Is it difficult to learn Chinese?

With respect to reading and writing Chinese, the answer is yes. Written Chinese is not based on an alphabet. Even though the Chinese characters could be broken down to around 220 radicals, there is not a simple rule to “spell” them in terms of the word radicals.

On the other hand, if you would just like to pick up a few words to make small talks, that should be as easy as learning to speak any other foreign language. You could even try to write down the words by using the Romanized pinyin system.

(kùnnan) and 困难 (kùnnan) mean difficult or difficulties, whereas (yì) and 容易 (róngyì) mean easy, easily or apt to.

Traditionally, the Chinese have adopted the view of 知易行难 (zhī yì xíng nán), viz. it is easy to know about something but often difficult to follow up with action.

On the night of his betrayal, 耶穌 (Yēsū Jesus) said to his disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” This is akin to the Chinese idiom:

The heart is more than willing, but there is not enough strength or ability to do it.

We know how detrimental tobacco and alcohol can be to our heath, but many try and fail to quit. We may know all the words and material that need to go into a book, but it is not so easy to put everything together to make a finished book.

One could just as well argue for the other case – 知难行易 (zhī nán xíng yì). After you have learned a difficult skill or branch of knowledge, then it is easy to put it to use and complete a task. For example, once you know the commonly used chord progressions and understand the logic behind the harmonization of the scale tones and the chords, you are apt to be able to play a song by ear and improvise the harmony.

Similarly, you are more likely to be able to make meaningful statements in a language when you know the underlying grammar and the conventional syntax. The article at this link provides an interesting example.

As a noun, 今天 (jīntiān today), 昨天 (zuótiān yesterday), 明天 (míngtiān tomorrow) and 后天 (hòutiān the day after tomorrow) can be placed at the end of a sentence. For example,

Nà yào děngdào míngtiān.
That will need to wait until tomorrow.

However, when using these words as adverbs, do not place them at the end of a sentence. You could say,

Míngtiān wǒmén yào qù kàn diànyǐng.
Tomorrow we are going to the movies.

Or you could say,

Wǒmén míngtiān yào qù kàn diànyǐng.
Tomorrow we are going to the movies.

In English, you rarely hear: “We, tomorrow, are going to the movies.” Therefore, when translating Chinese into English, or English into Chinese, you will want to employ the conventional word order rather than doing it verbatim. Please consult Chapter 17 of “Learn Chinese through Songs Rhymes” for the correct placement of adverbs and adverbial phrases in a sentence.

难度 (nándù) means the degree of difficulty. 难倒 (nándiǎo) is to baffle or deter someone.

Zhègè wèntí bǎ wǒ nándiǎo le.
This problem (or issue) has me baffled.

难关 (nánguān) a crisis or a difficult critical juncture. 度过难关 (dùguò nánguān) means to have passed through a difficult juncture.

难过 (nánguò) means to have a hard time or feel bad.

Tā xīnli hěn nánguò.
She felt very bad.

When pronounced in the fourth tone, (nàn) means calamity or disaster. 灾难 (zāinàn) means calamity, catastophe or suffering due to a disaster. Therefore, refugees are referred to as 难民 (nànmín), and a refuge is called 避难所 (bìnánsuǒ).

轻易 (qīngyì) means easily or rashly.

易燃物 (yìránwù) are combustible or inflammable materials.

好不容易 (hǎo bù róngyì) means with great difficulty or effort. Often the (bù) is omitted, and you will just hear 好容易 (hǎoróngyì). One may get confused if one simply takes this phrase at face value.

我好容易来到这儿, 她却不肯见我.
Wǒ hǎoróngyì láidào zhèr, tā què bù kěn jiàn wǒ.
I took all the trouble to come here, but she refused to see me.

(yì) also means exchange or change.

贸易 (màoyì) means trade. Therefore, 自由贸易 (zìyóumàoyì) is free trade, and 国际贸易 (guójìmàoyì) is international trade.

If you have not heard of 易经 (Yìjīng The Book of Changes) before, you can read about it at this link.

What are the things you find most difficult while learning to speak, read and/or write Chinese?

Sing Que Sera Sera in Chinese

Some Chinese people believe that everyone’s fate is compiled in a celestial book called 天書 (tiānshū). In fact, the main character in the novel titled 红楼梦 (Hónglóumèng Dream of the Red Mansion) managed to get a glimpse of this heavenly book in one of his dreams. As 天書 (tiānshū) is in Chinese, the more reason for you to master the written Chinese language. Just kidding.

You’ve probably wondered why you are who you are, where you are and how you are. Is it all in the genes, is it due to your parents’ and your own efforts, or is it the outcome of a predetermined sequence of cause and effect admixed with a bit of magic at times? We will leave the argument of nature versus nurture to the philosophers. The correct answer for us today is, “Que sera sera.” That’s Spanish for “What will be, will be.”

