[lit-ideas] Re: Chinese -- ??

  • From: "Julie Krueger" <juliereneb@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 13:41:10 -0500

Re. tones in English -- have you noticed that every spectrum of American
society is beginning to speak with a single tone?  As in:

"I believe that 10% of our claims are rejected by the insurance company?"

"Okay, please look at Box F13?"

"So, I walked to the grocery?"

"And my car was dented?"

"This recipe is delicious?"

I think the question tone is morphing into a shorthand for, "shall I go
on?", or "please ask me more", or "are you with me so far?".  It's no longer
Valley Girl-speak.

In the absence of verbal conjugations, how is tense approached in Chinese?
In Hebrew, modes are more significant than largely ignored "tense"s.  Much
like your illustration re. tones, English too has modes (subjunctive,
conditional, etc.) but other than professional grammarians and those who
have studied other languages, that is largely a bit of trivia not
understood.  My experience of learning Hebrew alongside my peers is that the
mode/tense delineation  is one of the most difficult for the majority of
students.  (Please see "If I were to buy some flowers" vs. "If I was to buy
some flowers"; "If I were King for a day" vs. "If I was King for a day" --
listen carefully to your local news sometime -- the subjunctive mode has
become as obsolete as gloves worn, de rigeur,  to Church.)

Re. written Chinese -- a few years ago I enrolled my youngest daughter, who
has had some intermittent semi-dyslexic issues over a period of several
years -- in a Chinese class.  When it came to remembering vocabulary
auditorially, or being able to reproduce the sounds in a sentence, she was
lost.  However, she (who, btw, has always excelled in graphic art -- she has
a keen sense of how to display proportion, dimension, and movement with a
few simple lines) found writing and recognizing the Chinese symbols/words
completely natural.  In many ways, it was easier for her than learning her
visual ABC's had been.

In any event, I ask partly (but only partly) because I wish a couple of
lines of Chinese translated -- and I do not trust on-line translation things
one whit -- I've seen what they do to the languages I do know.

The lack of verbal conjugations, etc., would trip me up I think.  Whereas to
my daughter it would be incredibly freeing.  Btw, I've studied Spanish,
French, German, Greek, Latin, and played a bit with Russian, Farsi,  and
Korean.  The hardest of them all to me?  German.  A complete nightmare.

Julie Krueger
sweltering under 94 degrees, which is a nice temperate day in AZ, but when
coupled with the 65% humidity ....well, I like a good steam room as much as
the next person, but several hours in it can be, um, uncomfortable....

On 6/27/07, Andreas Ramos < andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I've been learning Chinese in the last few months. I've taken Japanese
courses several times; spoken Chinese is much easier. It's the easiest
language I've ever learned (and I speak German, Danish, Spanish, etc.) No
conjugation of verbs, no plurals, no conjugation of prepositions. The
grammar is basically just "subject-verb-direct object".

The tones are a bit of a challenge. A sound can be spoken with four tones.
We have tones in English too: the tones to indicate questions,
and orders. Once you realize that, it's not a big issue. Just learn the
words. Canton Chinese has nine tones; Common Language Chinese (Mainland
Chinese) has only four.

The real challenge is written Chinese; to be able to read, you need to
a few thousand characters and the shapes are hard to memorize. I'm not
bothering with written Chinese; I'll learn just the characters for basics
(toilet, etc.)

My goal is to be able to have casual conversation and negotiate business
Chinese, so the basics is sufficient.


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