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Learn Chinese with Logic

Chinese is not difficult, it is different. It has a logographic (sign) writing system which is very foreign to many people, but don't let these crazy-complicated-looking-characters fool you, Chinese is actually a very logical language.

Characters

The Chinese character is the most fascinating part of the language, and yet the most challenging one. Instead of letters, they are combined by small lines that called "strokes", and written within invisible squares.  Simplified writing is used in China while traditional writing is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong .

For example, to write the word "horse":

  • in Traditional: 馬 (it is possible to see a horse, with four legs and a tail)

  • in Simplified: 马 (simpler, with the four legs turned into a simple horizontal stroke)

It can be summarised thus:

 

        China

     Taiwan

  Hong-Kong

Writing

       Simplified    

   Traditional    

  Traditional     

Speaking

       Mandarin

    Mandarin 

  Mandarin

About Pinyin

The Chinese developed Hanyu Pinyin in the late 1950s; it was officially adopted in Mainland China in 1979; and it was accepted as an international standard for Romanizing Chinese . It has become the most widely accepted standard for the romanization of Mandarin. Although the Pinyin system uses the Roman alphabet, it has reassigned a few letters to sounds that are quite different from what an English speaker would expect. Therefore, it is extremely important to memorize which letters represent which sounds in Pinyin.Overall, Pinyin has been successfully adopted as a system for representing Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and as a system for romanizing Chinese names. Pinyin is also widely used for entering characters into a computer simply by typing in the Pinyin and then selecting the character from a list provided. Mandarin also has what are called ‘tones‘, which means there are 5 different ways of pronouncing any given syllable. Saying a syllable with a different pitch contour can change its meaning completely.

Visualized characters

Characters had been changing shapes and meaning since they were first created 3,000 years ago; therefore, some of them cannot be explained in the standard way.

Radical

Most radicals are characters themselves, and have complete meaning on their own. When combine with other components to form new characters, their function is to imply the meaning (like "extra" in extraordinary"). Once we identify the radical, we can have an idea of what the character is about. 

Phonetic characters

While radicals indicate the meaning of the characters, the phonetic components indicate the pronunciations. This kind of characters is called 形声字, and makes up to 80% of  all Chinese characters! Many  characters share the same phonetic component, so learning one component means learning multiple characters at the same time! 

Words

Many Chinese words are combined by more than one character.

Grammar

 Chinese grammar has no verb conjugation, and that’s true. As hard as this may be to believe, regardless of the tense of any given verb in Chinese, its form doesn’t change. Of course, without conjugation, you may be wondering how the Chinese language communicates the timing of the action in any given sentence. The solution here is that Chinese uses word order to communicate the information that would normally be communicated by conjugation in English.

Another way that Chinese grammar lets us know the timing of a particular action is by adding time words. For example, the literal translation of a Chinese sentence might be, “I go park.” When did the person go to the park? If this sentence had been uttered with no additional words, then the answer would be that the speaker was intending to go to the park presently. Had they intended to communicate that they had gone to the park the day before, they would have said, “I go park yesterday.” Had they intended to communicate that they would be going to the park in the future, they would have said, “I go park tomorrow.”

There are also some interesting facts about nouns and pronouns in Chinese grammar. For instance, when nouns become plural in Chinese, they usually remain unchanged. Pronouns, however, are just as complicated in Chinese as they are in English (but thankfully, not more so). There are both singular and plural pronouns in Chinese, and they exist in first, second, or third persons. As you can see, with a little persistence, you will find that Chinese grammar isn’t as difficult to master as that of some other languages.

 

 

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