Is it actually possible to learn Chinese?
Hey, I'm new to Duolingo and I was just wondering if it's realistic to think I can learn Chinese on here? Well enough to have a conversation/read/write and understand what's going on? I just don't want to waste time learning Chinese if I'll never really "learn" it, you know? I would rather just know now and start learning French or something that uses characters I'm familiar with (native English speaker here). I would appreciate any feedback! Thank you!
Duolingo seems to assume that you are using it in conjunction with another learning method (e.g. classes), or you have some (very basic) prior knowledge of the language you want to learn. That does not mean however, you can't learn using Duolingo alone. It is perfectly possible to learn any language you set your mind to. It's just a matter of motivation.
Sometimes learning a language closer to your own can be far more difficult to learn than if you choose something completely different. The similarities can fool you into a false sense of security.
I'm a native English speaker and German grammar keeps tripping me up.
Mix it up. Use Duo, watch Mandarin shows on Netflix (with Mandarin audio and Chinese subtitles), read leveled readers on a Kindle (you can touch-define characters), listen to podcasts (I like 青春愛消遣) or listen to language learning podcasts like DimSum Mandarin or Coffee Break Chinese. Exposure is key. Make it fun.
I wanted to clarify, I still don't understand most of the dialogue in the Mandarin stuff I watch and listen to. I mainly try to get words I do know and figure out the gist of the dialogue. The more I learn, the more I understand.
Be very careful that some Chinese movies consist of characters speaking correctly at a fast, standard pace, so you need both Chinese and English subtitles to understand what they said. Chinese subtitles often occur in movies for viewers to skim for a short time.
It's rare to find movies, where characters speak extremely quickly in Chinese since it's a tonal language.
I beg to differ. We Chinese people can understand each other even when disregarding the tones, sometimes. That's how Chinese songs work! Context sometimes matters as much as tones, or more. Be very careful.
I think the answer is somewhat ambiguous. No single source is enough to learn Chinese, or any other language, so the question is really what else do you need to make it work, and can you get that?
I would say you need four things to learn Chinese: 1. A curriculum of lessons. 2. People to interact with. 3. Additional sources of material. 4. The enthusiasm to really dive in and stick with it.
Duolingo provides the first one. I know a lot of people complain about Duolingo having you dive in to characters and not giving explanations. That's a pedagogical choice typical of Duolingo's method, which teaches by inference and repetition, rather than explication and memorization. This is counter intuitive to a lot of people, who want to be told answers. If not getting answers explained to you aggravates you, then it will probably ruin your learning experience, so for better or worse, Duolingo isn't the ideal place for you. It's a good method if it doesn't alienate you, but if it does alienate you, there's no shame in finding a method that you feel more comfortable with.
What Duolingo doesn't provide in Chinese is the other three. There's a thread of people lobbying for Chinese stories, which would help out on #3, but I suspect that's a long way off, so for now, you'll need to find people in real life to talk to on your own, and then hopefully they can help you find additional sources.
If you don't have anyone around you who can practice Chinese with you, and you are just learning it by practicing Duolingo lessons, then I don't think you'll really build up the conversational fluency necessary. There's a big difference between knowing a language and speaking it. You can know all sorts of things, but when a conversation gets started, it's too much to process, and you are unsure of yourself and you get tongue tied and confused. This happens to everyone, and there are only two ways I know of to overcome it: getting regular conversation practice, or getting really drunk. (Drunk people are AMAZING at speaking languages they've studied, but it's not a long term solution... trust me, I've tried.) If you don't live in a city with a Chinese population, or you don't have Chinese friends online, you might consider recruiting a friend to learn Chinese with you, so you can practice back and forth. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.
The fourth thing you need, though, the enthusiasm, is key. Learning a language is a slow process, it gets boring, and it requires a long-term commitment. I figure, you will need at least two years of intensive practice to get to where you are comfortably conversational, four years of Chinese should get you fluent in reading and writing. This is true with Duolingo or with any other book. And the only shortcut I know of is total immersion, which works, but you will know whether or not that's possible for you. (FYI I think total immersion daily use of Chinese + Daily Duolingo would get you conversational in about a year.)
