Learning a new language is hard, really really hard. The grammar might be utterly different to what you’re used to. The way you produce the sounds in your mouth you might have never done before and some words in your own language might not even exist in the new language you’re learning. Chinese is a bit like that.
What’s Chinese like compared to English?
Chinese is quite different to English, the most obvious example is that in English we use the phonetic alphabet (A,B,C etc) and in Chinese they use characters.
This makes reading Chinese particularly hard as the characters don’t tell you how to pronounce them. You must memorise them. Another huge difference is that when speaking Chinese you never close your lips at the end of a word, so it can actually make your jaw ache when speaking.
Chinese pronunciation doesn’t change with plurals either. Where in English we’d say “one dog, two dogs” in Chinese the direct translation is “one dog, two dog”. This all takes getting used to.
In short it’s hard to get your head around it when you’re starting.
When you’re learning Chinese it can take you literally 6 seconds to say a big number. Let’s take the number 99,999. In English we say “ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine”. In Chinese they say it different, the direct translation would be “nine ten thousand, nine thousand, nine hundred, nine ten, nine”. A mouthful! In Chinese it is “jiu wan, jiu qian, jiu bai, jiu shi, jiu”.
This is a bit of a tongue twister!
Also for some unknown reason to me the number two is treated differently. When counting the number two is “er”. So 1, 2, 3 is “yi, er, san”. But when saying a “two” over one hundred it is not “er”, now it’s “liang”. What?!
For example 22 is “er shi er” (two ten, two), but 222 is “liang bai, er shi er” (two hundred, two ten, two). Why does it suddenly change to ‘liang’?
For any objects it is the same: If I want to order two coffees it is “liang cafe”, not “er cafe” as you might think.
These type of things are what makes learning a new language hard, because it’s different in so many ways.
What I’ve learned after two months
I’ve been getting lessons once a week for about two months. With practice at home I think I’m going ok. Here is a list of words or phrases I can say:
How much money?
Hello, thank you
I’d like to eat/drink…..
I wouldn’t like to eat/drink….
One cup of ice coffee with sugar
Take away/have here
Noodles, rice, fruit (the word, not all the fruit!)
Meat, beef, chicken, lamb, fish
I want/I don’t want….
I have/I don’t have….
The same/not the same
It’s all ok to get me by so far, but I do admit I will gravitate towards a restaurant or shop with some English words on it. The chances are someone will speak English there.
I practice about 20 minutes at home everyday, and use it as needed when out.
So how much can you learn?
It depends how much you practice and if you have a teacher or not. I have a good teacher and my lessons are spoken in Chinese for 95% of the lesson. I don’t practice as much as I should.
If you want to learn Chinese I recommend you get a teacher because they will help you with pronunciation which is essentially the most important thing.
You can see how much I’ve learned. Is it the same as you?
Practicing everyday is the key, also try and ignore your current language rules as the new language will have its own rules