Learn Chinese to read or translate raws?

Hi, this seems to be a dumb or maybe repeating question... But is it that hard to learn Chinese? and what variety of Chinese dialect should I learn? thanks!

Comments

  • I have just stepped down this path myself, I will share what I have experienced myself. It may not be all accurate and hopefully some one else can correct me if I say anything wrong. 
    First off if you are interested in reading the text that have been made popular here on Wuxiaworld, then Mandarin is the way to go, it is also the language spoken by Most of China with the exception of Hong Kong and other southern cities. The Characters do not change all that much( though some are completely different) from Mandarin to Cantonese, and even most Japanese Kanji are the same!! However the characters are pronounced differently between Mandarin and Cantonese and may even have a different meaning. 

    For myself, and you mileage may vary, the spoken language is not all that hard to learn. I am a native english speaker, born and raised in the U.S and have no other experience speaking an asian language. The grammar structure and words themselves are not that difficult to learn, they are quite intuitive and follow a grammatical order similar to English. For Example Wo Ai Ni (dunno how to do the pinyin on my keyboard lmao) Is I (Wo) Love (Ai) Ni (You)
    this is an extremely basic example, and not all of it follows exactly like that, but from what I have experienced so far it is very similar to English in structure. 
    As for writing and reading, I myself am having some troubles. Unlike Japanese which has a form of alphabet and the strokes combine together to make sounds to make words (like latin alphabet) Chinese does not follow this. You have to memorize the whole character and how to pronounce it, as well as writing it. As far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it (though you can start recognizing parts of the character used in other words to take a shot) For instance beef 牛肉 (Nuirou) is Cow (Niu) 牛 and 肉 (Rou) Meat, so Cow + Meat = Beef. So Pig (Zhu) 猪 + Meat (Rou) 肉 = Pork. See? For me, who does not have a great memory. All I can really do here is Flashcards and copying of characters to ingrain it into my long term memory. Though I recognize a lot more characters than I can remember how to write lol.

    The other problem I have run into. Is if given the pinyin I can take a few seconds to think and translate it, same when given the characters. However being a native english speaker and not knowing any native Chinese speakers the tongue sounds completely foreign to my brain. There is a large disconnect when I hear the sound and try to put them together, that combined with how well spoken Mandarin flows and the speed at which it can be spoken sometimes makes translating it orally quite difficult for me. I have started to remedy this problem by watching some Wuxia dramas in Mandarin online. I recommend Romance of the Condor Heroes and Nirvana in Flame, both are Mandarin Spoken Wuxia/Historical Dramas. Oh and where I am watching Condor Heroes they even have the Mandarin Closed captions one so I can reinforce my recognition of written Mandarin as well!!! ( I got this idea btw, as due to watching Japanese Anime since I was a child I am able to watch un subtitled shows and still follow them, even if I cannot speak it)  And as a last caveat, if you decide to learn Mandarin don't expect to watch your old Kung Fu Favorites like Fist of Fury and whatnot, as they are Hong Kong shot and produced and have cantonese language tracks, even if the Actor is a native Mandarin Speaker such as Jet Li. 

     I know that is a lot of info, and I am sure I messed a few things up, but this is my own experience in the last two months so far after nothing but self study. I can order food and ask for directions and give greetings at the very least, so I feel as though I am progressing well!! If you are interested I have to say to just GO FOR IT!! Its not as hard as it first seems, and I have a load of fun, I actually look forward to doing my Mandarin for an hour every night.

    Oh and a great app for on the go learning would be HelloChinese on Andoid. It is completely free and is one of the best pieces of language software I have ever used, including Rosetta Stone. So Kudos to the developers of that app.
  • edited October 2016
    as far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it
    Actually, Ventrelix, there is. +80% of all Chinese characters are "phono-semantic" compounds. What this means is that one part of the character hints at the meaning (semantic), while the other hints at the pronunciation (phonetic). I'll give you an example with one of the characters you mentioned, I assume you're already familiar with it -- "pig" 猪.

    "pig" 猪 pronounced as "zhū" is a phono-semantic compound made out of the following components:

    • "small animal", traditionally a pig 犭豕
    • phonetic 者 pronounced as "zhě"

    As you can see, it's very easy to find out the meaning and pronunciation of 猪, considering you know what 犭means, and how 者 is pronounced.