And when I mean regular study, I don't mean just keeping your streak alive. Doing one lesson a day won't get you there. Ever. Doing 5 lessons a day (the "Insane" level on the trainer) won't get you there. If you want Duolingo to be as effective as taking a class, you need to do it for as much time as you do a class, so probably five hours a week, for 30 weeks, will equal one year of Chinese 101.
So that's a lot of time. To do that, you have to really love a language. When I started learning Chinese, I watched only Chinese movies, I read Chinese books (in translation), I set my screensaver to Chinese Art, I bought a brush and practiced calligraphy. I gave up coffee for oolong tea. I put up a Chinese map in my room and planned endless vacations, marking places I wanted to see. I ate mostly Chinese food, and cooked it at home. I spent hours on wiki walks and library dives learning Chinese history. It was nuts. You don't have to go that far. But it was also GREAT. And I really hope everyone finds a language they love that much.
If you have the passion, and seek outside resources, and stick with it for a couple of years, I think you can really learn Chinese starting with Duolingo. But if you don't have the passion to make that work, don't blame yourself - find the language that really does get you that excited and focus on that - you'll get the best results that way.
One further thought - Chinese has a fairly restricted vocabulary compared to a language like English with over a million words. So often times, if you are struggling to express yourself in Chinese, it isn't because you don't know the words, it's just that you aren't thinking of how to use the words you know to articulate the concept in a way that makes sense to Chinese speakers.
That's why you'll get folks who are fluent in Chinese looking at Duolingo and saying "Oh, yeah, it looks like this course has everything you need to be able to have a conversation" while folks who are just starting out look at the same amount of content and feel they can barely express themselves at all.
That's where outside materials (films and newspapers) and conversation partners come in handy. That's where you'll really expand the breadth of contexts in which you see how to use Chinese to articulate ideas.
But you can also just get creative. I'm a "talk it out until you get somewhere" kind of guy (I know, YMMV) so relatively early on, I developed a lot of kind of off-the-wall ways of explaining complex ideas with my beginner's Chinese. People responded pretty well to that. Nobody confused it with being normal, standard Chinese, but then again, nobody confused me with being a normal Chinese person, and everyone was just glad we could understand each other. This is what opened the door to a lot more conversation, and that's where I really improved my ability to articulate my ideas in a way that was a little less exotic.
Why not learn both Chinese and French at the same time? Or any other language on top for that matter. Even getting to a basic level in Chinese gives you a feeling of achievement. And if you ever visit Taiwan or China, even a basic level of Chinese is better than none. And don't forget language learning should be fun!
Love your question and I see you wet your feet a little bit in Chinese already. I learned Korean, Chinese, and Japanese all after my 18th birthday: while living in Japan I spoke and read Japanese all the time. Quadrilingual at that time, but I forgot too much Japanese so trilingual now. In Korea I saw an American woman pick up conversational Korean in 6 months: I couldn't believe it how fast! She started at ground zero, but two things to her favor. One, she lived in a Korean boarding house--no English. Two, she made a Korean boyfriend, so you can imagine how that jump started her Korean. So you are what you eat and you learn what you practice. Just keep that in mind as you enter your language adventures. Suddenly things click as you go along: it's not a steady upward line of progress but little jumps and spurts. So I've been doing the Spanish here on Duolingo for 2 years: I feel the time is well spent because I hear the native speakers and practice the basic patterns. The daily practice is awesome. Speaking is delayed just like a baby can understand what's being said before striking up a conversation. I'm the last person on Earth to tell you not to go for the tougher languages for English native speakers to learn. I remember back in the mid '80s when I started, the Department of Defense classified languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic 24 months; Russian 18 months; French, German, Spanish 12 months. It's about your dedication, and you see now you have a million choices for how to learn it: in the mid '80s I could barely find textbooks to learn Korean.
DOD: I couldn't find it online, but now I believe it was 6 months for the easiest languages. Here is State Department: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty 3.67 times more difficult. That's very close to 24 months/ 6 months = 4 times more difficult. So you could learn Danish, Dutch, French, and Italian in the time it will take you to learn Chinese. Do you think it's worth it?
