looks like EKG readout of a dying heart patient, I just LOL.

Recently, it is becoming to dawn on me to the fact that learning a musical instrument is very similar to learning a second language. It is very reassuring he also used the same analogy about learning Chinese, alas a little bit exaggerated. He said, "… an American learning Chinese is more like a rock guitarist trying to learn to play an elaborate 30-stop three-manual pipe organ". I would rather say the difference is more like between learning string instruments and wind instruments. It might take 5 to 7 years to become competence with winds and 9 to 12 years with strings. When I say competence, I mean able to give a convincing perform of a not too technically demanding concerto.

He also mentioned "The Dream of the Red Chamber" and this is an 18th century novel written in vernacular Chinese which is somewhere halfway between Classical and modern standard Chinese. He said he only finished the first 20 pages of it. For any of you who has advance level Chinese and like to have a bit of a challenge, I did some search and here you can read it in its full glory (gory!) in Traditional Characters:

The original script don't even have any punctuations and they were added later. After trying the first few paragraphs, I can just about able to read it very very slowly with my very rusty Chinese, and I can see that it can be an enjoyable read as the language is very rich and poetic.

I hope I don't put off any of you who want to learn Chinese.

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Jan 23rd 12 2:20 pm
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Re: An interesting Essay About the Chinese Language

by rjiwrth » Jan 23rd 12 2:20 pm

This is a great post! My son has been studying Mandarin for several years in America and in China, so I shared this with him. It is all so true! My attempts to get tones correct are absolutely an admonishment to the language and you either laugh at me or growl in horror when I attempt. Thanks for posting this :wink: