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  1. #1
    Neo
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    Learning Chinese..?

    I'll start this thread here as it's more likely to get some serious answers.. or not.

    So about learning Chinese. I've got a couple of years before new opportunities arise so I want to learn another language that can benefit me in my career move.

    I'm not thinking of moving to China, but it would be helpful to have another language for working in an international company that resources goods from other countries.

    And there is the possibility in the long term that I may yet see Chinese edge English out as the global language.

    So I ask two main questions, that you may give me the benefit of your experience in answering them.

    How difficult is it to learn Chinese?

    Obviously the orthography and phonetics are hurdles, but is it a deep and complex language that can never be mastered or is it straightforward and logical with a progressive learning curve?

    Do you know of any free and helpful learning resources? I understand the is more than one Chinese language and what I wish to learn is Standard Chinese, or Mandarin based Chinese.

    Is it worth learning?

    English is the global lingua franca and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, nowhere more so than in China with it's huge population and drive toward Western standards. So is it worthwhile to learn Chinese to communicate over global communications when English is the lingua franca and the Chinese end user will have learnt to communicate in English to attain the position they are in?

    Of course speaking Chinese would facilitate relationship building, but for technical detail would English be the default? I would assume so, but how widespread is English at a technical and commercial level?

    Please discuss.
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

  2. #2
    I am in Jail

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    Iíve just started learning (Modern Standard) Chinese. My first impression is that itís not that difficult. Itís not inflected so itís not like learning, say, Polish, which is hideously difficult and if youíre familiar with Thai there are some overlaps. On the other hand, my guess would be that, like Thai, although simple sentences are deceptively easy, when you get to discourse level structures, things get rather more complex. And pronunciation is pretty horrific and will clearly take an enormous amount of work Ė distinguishing between the various sh-, q-, zh-, etc. sounds is not easy - but, whilst Ďmastering a languageí means different things to everyone, I donít think thereís any reason why anyone should fail to achieve a decent level (B2, maybe) assuming, that is, that they put in the hours. I think the reason most people fail at learning languages is that, unless youíve been blessed with natural talent, it takes a long time to get anywhere and most people just wonít work consistently enough.

    In terms of resources, I downloaded a mountain of textbooks, CDs, computer programs, etc but after going through them all, decided that Teach Yourself Mandarin was the best place to begin. After that, I think Iíll start with a more traditional textbook. Iíve also been reading a very good book called The Sounds of Chinese, though if youíre not already familiar with some basic phonetics (or willing to learn), that might be a bit of a slog and, for reading and writing, Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters (which seemed to be highly recommended). For computery stuffy, Anki is excellent for learning vocabulary, Pleco is a great Android dictionary/writing aid and Chinese-forums.com seems pretty good.

  3. #3
    loob lor geezer
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    I had a crack at Chinese when I was in Taiwan.I found speaking it about the same as learning Thai but reading and writing it .............. you need a lot of dedication.
    Is it worth learning ? If you are going to be living or doing a lot of business there....yes. But as a future lingua franca ...........I don't think so.

  4. #4
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    Mate my very clever young nephew learnt it for about 4 years ( Mandarin ) he used to try and show me some of the billions of character sets involved , I did my best to try and encourage him ,, although I honestly thought he would never stick it.

    He even saved up and went off to central China somewhere I never heard of ,, he,s given up completely now .

    It,s admiral to try and have a go mate , but I would sure give it some consideration .

    Good luck with it .

    My Chinese only ever got as far as a number 11a - 34 - 48 and on special occasions a 69
    I'm proud of my 38" waist , also proud I have never done drugs

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zooheekock View Post
    My first impression is that it’s not that difficult. It’s not inflected so it’s not like learning, say, Polish, which is hideously difficult.
    True. It isn't inflected. It is tonal.

    ...which brings even harder challenges

    9 tones in Cantonese, 4 tones in Mandarin.

    And for our old ears, it is hard to distinguish the tones - let alone voice them.