I would like to respectfully disagree with some commentators who say you cannot realistically learn Chinese here (implied exclusively). Of course, it will depend on what your specific goals are. If you want to be able to (mostly) get your point across to people in Chinese, and understand the gist of what they are asking/telling you, then I'd say sure you can learn Chinese solely using Duolingo. I am halfway through the Chinese tree now and I have surpassed everything I learned in my Chinese 101 class in college (the only class I took prior to Duolingo) and basic phrases my wife taught me (mostly food, weather, and animals). It has allowed me to speak to my wife in daily conversation (basic stuff, nothing deep). I can text with my in-laws who live in China (and don't speak English) to ask them a variety of things and respond in kind. And that is only mastering half way through the tree! Sure, I have to look up a fair amount of words now and then. I make mistakes often, but I do the same in my native tongue (English), just less often. The vast majority of my communication skills in Chinese came from Duolingo exclusively, so I'd say it is possible to be able to converse effectively only using Duo.
All that being said, I am not kidding myself in thinking I am anywhere close to fluent. I can communicate in pretty much the same way a 5 year old can communicate to their parents. If you have ever spoken to a five year old, it is amazing the amount of things you can talk about with such a small vocabulary, but no one is going to say they are fluent in the same way a full grown adult is with decades of language experience. But still, a five year old can express quite a bit of thoughts and emotions with their limited vocabulary, and often grammatically correct too. In fact, I probably could express this entire post in Chinese right now. But it wouldn't be as verbose or use complex words/grammar. It would be much more succinct and probably not be as specific, but a native Mandarin speaker would still understand my general meaning, I believe.
So, if you want to be a professional translator that knows all of the nuances of the language, I'd say you need a lot more than just Duo to get there. But all of that misses the point of why most of us choose to learn a language, which is to get our point across to someone else in that language and understand the point the other person is trying to make. If you are happy with that, then Duo will work for you. But if you really want to learn Mandarin, why limit yourself to just Duo in the first place?
Definitely. After five months I can carry out basic conversation with Chinese friends. It’s very basic at this stage! But I just translated “his cat ate your banana”!
I learned Chinese and became a teacher of Chinese in about 5 years. It's achievable. And it was easier to me than Spanish. It's all about motivation.
Funny enough, Chinese is more interesting and easier for me than Spanish too! I think it's definitely a motivation thing. I'd love to be fluent in Spanish, but I find myself bored with it too often. Asian culture has always been of interest, so it's fun to learn Chinese even if it is more difficult.
You probably didn't do all that by only using duolingo ? That's what she's asking, how long can you go by using duolingo, which in my opinion is that not far.
I found a Bible translation which gives Chinese, pinyin and English for each first. It is really helpful at every level! Have a look for the wordfree interlinear Bible.
Now I usually get downvoted for mentioning this, but I actually plan on learning Chinese through Pinyin only when I get done with German and Portuguese. While purists will say I'm missing some part of the experience, with Chinese, your goals need to become a little clearer. For example, I learned how to read and write in both Spanish and Italian in literally 20 minutes each. But for Chinese, my main goal is to see how well I can speak it after studying it for 6 months. Since my goal is speaking only, I can skip the rote memorization of every single symbol and utilize the Pinyin script instead for rapid memorization. At least, that's the plan for now. I have a book that has symbols and Pinyin and I want to either find or make a Memrise course for Pinyin Chinese. Of course, it also comes down to your motivation. You would learn quicker in Spanish or French but speaking Chinese would be neat, just for the shock value. As a native English speaker, it gets people's attention if I say something in Italian or French (Spanish is too common here), so I can imagine me speaking Chinese... Heads would explode! Cool huh?
maybe you want to know how I was able to learn the meanings of thousands of chinese ideogramms and words without hearing or speaking a single sentence of real chinese.
i simply used them to write and read my own language.the chinese ideogramms are more universal than any other script they can also be used to read and write english...
if you already know the meanings of most characters because you have introduced them into your native language ,learning chinese is not difficult at all.
all you need is a programm like duolinguo to train your grammatical skills.and immersion in chinese movies with chinese subtitles
grammar and vocabulary can be separated.there is neurological evidence for this thesis. the use of chinese characters for any language can speed up the process of memorization.