“Que Sera Sera” is a song written by the Jay Livingston and Ray Evans songwriting team and made internationally popular by the adorable Doris Day. The lively tune buoys our spirits despite the fact that there is not really an answer to the big question. Click on this link to hear the Mandarin version performed by Teresa Deng.

The Mandarin lyrics can be found at this link.

世事 (shìshì) is the abbreviation of 世界上的事 (shìjiè shàng de shì), i.e. the affairs of life. Therefore 世事多变化. (Shìshì duō biànhuà.) means things in life change.

(wèn) means to ask. 问题 (wèntí) are questions. 好些问题 (hǎoxiē wèntí) means a good deal of questions.

将来 (jiānglái) means the future or in the future.
幸福 (xìngfú) means well-being or living happily.
或是 (huò shì) means or, perhaps.

有一番道理 (yǒu yī fān dàoli) means makes sense. You could also say 有道理 (yǒu dàoli).

未来 (wèilái future) means the future or future (adjective). 怎能 (zěn néng) means “how could one”. 料得及 (liào de jí) means able to predict. The complete line means “How could one predict the future?”

人生 (rénshēng) is life. 本是 (běn shì) is short for 本来是 (běnlái shì) means “after all is”. (mí) is a riddle. So, life is after all a riddle.

结婚后 (jiéhūn hòu) means “after getting married”. 夫唱妇又随 (fū chàng fù yòu suí) comes from the Chinese idiom 夫唱妇随 (fū chàng fù suí), which literally translates to: “The husband sings and the wife follows.” The traditional Chinese view is that a good wife should dance to her husband’s tune. This line describes a harmonious married life.

不止一回 (bùzhǐ yī huí) means not just once, or more than once.
是否永久 (shìfǒu yǒngjiǔ) means “whether or not if will be forever”.
多虑 (duō lǜ) means worrying too much.

现在的 (xiànzài de) is an adjective that means current or present. 儿女 (érnǚ) are one’s children.

伶俐 (língli) means bright and clever.

提起好些问题 (tíqǐ hǎoxiē wèntí) means to raise quite a few questions.

前途 (qiántú) is one’s future or prospect. 如意 (rúyì) means to have one’s wishes fulfilled.

(quàn) is to advise or to persuade somebody.

(mò) is the formal word for “don’t”, “not” or “no”. 莫多虑 (Mò duō lǜ.) means “Don’t worry too much.” In everyday speech, you would say: 別想太多. (Bié xiǎng tàiduō. Don’t think too much.)

May the New Year bring you health, happiness and good fortune!

Xīnnián rúyì!
May your wishes come true in the new year!

Teamwork in Chinese (2)

There was once a monk who lived by himself in the mountains. Each day he had to walk a distance to a creek, fill a large wooden tub with water and carry it back to use as drinking water. Years later, another monk came to join him at the small temple. Everyday the two monks would each hold one side of the handle of the large tub to carry water back from the creek. The first monk was glad to have someone share the heavy load. Then came a third monk to join them, and a problem arose: Each monk counted on the other two to do the chore. Hence the following Chinese saying:

Yī gè héshàng tí shuǐ hē.
One monk will carry the water by himself for drinking.

Liǎng gè héshàng tái shuǐ hē.
Two monks will carry the water together for drinking.

Sān gè héshàng méi shuǐ hē.
With three monks there will be no water to drink.

和尚 (héshàng) is a Buddhist monk, usually with shaven head and wearing a long robe.

(tí) is to carry something, such as luggage, with the arm down. (tái) is to lift something up, or having two people carry something together. (méi) is the abbreviation of 没有 (méiyǒu have not, be without).

Appareantly, the three monks had not thought of taking turns in doing their share of the work.

Wǒmén lúnliu zhíbān.
We take turns in being on duty.

A team needs responsible and reliable members who are willing to help oneanother and work together to resolve issues.

负责 (fùzé) means to be responsible for or to be in charge of. Please note that 负责人 (fùzérén) refers to the person in charge, while 负责的人 (fùzé de rén) describes a conscientious person.

(kào) means to lean on. Therefore, 可靠 (kěkào) means dependable, reliable, or trustworthy. 可靠性 (kěkàoxìng) is dependability or reliability.

Zhègè rén bù kěkào.
This person is not trustworthy.

互相帮助 (hùxiāng bāngzhù) is to help each other out, and 互相容忍 (hùxiāng róngrěn) is to tolerate or to put up with each other.

和谐 (héxié) means harmonious, and 相处 (xiāngchǔ) means to get along with each other. Therefore, 和谐相处 (héxié xiāngchǔ) means to get along harmoniously.

The adverb “together” has several Chinese equivalents, with slightly different nuances in meaning.
一同 (yītóng) applies to doing the same things together at the same time and place.
一齐 (yīqí) applies to doing things together at the same time or in unison.
一起 (yīqǐ) applies to doing things together in the same place.
一道 (yīdào) applies to doing things together alongside each other.

Wǒmén yītóng bǎ wèntí jiějué le.
We resolved the issue together.

Hǎo jíle!

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