    But let's go deeper, shall we? 者 is not a legitimate phono-semantic compound like 猪, but its pronunciation can be traced back to two origins:

    • 者's top component, which now resembles 耂, was originally 止, and 止 is pronounced "zhǐ".
    • 这, which is a synonym of 者, is pronounced "zhè".

    So, yeah, as you can see from the two examples above, figuring out the pronunciation of a certain character is not that hard if you know its structure and etymology. Actually, you don't need to memorize all this information to know the meanings and pronunciations of 猪 and 者 -- reading their etymologies once or twice is more than sufficient -- these two characters are common and you'll likely encounter them a lot, hence why you'll remember them very easily, the same goes for many others. Back on topic -- Chinese is not actually hard to learn, you just need 1) free time, 2) motivation, and 3) access to good learning materials. It gets especially easier if you know your way around the internet and can communicate in Engish.
  • Thank you for this information Mexican Ninja. In my self studies I had not run across this, this is very interesting. I think I am going to look into this some more as I am struggling quite a bit with the rote memorization route of character learning. 
  • Some one explained this very question to me in terms of UK driving licences.

    In the UK, you can opt to take a test which will entitle you to drive automatic transmission vehicles only should you pass it. Or, you can opt for the slightly harder manual test which will entitle you to drive both automatic as well as manual transmission vehicles.

    The question of which Chinese writing system to choose is like the example of the two types of driving licences.

    If you are untainted by any type of Chinese writing system learning then my friend suggests that you make the effort to learn Traditional Chinese because Simplified Chinese is a dumbed down version originally intended to be easily taught to uneducated peasants of the country. If you master it then you will be able to read both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

    By learning the Traditional system this will open up a wider and deeper access to the literature and culture of the country. Deriving meanings from character strokes is even more easier using Traditional because none are lost or changed through reduction (ie the simplifying process).

    Since Mandarin is the national language of China then you should definitely learn it. However, my friend says that, if you get the chance, you should also learn Cantonese because Cantonese is very similar to the language spoken in ancient China. Consequently, the poems and literature from that time period sound much better in the Cantonese dialect.

  • i am a chinese myself, however i stop taking chinese class since i was around middle school. now, even though i can speak fluent chinese, i can't read and write well, as for the novels... i can only read basic words, damm so much regret. 
  • But is it that hard to learn Chinese? 
    Yes it's really hard.
    and what variety of Chinese dialect should I learn?
    If you just want to read WW novels, then Mandarin with simplified Chinese. 

    喵喵喵喵喵?
  • Digao said:
    Some one explained this very question to me in terms of UK driving licences.

    In the UK, you can opt to take a test which will entitle you to drive automatic transmission vehicles only should you pass it. Or, you can opt for the slightly harder manual test which will entitle you to drive both automatic as well as manual transmission vehicles.

    The question of which Chinese writing system to choose is like the example of the two types of driving licences.

    If you are untainted by any type of Chinese writing system learning then my friend suggests that you make the effort to learn Traditional Chinese because Simplified Chinese is a dumbed down version originally intended to be easily taught to uneducated peasants of the country. If you master it then you will be able to read both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

    By learning the Traditional system this will open up a wider and deeper access to the literature and culture of the country. Deriving meanings from character strokes is even more easier using Traditional because none are lost or changed through reduction (ie the simplifying process).

    Since Mandarin is the national language of China then you should definitely learn it. However, my friend says that, if you get the chance, you should also learn Cantonese because Cantonese is very similar to the language spoken in ancient China. Consequently, the poems and literature from that time period sound much better in the Cantonese dialect.
    Sorry, I think you should learn a bit of basic Chinese history because what your friend is completely wrong, according to a Chinese-major student's word.
  • as far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it
    Actually, Ventrelix, there is. +80% of all Chinese characters are "phono-semantic" compounds. What this means is that one part of the character hints at the meaning (semantic), while the other hints at the pronunciation (phonetic). I'll give you an example with one of the characters you mentioned, I assume you're already familiar with it -- "pig" 猪.

    "pig" 猪 pronounced as "zhū" is a phono-semantic compound made out of the following components:

    • "small animal", traditionally a pig 犭豕
    • phonetic 者 pronounced as "zhě"

    As you can see, it's very easy to find out the meaning and pronunciation of 猪, considering you know what 犭means, and how 者 is pronounced.

