trevorbAugust 28, 2010, 04:36 PM posted in I Have a Question
Despite being a computer programmer I cannot seem to get the language of language to work in my head.
This isn't just Chinese but English as well, I don't think about nouns adjectives etc. they just happen in the right places when I talk!
When studying chinese am I better to just keep listening to as much speech as I can and reading as much text as I can and hope it goes in? or should I put real effort into understanding the grammar and the formulas that make the language work?
My gut says the former but I'm still struggling with things like the review questions. Even when I know the words I rarely manage to create the right sentence in the time space available.
As I am studying out side of china it is much more difficult to get exposed to the language so my progress is slow, but then I have time.....
What do other people do?
bweedinOctober 02, 2010, 09:43 PM
Well, don't worry too much about the grammar in the beginning, after all (assuming English is your first language) how long were you speaking English before you studied grammar?
Also, how long do Chinese people study English grammar, but can't speak a word of English?
trevorbOctober 04, 2010, 08:43 PM
What really worries me is my understanding spoken chinese. My reading level is not to bad nowadays but I still struggle to understand spoken chinese. Dialogs come after a few repeats once I know what is being said but listening to TV etc.....the odd word now and again.
I feel I need to just understand but am still trying to translate, so I keep listening. I think this explains the bits I do understand because they are the words I am really familar with.....
Oh well, nobody ever told me it would be easy.
Yesterday I posted something similar to what I am about to post now but it seems like a good place to repeat considering the nature of the post.
To me, language is used as a way of expressing emotions, giving instructions, explaining events etc..
With this in mind. I think it is better to not try and translate every word you hear in a sentence as the words you don't know will just confuse you or you will misinterpret them. Just listen for Key words in the sentence and try assume/assemble the overall meaning from the bits you do know.
Once you have a jist of what is being asked, instructed, told etc then you are communicating at a level that language was intended for. The gaps will be filled in time (or at least I hope the will ;) ) as you learn more patterns and get more exposure
Native speakers are always going to throw words in that you have not covered in a lesson and most of the time they are not crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence. For example if someone says to you "Could you just turn off the Radio next to the fridge please mate?" and the only words you know are "Turn off", "Radio" and "next to"...you will know what to do and you are functioning on the level that is required for that scenario. You might even be able to pick up a new word "Fridge" from knowing "next to" once you have spotted the radio. :)
I am by no means at a decent level for conversational Chinese but I have found that since I started viewing the language in this way I have been able to participate in way more conversations than before since I no longer pause for ages and get stumped trying to translate every word in a spoken sentence.
thanks Hamshank, thats pretty much the conclusion I've been coming to. I'm not in China so opportunities to hear the language are lower but I have CPod, some movies and things I listen to.
Stressing over not understanding every word is not getting me any further along! Instead i took all the subtitles off of my movies (as I kept following them trying to match the meaning and sometimes they were different) and though i don't understand much of them I am finding picking out the bits I do know easier......
gaojianAugust 28, 2010, 07:06 PM
I find that I have a similar problem. I have found that when working with Chinese grammar I need a lot of examples. I start to identify the patterns (not by organizing by adjective/ noun etc.) but finding what words I know and fitting them into place. If I am with a native speaker (or teacher) and I learn a new grammar pattern I always try to provide my own simple examples to make sure I understand the concept. Other than that I think that learning a language is a mix of speaking, reading, listening, writing etc. Try to expose yourself to everything that you can. In a typical day I will do a lesson on ChinesePod, try and read an article online, speak (to myself if I have to) and watch some kind of TV show (I am watching 奋斗 right now).
I think that with more and more exposure to the language the grammar patterns will start to come naturally. Remember, Chinese grammar isn't as hard as English so hopefully that will help.