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:

心有余而力不足.
Xīnyǒuyúérlìbùzú.
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,

那要等到明天.
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,

明天我们要去看电影.
Míngtiān wǒmén yào qù kàn diànyǐng.
Tomorrow we are going to the movies.

Or you could say,

我们明天要去看电影.
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.

这个问题把我难到了.
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.

她心里很难过.
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 “It’s A Small World After All” in Chinese

The Globe

The Globe


It’s a ball! It’s a globe! It’s our world! As the surface of the earth approximates a sphere, it is logical to use the latitude-longitude coordinate system as a location reference.

We already know that the earth is called 地球 (dìqiú). 纬度 (wěidù) is the latitude , while 经度 (jīngdù) is the longitude. Therefore, a north latitude would be given as 北纬 (běiwěi), while a south latitude would be given as
南纬 (nánwěi). Similarly, the east longitude is 东经 (dōngjīng), and the west longitude is 西经 (xījīng).

迪斯尼乐园位于北纬33度48分, 西经117度55分.
Dísīní Lèyuán wèiyú běiwěi 33 dù 48 fēn, xījīng 117 dù 55 fēn.
Disneyland is located at 33-48 N and 117-55 W.

Each one of us is at an intersection of a latitude line (parallel), or 纬线 (wěixiàn), and a longitude line (meridian), 经线 (jīngxiàn). A miniscule speck indeed. We are so 渺小 (miǎoxiǎo tiny, insignificant) compared to the entire world, or 世界 (shìjiè).

The good news is that technology has shortened the distance between countries and groups of people. Whereas just a century ago, a Chinese peasant might have to travel on foot for three days to attend a relative’s wedding celebration, nowadays you could fly to any city in the world in less than 24 hours. The world has shrunk, so to speak. The Walt Disney song, “It’s a Small World After All”, captures this sentiment in a happy tune. The Chinese version at this link relays many positive messages.

不管 (bùguǎn) means “regardless of” or “no matter”.
分种族 (fēn zhǒngzú) is to differentiate by race.
阶级 (jiējí) means social class.
充满 (chōngmǎn) means to be filled with.
友情 (yǒuqíng) is friendship.
甜蜜 (tiánmì) means sweet or a sweet and happy feeling.
昨日 (zuó rì) means the same as 昨天 (zuótiān yesterday).
相隔 (xiānggé) is to be apart (by a distance).
千万里 (qiānwàn li) means ten million miles (i.e. a very long distance).
今天 (jīntiān) means today.
在一起 (zài yīqǐ) means to be together in the same place.
奇妙 (qímiào) means marvelous or amazing.
欢笑 (huānxiào) is to laugh heartily, and 欢呼 (huānhū) is to cheer and hail.
自由 (zìyóu) is freedom.
幸福 (xìngfú) is happiness or wellbeing.
歌唱 (gēchàng) means the same as 唱歌 (chànggē to sing).
相亲相爱 (xiāng qīn xiāng ài) is a phrase commonly used to describe how people get along amicably or lovingly with each other.
互相勉励 (hùxiāng miǎnlì) is also a popular phrase describing how people give each other encouragement and moral support.

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