    But let's go deeper, shall we? 者 is not a legitimate phono-semantic compound like 猪, but its pronunciation can be traced back to two origins:

    • 者's top component, which now resembles 耂, was originally 止, and 止 is pronounced "zhǐ".
    • 这, which is a synonym of 者, is pronounced "zhè".

    So, yeah, as you can see from the two examples above, figuring out the pronunciation of a certain character is not that hard if you know its structure and etymology. Actually, you don't need to memorize all this information to know the meanings and pronunciations of 猪 and 者 -- reading their etymologies once or twice is more than sufficient -- these two characters are common and you'll likely encounter them a lot, hence why you'll remember them very easily, the same goes for many others. Back on topic -- Chinese is not actually hard to learn, you just need 1) free time, 2) motivation, and 3) access to good learning materials. It gets especially easier if you know your way around the internet and can communicate in Engish.
    Oi, let's just say there's quite a bit of stretch involved, not to mention some of the character-radical-phonetics connection were somewhat lost due to character shape or pronunciation changes over the history. Rule of thumb: Take a guess at the pronunciation of a new character, then check your dictionary. If it's the same as what you would expect, good; if not, see if you could find a connection with characters you already know, so you could "rationalize" it. If the connection is completely lost to you... well, there's just one more character to memorize.
  • as far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it
    Actually, Ventrelix, there is. +80% of all Chinese characters are "phono-semantic" compounds. What this means is that one part of the character hints at the meaning (semantic), while the other hints at the pronunciation (phonetic). I'll give you an example with one of the characters you mentioned, I assume you're already familiar with it -- "pig" 猪.

    "pig" 猪 pronounced as "zhū" is a phono-semantic compound made out of the following components:

    • "small animal", traditionally a pig 犭豕
    • phonetic 者 pronounced as "zhě"

    As you can see, it's very easy to find out the meaning and pronunciation of 猪, considering you know what 犭means, and how 者 is pronounced.

    But let's go deeper, shall we? 者 is not a legitimate phono-semantic compound like 猪, but its pronunciation can be traced back to two origins:

    • 者's top component, which now resembles 耂, was originally 止, and 止 is pronounced "zhǐ".
    • 这, which is a synonym of 者, is pronounced "zhè".

    So, yeah, as you can see from the two examples above, figuring out the pronunciation of a certain character is not that hard if you know its structure and etymology. Actually, you don't need to memorize all this information to know the meanings and pronunciations of 猪 and 者 -- reading their etymologies once or twice is more than sufficient -- these two characters are common and you'll likely encounter them a lot, hence why you'll remember them very easily, the same goes for many others. Back on topic -- Chinese is not actually hard to learn, you just need 1) free time, 2) motivation, and 3) access to good learning materials. It gets especially easier if you know your way around the internet and can communicate in Engish.
    Oi, let's just say there's quite a bit of stretch involved, not to mention some of the character-radical-phonetics connection were somewhat lost due to character shape or pronunciation changes over the history. Rule of thumb: Take a guess at the pronunciation of a new character, then check your dictionary. If it's the same as what you would expect, good; if not, see if you could find a connection with characters you already know, so you could "rationalize" it. If the connection is completely lost to you... well, there's just one more character to memorize.
  • as far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it
    Actually, Ventrelix, there is. +80% of all Chinese characters are "phono-semantic" compounds. What this means is that one part of the character hints at the meaning (semantic), while the other hints at the pronunciation (phonetic). I'll give you an example with one of the characters you mentioned, I assume you're already familiar with it -- "pig" 猪.

    "pig" 猪 pronounced as "zhū" is a phono-semantic compound made out of the following components:

    • "small animal", traditionally a pig 犭豕
    • phonetic 者 pronounced as "zhě"

    As you can see, it's very easy to find out the meaning and pronunciation of 猪, considering you know what 犭means, and how 者 is pronounced.

    But let's go deeper, shall we? 者 is not a legitimate phono-semantic compound like 猪, but its pronunciation can be traced back to two origins:

    • 者's top component, which now resembles 耂, was originally 止, and 止 is pronounced "zhǐ".
    • 这, which is a synonym of 者, is pronounced "zhè".

