Posted by Grace Feng on December 22, 2011
The reason I don’t start my lesson series by just teaching Chinese characters from the beginning is because I want to help you speed up your learning progress by learning Chinese sentence patterns first. You’ll learn some basic words as well along the sentence structures, but you should focus on the structure first. If you think you can’t read or speak Chinese before you’ve known enough characters and words, you’re wrong. You’re slowing down yourself! Even if you managed to remember all 3500 characters in half a year, it still doesn’t mean you can read or speak. If you don’t know how to combine them together to form meaningful words, use them in the right places, or put them in the right order, they’re still useless to you.
To be able to use a language to converse, your mind has to tell you what sentence pattern to use first, then comes the individual word. Comparing to memorizing a sea of Chinese characters and words first, knowing generally used sentence patterns first are much easier. Sentence pattern itself is a repetitive structure, normally you only need to memorize a few words for one sentence pattern. The few words you memorized will be reused frequently in your future conversations.
Such as one of the sentence patterns we discussed in How to ask questions in Chinese? (2):
… … shì shén me
… … 是什么?
What is … …?
As long as you remember the pattern and the reusable words in the sentence pattern – “是什么”, you just need to look up the first part of the sentence from any online translator to fill in. Then the sentence you wanna say in Chinese is right there.
For example, you wanna say:” What is Janna’s father’s name?”
First you recall the sentence pattern you should use is “Janna’s father’s name是什么?” Then input “Janna’s father’s name” into an online translator. Google Translate does the job. Choose translating from “English” to “Chinese(simplified)”. On the other end it pumps out the result “珍娜的父亲的名字”, which is quite accurate. You can click the audio button to listen to the sentence. But be aware the robot is adding wrong emphasis here or there in the sentence so only use it as a reference. You can listen to the difference between my reading and the robot’s reading from Google Translate:
Zhēn nà de fù qīn de míng zì shì shén me
compare to robot’s reading …
Now you got the sentence you need to say in Chinese. If you know that adjective and possessive pronoun in Chinese is almost always the form of “noun + 的” (we’ll come to this soon in the following lessons), then it is easy to understand “珍娜的 (Zhēn nà de)” means “Janna’s”, “父亲的 (fù qīn de)” means “father’s” and “名字 (míng zì)” means “name”.
Another important reason for focusing on sentence patterns first is that you might become overwhelmed soon after focusing only on character learning for a while.
The reason is that it is a widely accepted fact that Chinese writing system is really hard. If you start heading out on the most bumpy direction without the capability to practice your new vocabulary in effective communications, most of you will give up half way.
However, sentence pattern is quite simple and easy to learn. Know how to use and recognize sentence pattern first will help you visualize and memorize new words in effective communication or reading. This in turn will reinforce your memory enormously.
Last but not least, once you’ve gone through the sentence pattern phase, you’ll be able to read simple articles in Chinese with the help of online translator, or translator devices effectively. Your vocabulary building will kick off quickly from your effective reading.
In my blog, I’ll help you build your vocabulary even faster via form and sound association. If you’re a real warrior, you’ll be surprised on how fast you can move on in Chinese language.
Now, let’s take a break … and it’s time to say:
See you after Christmas!
Category: JLC Chinese grammar lessons
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