New kid on the blog….

There are only a handful of posts at this new blog by a student trying to cope with the miseries of learning Chinese, but for someone like me, also trying to deal with this migraine-inducing language, it’s quite interesting. I really like the online Chinese dictionary he pointed me too.

The Discussion: 12 Comments is also very useful.

Actually, Chinese should be easy for a Wagnerian!
Adapt Deryck Cooke’s approach to The Ring, in which he broke down the liedmotifs into musical language components.
Considering there are only a few hundred radicals, if you treat the characters the same way, learning Chinese characters is no more difficult than picking up Wagner’s musical language.
It worked for me in Japanese.

July 26, 2003 @ 10:36 am | Comment

I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read Cooke yet, though it’s been on my list for years now. I’d love to hear more about how understanding Wagner’s musical language helped you learn Japanese. That is truly fascinating.

July 26, 2003 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

I found parallels in the way it’s put together, but that’s just my strange approach, probably.
It takes a while to explain. I’ll collect my thoughts and send you a note.

July 26, 2003 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

It’s been said that Chinese (§§§Â) resembles English (!=^§Â), in that English spelling is so profoundly unfonetik that yu haf tu du a lot of rote memorization in order to lern it properli. English is also full of homonyms and ambiguities that are an endless source of frustration to ESL students.

On the other hand, apart from verbs and possessives, English is almost entirely uninflected — again, just like Chinese.

(don’t mind me, I’m just testing your Chinese character-set support. Ô§£?_.)

July 27, 2003 @ 10:43 am | Comment

Well yeah, English pronunciation must be the ESL student’s nightmare. Consider what one consonant change can do to the way we pronounce a word:

It’s interesting how unique this is to English; other European languages seem far more stringent in sticking to set rules of pronunciation.

OTOH, these challenges pale in comparison to the misery of learning the Chinese characters. It’s said you need to learn a minimum of 3,000 characters before you can read an average Chinese newspaper. And that’s all from memorization. Scary.

July 27, 2003 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

Well, French is another egregious example of a non-phonetic language. So much so that they even have spelling bees in French-speaking countries… except they take the form of written dictations. There was a big and lavishly reported dictée here in Belgium recently; it was won by a girl from Congo.

July 27, 2003 @ 12:54 pm | Comment

oops, my bad, it wasn’t won by a Congolese girl… I do remember reading a big profile of a Congolese contestant in the paper, but she didn’t win. (Maybe it was a previous year.)

July 27, 2003 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

French may be non-phonetic but, as far as I remember during my two semestres studying it, at least the pronunciation was consistent. In English, there are so many exceptions it could drive a native English speaker to despair, let alone the foreign student.

July 27, 2003 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

Learning 3000 Chinese characters for a newspaper isn’t enough either. You have to learn the different combinations. Even though I’ve been studying for four years now, I can “read” a newspaper if it’s about international news, but in order to read it in full I still need heavy use of a dictionary.

July 27, 2003 @ 5:12 pm | Comment

In defense of Chinese, though, I have to say that it’s graphically compelling. The characters are beautiful, and possess a kind of grace that is largely absent from Latin typography. Same is true for Arabic lettering, IMHO of course. (I realize this may sound terribly condescending, but I can see why the Chinese are so proud of their writing system.)

And the writing system is very efficient, space-wise. I used to be a translation coordinator, and we handled a lot of English-to-Chinese translations; invariably the Chinese translation was much “smaller” than the English original.

July 27, 2003 @ 6:42 pm | Comment

That’s true about Chinese, it’s compact and I do think beautiful, but the fact still is that to obtain a high level of the language you still need to memorize a lot of things in order for it to make sense.

July 28, 2003 @ 12:50 am | Comment

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July 28, 2003 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

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