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Learning Chinese, A Tough Nut to Crack?

6 years ago
Learning Chinese, A Tough Nut to Crack?

My Native language is American English which has 26 Alphabet letters that represent the total of 44 American English sounds.

For me learning German was not difficult because, excepting a few characters, the German alphabet is the same as the English. Spanish was also easy for me because of its similarities to English.

Before my first visit to Thailand I practiced learning Thai, using The Pimsular Method. This was fine for relating with the folks but when it came to reading Thai language, I was totally in the dark. Looking at the Thai Language characters, I thought to myself, “I am not about to even try to learn that.” However, when I returned to Thailand with intention to live there I knew I had to read and speak the language if I wanted independence to get around.

Once I embarked on the challenge I was surprised to learn there were only about fifty-nine Thai Alphabet characters I needed to master or at least, understand. As I became adapt at reading the Thai Character sounds my Thai speaking grew exponentially. Thai, introduced me to tonal languages.

Now, I am determined to learn Mandarin Chinese (the Chinese “Common Language”). I believe in self-study and only resort to teachers, minimally, for clarification; thus, I started with the Pimsular Method and free online resources.

As a Teacher of English that stresses the importance of hearing and speaking English sounds, one would think I would have initiated my Chinese learning strategy learning Chinese Sounds. But, I read somewhere that to read a Chinese newspaper one had to know at least two thousand Chinese characters. My motivation for learning Chinese is only for basic communication with my Chinese students, so, I was not about to even try to understand 2,000 Chinese characters, thus, learning Chinese seemed a daunting challenge.

As I attempted to imitate the Pimsular lesson’s sounds, which is purely audio and has no visual reference to sound associations, I became convinced I needed the help of an instructor. Reviewing the "Common Language" teachers here on Verbling, led me to the profile of Teacher Yakira.

Viewing Teacher Yakira’s profile she mentioned a word I was unfamiliar with, “Pinyin.” “What is Pinyin,” I wondered? In the midst of my curiosity I became acutely aware I was able to distinguish the individual words this teacher was speaking even though I did not understand their meaning. I could “HEAR” her. I decided to book a lesson with Teacher Yakira.

Through Teacher Yakira I learned what Pinyin was, a means of interpreting Chinese Characters using the Alphabet. In just one lesson with Teacher Yakira, the Common Language became understandable, even the Characters make complete sense to me. Now, I can look at the Characters, read the Pinyin, and pronounce the words. Coupled with Teacher Yakira’s crystal clear Mandarin Chinese speaking to guide me, I see myself soon in conversation with my Chinese Students.

The language and the people are fascinating….

What has your teacher done to help you?