Five Common Mistakes for Chinese Learners

Posted by Lilian Li on Mar 17, 2016

five common mistakes for Chinese learners


Whenever we learn something new, we make mistakes. In fact there is an old Chinese proverb says," The more mistakes you make, the faster you learn."So today, let's have a look at the five most common mistakes for Chinese language learners.

1. Sentence structure

Because sentence structure differs from one language to another, students frequently make mistakes trying to put together a sentence. Here are a few of examples comparing the Chinese style of expression to that in English.

Example 1:

Chinese style: He all yesterday played without working.

English style: He played all of yesterday instead of working.

Example 2:

Chinese Style: You will do what the weekend? I Sunday with Tom will play tennis.

English style: What are you going to do over the weekend? I am going to play tennis with Tom on Sunday.

Example 3:

Chinese style: My father bought me a black small leather wallet.

English style: My father bought me a small black leather wallet yesterday.

From the first two examples, we can conclude that the Chinese sentence always obeys the rule of "Subject + Time + (Companion, i.e. 'with somebody") + Verb + Object" no matter whether it is an affirmative sentence or an interrogative one. However, for English speakers, the sentence order can be completely different from the Chinese, which is " Subject + Verb + Object + (Companion) + Time." No matter how long a Chinese learner may have studied English, they often have problems with sentence structure. And the same is a challenge for Chinese language learners.

Example 3 shows how the order of multiple adjectives are placed in the two languages.

2. Question word

From the next example, we'll see when selecting the question word, it is also easy to get confused.

Example 4:

Chinese style: Where is the capital of Australia?

English style: What is the capital of Australia?

3. No-verb sentence

Example 5:

Chinese style: The sea very rough that the ferry service had to be suspended.

American Style: The sea was so rough that the ferry service had to be suspended.

Actually, Chinese people use an adjective functioning as a verb in a statement, which is difficult for Chinese learners to adapt to.

4. Not mastering tones

Most everyone learning Chinese has problems getting the tones right. However, teachers emphasize, the different tones represent different characters and meanings. Without the proper tones, a Chinese speaker won't be able to understand you. If you get everything right but the tones, you will actually sound unintelligible to most native speakers of Chinese. So it is essential to pay lots of attention to learning the tones.

5. A Single Method

Some learners are most comfortable with the listen-and-repeat drills of a language lab or podcast. Some need a grammar textbook to make sense of a foreign tongue. Each of these approaches is fine, but it's a mistake to rely on only one.

Language learners who use multiple methods get to practice different skills and see concepts explained in different ways. What's more, the variety can keep them from getting stuck in a learning rut.

When choosing a class, learners should seek a course that practices the four language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. For self-study, try to combine textbooks, audio lessons, and portable language learning apps.

Do you want to know more about mistakes Chinese learners make and try to avoid it? Try a free 1-to-1 live Mandarin lesson now!


About The Author

Lilian Li

Lilian Li has a master's degree in linguistics and didactics from Rennes University in France. An expert in linguistics and educational psychology, she has taught Chinese as a foreign language for several years, primarily in France.

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