Virtual Home of
Russell Eagling


Learning Chinese

If you ever want to amuse a Chinese person here - a dead cert way to get a massive laugh is to try and speak Chinese.  It is allegedly the most difficult language to master thanks to a mixture of written characters that bear no relation to what they sound like and a speaking system that relies on tone as much as it relies on vowels and consonants.  This is all my way of introduction to explain that I'm not fluent yet - and don't expect to be for some time.

The good news is that the grammar is generally quite simple.  When I was learning Spanish I got very hung-up about verbs.  Everything changed.  Whether it was I, you, he, we, you plural or they (much like French)  They then all changed if you were speaking about the future, present or past.  No surprise there, you might think, but actually there was one version of the past tense that there is no equivalent to in English.  Just to top this all off, everything then changes again if you want to express something that you wish, dream or desire.  AND there are completely separate ways of saying this in the future, present, the past, or the strange Spanish past.

What a relief then to learn that when you have learnt the infinitive in Chinese you have learnt your verb.  If English was the same with the verb "go" then you would say things like:

I go, he go, we go, yesterday we go, tomorrow we go, I've never go to China, At the moment I am go to work etc etc

However, its very difficult to explain how hard it is to master the tones.  The tone with which you say every word is crucial to the meaning.  The word ma can mean horse, mother, scold and hemp.  So saying "my mother's horse is scolding the hemp" can be quite a difficult sentence to say and to listen to!

My students are doing a sterling job at pitching in to help me improve my language.  The last month hasn't been very good with all the other things I've been doing, but at least now I feel that I am more advanced that I was when I first arrived!

      Home Food Extra time Letters Home Places Friends

Launched on December 25th 2003