Beginner Mandarin Chinese Lesson 4

In this 4th lesson we get you started on verbs. Verbs are easy in Mandarin since there is no conjugation involved. You’ll get a dialogue at the end to tie everything together. Have a fun!

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Does Chinese Suck?

If you are a learner of Chinese and have “hit” the proverbial “wall”, you may have wondered: “Does Chinese suck or am I the one who sucks?” Few things are more humbling than trying to learn Mandarin. Maybe you even have studied for a year or two, but when you open your mouth native speakers look at you as if you were speaking gobbly-gook. So what’s up with Chinese? Am I just stupid or is this language stupidly difficult? (One hilarious rant I read online about “Why Chinese is So Darn Hard” made me think of this topic. ).

First of all, let’s not pretend: Chinese is not easy, nor is there some fast method that will make you fluent. However, Chinese is also not impossible to learn, and really anyone can do it. You have to have patience and perseverance, but you WILL learn. You should pace yourself and organize your learning well. Expect to learn in stages (check out Sinosplice’s definition of the 5 stages of learning Mandarin “The Five Stages to Learning Chinese” ).

Learning Chinese is a bit of a good-news, bad-news affair. First the bad news:

• Tones: There are 4 main tones (one neutral), a pretty trippy concept to get used to.
• No Cognates: Other than kāfēi for “coffee”, or shāfā for “sofa”, you are on your own. No freebies here.
• Non-alphabetical language: Need I say more?
• Unusual Sounds: Mandarin contains some sounds difficult for learners to pronounce such as the reflexive zh-, ch-, sh-, or the ü umlaut sound, and many more.
• “Out There”: Chinese is “out there”; it is generally just really, really different from English.

Now for the good news:

• No Verb Tenses: Once you learn a verb you’ve learned all its forms: that being only one. No conjugation here.
• No Articles: No complicated articles as you might find in a European language.
• Simple grammar: Compared to Arabic, Japanese and even some European languages, the grammar is pretty bare bones.
• Logical: Chinese has always been Chinese, so the language fits together in a logical fashion with few exceptions. Once you are past the beginner stage, you will see how the morpheme pairs and the grammar all fit together beautifully.

Tell me the good and bad news from your learning. Stay tuned for tips on learning Mandarin.