posted by frailtyfaith on August 9, 2015 | 34 comments

As a native Chinese speaker, a lot of my friends asked me to help them with Chinese learning. To better understand the problem and develop my method of teaching them, I want to know: what is your biggest problem when learning Chinese?


Jieqiong Xu
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rokomata on August 10, 2015 | reply
Finding a reliable resource to learn how to read Chinese characters from. The Hanzi-to-Pinyin converter on this website is said to be mostly reliable but I am not sure how good it is at picking up Duoyinzi in a particular text.
msubotin on August 10, 2015 | reply
Finding a steady source of easy spoken Chinese to train listening comprehension. I've learned to read at an intermediate/advanced level with texts of graduated difficulty, but when I listen to any spoken Chinese, my ear is overwhelmed and I can barely recognize a single word even in a text I would read fluently with my eyes.
grum.ben on August 25, 2015 | reply
I second this. I've been studying chinese for years and I still can't understand most of CCTV news broadcasts unless I already know the subject matter. Sigh. I've started watching soap operas in chinese (on Youku)and that is helping some - lots of cultural tips, and practical usage, but it's still coming soooo slowly.
msubotin on August 10, 2015 | reply
Just to be clear, I know what the words sound like, I just can't recognize them at a normal speaking speed.
rokomata on August 10, 2015 | reply
I'm no expert but I think it pays off to adapt to their speed of speaking than the other way around. How are their ears not overwhelmed when they are listening? Could you not listen more?
Curufinwe on August 11, 2015 | reply
@msubotin then start slow. many media players (e.g. VLC) offer an option to play at a slower speed.
armand.jesse on August 13, 2015 | reply
Actually, I've felt that finding a resources to learn how to read or listening comprehension is quite easy. But, to train my mind to always remember what I read and what I listen is not really as easy as I would like it to be.

This is due to characters and pronunciations that are not always unique and distinguishable. If my eyes and my ears are tired, it's not really easy to comprehend what I read and listen. No matter how much I tried to absorb my reading and listening, there's always a limit in what I can achieve on one day, and what I remember in one week.

Understood that the solution to this difficulties is always to practice more, but if that is the only solution, then there's no point to improve teaching method.

Then another thing is Chinese websites tend to be slower when accessed outside China.

msubotin on August 14, 2015 | reply
Those are all good suggestions, and I've had similar ideas myself. I was listening to an audiobook of 家 by 巴金 after reading each chapter, slowing it down. However, the starting point, as in my other similar attempts, seems to have been too advanced to let my ear catch up with my eye, and by the end of the novel I could still barely catch a word here and there in a text I had just read easily with my eyes, sounding each character in my head. I couldn't even notice any progress in my listening comprehension over the course of the book. What I'm saying is this: I wouldn't have been able to learn to read Chinese without carefully designed readers of graduated difficulty and restricted vocabulary. The difficulties of learning Chinese for the eye have been well addressed. There doesn't seem to be anything comparable for the ear.
mdubes13 on September 10, 2015 | reply
Hi, there is this website which is quite a nice resource to let your ears keep up. It's not comparable to the well established progression of readers and the like, but you might like to give it a look :)
ShanMu on August 14, 2015 | reply

I've been learning Chinese for one year and a half now and there's quite a few things that I find/ and or have found difficult.

1. Grammar - it's hard to know the order to place the different characters you'll use, especially in longer sentences. I've gotten better with time and perseverance but its still a bug bear.

2. Grammar - again. Rules on when to use certain characters like 的 and 得. And understanding 着 lol I still don't get 着, 唉! Lol

3. The exact same issue as msubotin, learning to read is easier (although more onerous). However slowing down the the audio seems like a good suggestion so I shall try it our. Thanks @ curufinwe.

4. Lack of an immersion experience. If you don't live in China I feel like you are @ a disadvantage because its harder to put what you have learned into practice and absorb the mandarin naturally. So practice in normal everyday speech with your students, taking them to restaurants and other activities that will immerse themselves into the language and culture.

There's a few more thing I could mention but there's a summary from my point of view @ this point of my learning experience.

nico.vertriest on September 5, 2015 | reply
Remembering the tones when learning new words.
frjnmarc on September 6, 2015 | reply
I found remembering the tones for new words really hard at first, too. A while ago, I hit on this method that really helps a lot (for me at least):

Visualise four places that you know. The first should be somewhere high-ish and horizontal - a wide building on top of a hill, for example. Make the second a different place with a big staircase going up. The third should be a low and rounded place like the bottom of a valley. The fourth is a steep downward slope. These 4 places are for the 4 tones.

When you learn a new word, visualise the thing it means (and the parts of the character too) in the corresponding one of the 4 places.

I find this really makes the tones stick - sometimes even better than the basic pronunciation itself!
nico.vertriest on September 7, 2015 | reply

Splendid idea !!!