help bg
Go Back

Westerners’ Misconceptions in Learning Chinese Language

Some foreign learners may think it is difficult for them to study Chinese well. As a matter of fact, Chinese language is not as difficult as they think to learn. Maybe they just use the improper method t learn so they find it is hard. Most of them carry some wrong ideas about learning Chinese. Only after correcting those misunderstanding can they learn it better.

The first misconception that learners often carry is about the grammar. During the learning process, they often learn Mandarin by following the fixed grammar rules without considering the specific situations. Grammar is the basic rule for words formation of sentences making in a certain language. By summarizing grammar rules, we can help learners to master a certain language with less time.

There are many uniform grammar rules in languages like English and Spanish. However, the Chinese language is a little different. In the eyes of most westerners, most of them are fixed rules. But they will find there are too many exceptions. Therefore, they become confused when they learn Chinese in China.

Here are two typical examples to illustrate. When we do word formation exercise, foreigners fail to understand why we can say “杯子” and “筷子” but can’t say “碗子”. When they study in China, they will know Chinese people call the dinner treating guests “便饭”. But when the foreigners praise the hospitality of Chinese people, they may say “这么丰盛,真是一个大便饭”. However, they just can’t understand why the meaning is changed so differently just adding a character “大”.

That is the result of obeying the grammar without considering the specific conditions. Another mistake is to learn only by the Chinese Pinyin when they learn Chinese language. At present, there are many reference books for learning Chinese in western countries. But you can hardly see a single Chinese character in the books. All are written only in the form of Chinese Pinyin.

From the view of the history of the Chinese Pinyin, the westerners first learn Chinese on the basis of their own languages. Then it comes the ways of learning Spanish and Portuguese and finally the method of learning Latin. All of these actions influenced the learning way of our Chinese people. That is to say many teachers teach Mandarin language by ways of learning western languages.

The purpose of spelling Chinese language by the 26 letters is to bring convenience in leaning Chinese. However, look from the practice, teachers in Mandarin learning courses may think it fails to realize the original goal of alphabetize the Chinese language. The problem we meet is that there are many characters and words with the similar pronunciation in Chinese. Even the tones are different, it is difficult for our Chinese people to tell apart by Pinyin, say nothing of the westerners who have never learn Chinese.

What’s more, the alphabetization of Chinese language can show learners to study Chinese by the way of Pinyin. It is easy to learn but it deviates from the nature of Chinese ideographic language. Teachers inChinese language school will tell you some jokes about westerners learning Chinese. For instance, some learners read “先生” as “丝烟生” and read “下楼” as “下流”.

These are all caused by the drawbacks of learning Chinese by Pinyin. You can find there are many books about teaching foreigners Chinese but you never find one character in it. Some pocket books and books named “instant Chinese” are all mark Pinyin on the daily expressions, thus teaching them how to speak Chinese. But it is very misleading, so the best place to learn Chinese is to the qualified Chinese language school.

Standing on the point of international communication of Chinese culture, we can see many mistakes and misunderstandings in the process of westerners learning Chinese. Since the 17th century, the Chinese characters featured by the pictographic characters have been studied by some western Christians for one hundred years. According to the history of learning Chinese, teachers in Mandarin language courses in China will tell you that the alphabetized Chinese have lost the cultural features of the Chinese ideographic characters.

Chinese language has been misunderstood for a long period of time. It is time for us to take some measures to correct them and get out of the misconceptions. 

Please use vertical scrolling on your mobile device.