start with a few hundred chinese characters with a very precise meaning .postpone the training of the more difficult ones . if you learn the meanings of the chinese characters by meeting them in the context of your own language you will save a lot of time. many people think that the ideogramms make it difficult to learn chinese.but if you try out my method they will help you. since both hemisphaeres of your brain and your native language are involved in the processs of memorization it will not be difficult. Ich habe mir die bedeutungen von tausenden von chinesischen schriftzeichen dadurch erschlossen dass Ich sie verwendete um deutsche texte zu schreiben und zu lesen. Ich habe am anfang nur solche chinesische schriftzeichen in die deutsche sprache eingeführt deren bedeutung klar und unmissverständlich ist.Ich begann mit ein paar hundert und erlernte mit dieser methode mit wenig zeitaufwand über einen längeren zeitraum tausende von schriftzeichen. jetzt fehlt mir nur noch die chinesische grammatik und die übung im hören und sprechen. das man das erlernen des wortschatzes von der grammatik trennen kann beweist meine erfahrung. es ist aber auch eine erkenntnis der gehirnforschung. weil die chinesischen schriftzeichen nicht analytisch sondern synthetisch gelesen werden aktivieren sie das gehirn anders als eine alphabetische schrift. für legastheniker ist es sogar einfacher die chinesische schrift zu erlernen als das alphabet korrekt anzuwenden. weil man keine sprache so gut spricht wie die eigene ,und weil die chinesische schrift potentiell eine universalschrift für alle sprachen der menschheit ist könnte jeder der chinesisch lernt von meiner methode profitieren
I found this was naturally what happened for me when I started using Duolingo. I often couldn't have the sound on (for whatever reason) so I was really just seeing character translated directly to English without knowing how it was pronounced. Now, when I see a sentence written in Chinese characters I tend to read it in English first, then translate to the Chinese pronunciation, unless I focus really hard to read in Chinese first. So your theory is proven for me, in that I can pretty much read Chinese characters in any language as long as I know the meaning of the character in one of them.
It'd be interesting to see if a universal written language could be developed in this fashion that everyone around the world could learn and communicate with, without changing the spoken language. It sure would save us a lot of headaches trying to communicate with each other.
"It'd be interesting to see if a universal written language could be developed in this fashion that everyone around the world could learn and communicate with, without changing the spoken language"
1.Bei den semantischen komponenten der verschiedenen sprachen würde es zum grössten teil funktionieren,aber nicht bei den grammatischen.man braucht also zusätzlich ein system universaler grammatischer symbole.dann ist es in möglich alle sprachen der welt durch ihre sinisierten schriftlichen benutzeroberflächen miteinander zu verbinden.zumindest bei den indoeuropäischen sprachen ist das kein problem,weil ihre grammatik sehr ähnlich funktioniert.
2.im klassischen chinesisch entsprach jedem schriftzeichen eine bedeutung.im modernen chinesischen gibt es aber viele worte die aus meheren schriftzeichen bestehen.wollte man eine universale schriftsprache konstruieren so wäre das klassische chinesisch dafür die besser geeignete basis.
3.das man mit chinesischen schriftzeichen die meisten worte aller sprachen der welt schreiben kann haben japan und korea bereits bewiesen.denn auch japanische und koreanische worte nichtchinesischer herkunft werden mit kanji geschrieben oder können mit ihnen geschrieben werden.insofern ist an meiner entdeckung also gar nichts neu.
4.im japanischen und koreanischen gibt es wegen der geringen zahl der silben viele homonyme.dass sollte man bei der konstruktion einer universalen schrift vermeiden.jedem schriftzeichen sollte in jeder sprache nur eine lesung entsprechen.