    So, yeah, as you can see from the two examples above, figuring out the pronunciation of a certain character is not that hard if you know its structure and etymology. Actually, you don't need to memorize all this information to know the meanings and pronunciations of 猪 and 者 -- reading their etymologies once or twice is more than sufficient -- these two characters are common and you'll likely encounter them a lot, hence why you'll remember them very easily, the same goes for many others. Back on topic -- Chinese is not actually hard to learn, you just need 1) free time, 2) motivation, and 3) access to good learning materials. It gets especially easier if you know your way around the internet and can communicate in Engish.
    Oi, let's just say there's quite a bit of stretch involved, not to mention some of the character-radical-phonetics connection were somewhat lost due to character shape or pronunciation changes over the history. Rule of thumb: Take a guess at the pronunciation of a new character, then check your dictionary. If it's the same as what you would expect, good; if not, see if you could find a connection with characters you already know, so you could "rationalize" it. If the connection is completely lost to you... well, there's just one more character to memorize.
  • as far as I can tell so far there is no way to break the character down to guess how to pronounce it
    Actually, Ventrelix, there is. +80% of all Chinese characters are "phono-semantic" compounds. What this means is that one part of the character hints at the meaning (semantic), while the other hints at the pronunciation (phonetic). I'll give you an example with one of the characters you mentioned, I assume you're already familiar with it -- "pig" 猪.

    "pig" 猪 pronounced as "zhū" is a phono-semantic compound made out of the following components:

    • "small animal", traditionally a pig 犭豕
    • phonetic 者 pronounced as "zhě"

    As you can see, it's very easy to find out the meaning and pronunciation of 猪, considering you know what 犭means, and how 者 is pronounced.

    But let's go deeper, shall we? 者 is not a legitimate phono-semantic compound like 猪, but its pronunciation can be traced back to two origins:

    • 者's top component, which now resembles 耂, was originally 止, and 止 is pronounced "zhǐ".
    • 这, which is a synonym of 者, is pronounced "zhè".

    So, yeah, as you can see from the two examples above, figuring out the pronunciation of a certain character is not that hard if you know its structure and etymology. Actually, you don't need to memorize all this information to know the meanings and pronunciations of 猪 and 者 -- reading their etymologies once or twice is more than sufficient -- these two characters are common and you'll likely encounter them a lot, hence why you'll remember them very easily, the same goes for many others. Back on topic -- Chinese is not actually hard to learn, you just need 1) free time, 2) motivation, and 3) access to good learning materials. It gets especially easier if you know your way around the internet and can communicate in Engish.
    Oi, let's just say there's quite a bit of stretch involved, not to mention some of the character-radical-phonetics connection were somewhat lost due to character shape or pronunciation changes over the history. Rule of thumb: Take a guess at the pronunciation of a new character, then check your dictionary. If it's the same as what you would expect, good; if not, see if you could find a connection with characters you already know, so you could "rationalize" it. If the connection is completely lost to you... well, there's just one more character to memorize.
  • Digao said:
    Some one explained this very question to me in terms of UK driving licences.

    In the UK, you can opt to take a test which will entitle you to drive automatic transmission vehicles only should you pass it. Or, you can opt for the slightly harder manual test which will entitle you to drive both automatic as well as manual transmission vehicles.

    The question of which Chinese writing system to choose is like the example of the two types of driving licences.

    If you are untainted by any type of Chinese writing system learning then my friend suggests that you make the effort to learn Traditional Chinese because Simplified Chinese is a dumbed down version originally intended to be easily taught to uneducated peasants of the country. If you master it then you will be able to read both Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

    By learning the Traditional system this will open up a wider and deeper access to the literature and culture of the country. Deriving meanings from character strokes is even more easier using Traditional because none are lost or changed through reduction (ie the simplifying process).

    Since Mandarin is the national language of China then you should definitely learn it. However, my friend says that, if you get the chance, you should also learn Cantonese because Cantonese is very similar to the language spoken in ancient China. Consequently, the poems and literature from that time period sound much better in the Cantonese dialect.
    Sorry, I think you should learn a bit of basic Chinese history because what your friend is completely wrong, according to a Chinese-major student's word.

    It depends on how the student was taught.

    If they were taught inside the well then they will not see the entire sky. True history is not only written by the winner but it is also written by the loser and the neutral stander-by.

    My friend's argument was to learn everything, if not then the most encompassing.
  • juwaii said:
    i am a chinese myself, however i stop taking chinese class since i was around middle school. now, even though i can speak fluent chinese, i can't read and write well, as for the novels... i can only read basic words, damm so much regret. 
    Exactly my situation fellow sufferer :'(
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