Learning Mandarin nowadays does not feel as distant or unreachable as it felt before. Even from a city like Asuncion, in the very heart of South America, so remote from let’s say, Taiwan, feels attainable right now thanks to globalization.
What is it like to be a student of Mandarin in Asuncion? which learning strategies does this student use? Linguistically speaking, is it the same for a Spanish speaker to learn Portuguese or Mandarin? does it feel the same? Is anyone more complex than the other?
In this blog I would like to explore my own learning experience of Mandarin as well as the ones from my fellow classmates, from different points of view. One thing that gets my attention is that 100% of the class is already proficiently bilingual. Is this an influencing factor from which we can take advantage to speed up the learning process? What does the field of Linguistics that deals with language learning, Psycholinguistics, have to say about it?
In the Mandarin classes I am currently taking up a phenomenon occurs. Not one of the eight students that registered in March 2010 are monolingual. We have Spanish and Guarani (Paraguay’s official languages) of course, but we also have English, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Asturian, Hebrew and Turkish. What a privilege to participate in this linguistically rich class!
When doing a comparative analysis between Spanish, English and Mandarin I can find the Mandarin grammar to be extremely easy from my point of view. Not only Mandarin does not have tenses per se, but also it has a number of features that makes this language a very easy one to learn.
These are some of the features I have found:
1. Personal Pronouns: you just need to learn the three first singular personal pronouns in Chinese. If you would like the plural version, just add the suffix _men to them.
2. Number: neither adjectives nor nouns have plural forms
3. Gender: in general, neither adjectives nor nouns have gender markers
3. Conjugation: there is no such thing is Chinese
4. Gapping: as well as Guarani, Mandarin finds it redundant to provide certain lexical items, compare:
You OK? = how are you?
You cold? = are you cold
5. Word order. In simple sentences the word order is exactly the same as English. Compare:
I like eating pizza
Wǒ xǐhuan chī bǐsà
我 喜歡 吃 比薩