5.die sinisation der verschiedenen schriftsprachen sollte aufeinander abgestimmt werden.das erfordert das zusammenwirken vieler expertinnen
6.wenn sich nur die schriftlichen benutzeroberflächen der sprachen durch die verwendung von ideogrammen miteinander vernetzen während die gesprochene sprachen dieselben bleiben ist dies nicht nur ein beitrag zur erleichterten interkulturellen kommunikation sondern auch ein beitrag zur chancengleichheit der sprachen und damit zur demokratisierung der welt .die notwendigkeit einer lingua franca entfällt. 7.für taubstumme könnte man gesten entwickeln die die radikale darstellen aus denen die chinesischen schriftzeichen bestehen.und man könnte den computern beibringen diese gesten zu erkennen. 8.die neuen schriftlichen benutzeroberflächen der sprachen der welt würden sukzessiv und peu a peu über einen längeren zeitraum eingeführt 9.für tiere und pflanzen die es in china nicht gibt könnten neue chinesische schriftzeichen erfunden werden.damit nicht nur dem löwen sondern auch dem jaguar oder nicht nur der eiche sondern auch dem mammutbaum ein schriftzeichen entspricht. 10.überall wo eine sinnvolle und umissverständliche darstellung eines wortes mit chinesischen schriftzeichen nicht möglich ist sollte man bei der alphabetischen darstellung bleiben denn .es gibt in allen sprachen unübersetzbare worte.für diese braucht man ein spezielles interkulturelles lexikon. 11.die gesamtmenge aller worte aller sprachen die mit kanji dargestellt werden können bilden zusammen mit den univeralen grammatischen symbolen eine zwar nicht sprechbare aber benutzbare internationale kunstsprache,die im unterschied zu esperanto im hinblick auf ihre ursprünge nicht parteiisch ist.
Obviously, I'm a big advocate of learning characters, but indeed, Chinese is a relatively simple and straightforward language otherwise, so learning it with Pinyin is far from impossible.
And indeed, it is much easier to memorize Chinese Characters once you already know and use the words fluently. Indeed, this is how every Chinese person learns the language.
But, one thing to consider is the social context of language. If you are just learning a language to know something about it, for example, for comparative linguistic purposes, then I don't see many problems arising there that you couldn't work around with a little concentration.
But in general, if you are learning Chinese to interact with Chinese people, and as an access point to Chinese culture and society, you might want to take some time to think about how you intend to relate to people - what kind of conversations you want to have, what long term relationships you will build, what interests you will share with them. This is where an indifference to the writing system will put up social barriers between you and Chinese people that could affect your fluency.
If your goal is just to get people's attention and make heads explode, the good news is that the bar for that is very very low. In China, if a foreigner even says "Ni hao!" they will immediately get a lot of attention, everyone will say "WOW You're Chinese is AMAZING!" For the most part, people are really really supportive of you taking the first steps into Chinese.
But once you learn a bit more, the mood shifts, and you get evaluated by a different standard. People will become highly critical of even small flaws once they realize you aren't a beginner. This is because that's how teaching is done in China, and they usually see that as helping you, but it can be frustrating. And even if you get to the point where you can speak without making obvious mistakes, you will still encounter "bu hui jieshou" - which means "can't understand/accept" - in the existential sense of the word. They'll say foreigners can't truly understand the Chinese worldview, and that Chinese people can't truly understand a foreign worldview. Sure you may speak some words, and even speak them well, but if you want to really talk to a Chinese person, heart to heart, then you'll need to learn more than just the spoken language - you'll need to know the characters, the idioms, the culture, the history.
If you don't want to go that far, don't worry. But it's important to remember: this language is the foundation of a national identity for more than a billion people, so if you take it lightly, they will probably take you just as lightly.
Sounds like you have a plan that will work. The reason you shouldn't be downvoted is that all language originates from sound: writing came after. So learn the sounds, love the sounds, just like children before they go to school.
I've noticed duolingo folks seem to be a bit quick with the "downvote" button.
Hahaha, you will get downvoted if you say you want to learn Chinese without characters, and you'll get downvoted if you say learning Chinese with characters is really important.
I kinda feel like the atmosphere in the Chinese module's discussion threads is a lot more polemical than in others I've seen. In general, though, it's not worth losing sleep over. The more people talk, voted up or down, the more info there is for everyone else out there. :)
I'm someone who can speak Chinese fluently (basically like a native) but can't read or write it at all. I have just begun learning characters through duolingo, and for someone like me who can understand the audio and read the pinyin, it works well. However, from just utilizing pinyin, it's nearly impossible to get the full understanding of the text because of the multiple meanings of each pinyin. Context in sentences may help a little, but to be able to learn Chinese from reading or text, characters may be easier. Of course, if you only want to speak Chinese for the fun of it and don't particularly want to understand it, learning from pinyin works well :)
You are really asking two different questions: 1) Is it possible to learn Chinese, and 2) Is it possible to learn Chinese from Duolingo. My answers:
1) Yes, but it will take a very long time. I'm not sure how long, but I'll let you know if I ever get there.