    And as people who speak Thai can attest, speaking the tones incorrectly gives rise to all sorts of humorous misunderstandings. Hence why only their wives and bargirls only understand their attempts at Thai - and even they don't really.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog
    9 tones in Cantonese, 4 tones in Mandarin.
    Nine??? What would they be? In Thai, there are 5, including 'neutral', so you have low, falling, neutral, rising and high. Which one does Mandarin not have?

  7. #7
    ความสุขในอีสาน
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog
    gives rise to all sorts of humorous misunderstandings.
    Yes bloody embarassing ones as well ,, like when I thought I would be clever speaking to my future MIL ,,

    " er ,,, honey , you just called my Mum a dog "

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Zooheekock View Post
    My first impression is that it’s not that difficult. It’s not inflected so it’s not like learning, say, Polish, which is hideously difficult.
    True. It isn't inflected. It is tonal.

    ...which brings even harder challenges

    9 tones in Cantonese, 4 tones in Mandarin.

    And for our old ears, it is hard to distinguish the tones - let alone voice them.

    And as people who speak Thai can attest, speaking the tones incorrectly gives rise to all sorts of humorous misunderstandings. Hence why only their wives and bargirls only understand their attempts at Thai - and even they don't really.
    From my admittedly brief exposure, I haven't found recognizing or reproducing the tones in Standard Chinese that difficult (I know nothing about Cantonese) but my Thai pronunciation is not bad and although the tone pitches and contours are different in the two languages, having worried about one tonal language for a few years, worrying about another is not such a big deal. For the technically minded, Praat is an excellent (and free) piece of software which is designed for voice analysis (so it can help with hitting the correct tone contours and also things like vowel formation and voice onset time). Using it productively does require having some knowledge of phonetics but it's a fantastic tool. There are also plenty of resources around which help in a less technical way with ear training and if you use these resources and work hard, I think more-or-less anyone can learn this stuff (at least to a good-enough standard). The problem people have is much more with motivation and desire than with the (alleged) inherent difficulty of learning a tonal language.
    Last edited by Zooheekock; 25-07-2013 at 12:36 PM.

  9. #9
    loob lor geezer
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog View Post

    9 tones in Cantonese, 4 tones in Mandarin.
    There is a local dialect in Taiwan that has 5 ( might be 6 I forget ) one of which is sort of shouted. They still have a few indigenous hill tribes as well up in the highlands.

  10. #10
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    My kids began to learn Thai when I put them into a Thai Pratom school, after using only English for 5 years. In a few months they could grasp what was going on, by the end of the term they had friends to talk with and were starting to use Thai with their mom at home. Within a year they could speak it well and were getting reading and writing. By the end of the second year they had it made.

    Then at 12 and a half the mom decided they needed Chinese so they took it as a second language IGCSE course at their school. After only one year of foundation Chinese they began the IGCSE course.

    It was hard for them but they persevered and got through it. They just never felt comfortable with it. In fact they preferred reading and writing because as they put it. "Dad Thai schools did teach us one good thing, how to memorize stuff".

    But even having a central Thai accent they were afraid to speak Chinese, they could listen, but they were mortified to speak. They hope to get B, and probably will. By far their worst subject. One that will not be taken for A levels that is for sure!

  11. #11
    I am in Jail

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    What kind of work do you do Neo,are you going to be based in China?

    I suppose its always handy to know another language,but the older you get the harder it will be good luck with it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bangyai View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog View Post

    9 tones in Cantonese, 4 tones in Mandarin.
    There is a local dialect in Taiwan that has 5 ( might be 6 I forget ) one of which is sort of shouted. They still have a few indigenous hill tribes as well up in the highlands.
    I met a guy a year ago, who had just come back from Taiwan. He was a linguistics Major and spoke fluent Chinese. According to him, there is a dialect in the hill tribes that has 7 shifting tones. (Not entirely sure what shifting means, but I understand in Thai, locals don't always use the "correct" tone when speaking quickly.)

    According to Google, Chinese is first and second in difficulty as far as reading/writing and speaking for an English-speaking person to learn. (Might have gotten the order backwards. Japanese is the inverse and Thai comes into third place in both speaking, reading, and writing.

    RickThai

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