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Chinese Language is Not “Difficult” but “Different”

Most teachers who teach Chinese language overseas always hear students who learn Chinese say that “Chinese is too difficult to learn”. Therefore, it seems the overseas Chinese teaching is full of “difficulty”.

As a matter of fact, “difficult” is the comparatively speaking of “easy”, so there is no absolute standard and boundary. Students learn Mandarin should know that it is not difficult if you follow the regularity and hard if not. Besides, it will be easy if you familiar with the field with simple regularity, vice versa.

For Chinese language, if learners who study Chinese in China want to reach the AP standard, they should learn about 1,400 characters and the relevant words and grammars. However, the relative level in English is about 20 thousand words. According to this, can you say that learning Chinese language is much more difficult?

For those learners who think it is difficult when they study Chinese, they may say that Chinese characters need to be learned one by one, but is English not the same way? You may say there is much certain regularity in English word-formation, but that of Chinese is also the same.

What’s more, the part of speech, the tense and the sentence pattern in French language are much more complicated than that of Chinese. However, both the teachers and students can get used to them. Why it becomes so difficult to study Mandarin Chinese when it comes to the relatively easy Chinese.

On the tenth international conference on Chinese language teaching in Shenyang in 2010, a professor from the Colombia University raised the question “how can we make students keep learning Chinese?”. This may cause many thinking about the problems in Chinese language teaching. Is it the Chinese languagereally hard to learn or is there something wrong with the teaching techniques in Chinese learning programs.

Of course, the author agrees with the later. The regularity can’t be changed according to people’s mind. The Chinese language regularity is our principle and the teaching techniques that the overseas students adapted to are the purpose when we teach them to learn Mandarin Chinese. If we can seize some common regularity, we can make the difficult things much easier. If not, we just waste our energy in the surface level.

Therefore, we can see that the standard to tell apart the difficulty and the easiness lies in here. Then we can see Chinese language is not difficult, it is just different from the language that learners learn as the mother tongue. When the author started his Chinese language teaching assistant in 1987, he realized that there were some problems in overseas Chinese language teaching.

As a help for those learners who study in China, the author put forward a new method in Chinese languageteaching in his book “汉语句法深层结构的一范三式——以晶化汉语句法带动教材改革和引导学生思维转化的一种探索》”. He collected the scattered grammar points and saved time to teach the learners of the elementary level. It made firm foundation for students in understanding and usage and then most of them managed to improve their ability to the intermediate level.

Let’s explain more about the theory of “Chinese is not difficult but different”. Firstly, “not difficult” is not deny the difficulty of Chinese language as a complex language system. It is a kind of introspection about the attitude to exaggerate the difficulty of Chinese language. Many people exaggerate the difficulty of the HSKpreparation program in China.

For the point “different”, it reminds students should broaden their horizon to admit the regularity and rationality of the other languages. Only by this way can they find the differences between the Chinese and the native language during the process of learning Chinese characters and words. Therefore, the learners who attend to the one-on-one Chinese learning programs should shift their thoughts when learning Chinese.

The Chinese language teachers should emphasize the different regularity between two languages. At the same time, they should believe that students can understand and improve it by gradual guide in learning process. It might take a lot of time and energy and some people can’t understand it. But it will lead great benefit in overseas Chinese language teaching.

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