2) No, not even remotely close.
Yes, it is possible to learn Chinese. It requires commitment, time and perseverance. You have many useful resources. Some of these are very helpful: https://www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com/resources/mandarin-chinese-resources You can get started with Duolingo but if you really want to learn Mandarin, you will need to complement it with other tools.
duolinguo ist gut darin die grammatischen strukturen des mandarin durch praktische übungen zu vermitteln.das ist der einzige grund warum ich duolinguo benutze. zum erlernen des chinesischen wortschatzes gibt es besseres. Ich habe tausende von schriftzeichen gelernt ohne mich mit ihrer aussprache zu befassen.es genügt ihre bedeutung zu verstehen.
mit einem französisch-chinesisch lexikon können sie die bedeutungen der chinesischen schriftzeichen durch französische worte lernen.
It depends on what you mean by "learn Chinese." Do you mean "can I become fluent in Mandarin Chinese after a duolingo course? Not a chance. But, that's the same with any language. However, if you're looking for a place to start, this is a good one. If you complete the duolingo course, ask questions when things don't make since, use the grammar wikis on the internet, and for the love of God read the grammar notes for the exercises,! then you'd be in a good place from which to continue your Mandarin Chinese studies after duolingo.
Hello Anna, the good thing with DL is that you can try out other language courses, and feel for yourself if a Romance language would suit your needs and motivation more than a language in an Asian language group. Maybe you might add up another language and try out some lessons, and after that decide, which road to follow
yeah man ofc but it's hard. I've been studying for several years and although I know a ton of words I'm not fluent (that's partially because I haven't spoken with a lot of people some of the time I studied and I had school). But of course you can do it. 1. Study a lot. 2. Talk with people who know the language.
You will have to look uo the characters online to learn how to write them. Just search the character in google images with the word ‘stroke order’ and it should show you how to write them correctly.
Hi there. I was born in China and moved to the US 'bout seven years ago and recently became a citizen, so I would say that I am familiar with both languages. I am highly skeptical Duolingo will bring you to a level where you can converse in Chinese fluently. Here are some suggestions for learning Chinese. Start off by becoming familiar with the Pinyin System, which is a pronunciation guide that was inconveniently designed particularly for Chinese natives, making it not as useful for people like you. However, it is a pronunciation guide after all.¯_(ツ)_/¯. Here are ones that I've seen people stuck on (Pinyin=English Equivalent): Q=ch, x=sh, zh=j, c=ts. They're not perfect equivalents but should get you through pronunciation well enough. Then learn the strokes for writing the words, as those come in handy when looking up new characters in the dictionary. Three, get a dictionary! Learning to use a Chinese dictionary should help your reading greatly. Also, use whatever Chinese speaking stuff you can find to practice your listening skills. I personally recommend 晓说 (Xiaoshuo), if you can find it, as it is informational and talks about knowledge about different parts of the world, which you could use to match Chinese phrases to their English equivalents. Hope this helps, sorry for the late reply.
Hi Anna Grace Read. You cannot learn Chinese on Duolingo but it is a good learning tool once you have had basic tuition in the language. Thinking about it is a good start. Best wishes.
Hi williamfcashman. I'm curious if you have the same opinion about learning German using Duolingo.
If you are motivated, it is possible to learn Chinese so that you will be able to communicate using all four skills - listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Be warned that it will take a long time, especially if you have no learning immersions in a Chinese speaking location like China or Taiwan. To learn Chinese well, you have to live it and be able to use it naturally just like your native language. If you spoke learning and practicing you will regress. I have been learning Chinese since 1967 and my fluency varies depending on where I am living and how I am using Chinese to satisfy personal needs. If you had a close Chinese friend who did not know English and you lived in a neighborhood in China where most people didn't know English, you would be surprised how quickly you would become fluent in Chinese Mandarin. In the 1970s, I became fluent in Taiwanese by being married to a Taiwanese who didn't know much English and by living in a Taiwanese speaking neighborhood.