Learning Mandarin Chinese language is no more difficult — nor no less — than learning any number of other different foreign languages. And just like learning any language, it helps to know which common mistakes to avoid. From our experienced Chinese language teachers, here are the top five of the most common mistakes that beginning Chinese language learners tend to make.
Over years of teaching Mandarin to English speakers, we’ve noticed a few recurring mistakes that can end up turning into bad habits if left uncorrected. The following is a list of the most common Mandarin learning mistakes made by beginners.
3: Putting location & time in the wrong order
Obviously, the order of Chinese words is a much larger topic, but there is one particularly common mistake that’s quite easy to clear up. Native English speakers often put time at the end of the sentence, when in the Chinese language should go before the verb. It is difficult to overcome established language patterns that have become second nature. For example in English “I will go to Shanghai tomorrow”, but in Chinese you’d say “I tomorrow go to Shanghai” (我明天去上海 Wǒ míngtiān qù Shànghǎi). And for the timing phrases, the sequence is the longest time comes first, followed by the smaller time. For example in English “I will go to Shanghai at 8 o’clock tomorrow ”, but in Chinese “I tomorrow 8 o’clock go to Shanghai” (我明天八点去上海 Wǒ míngtiān 8 diǎn qù Shànghǎi).
Secondly, In English place can often go at the end of the sentence. For example in English “I study at Fudan University”, but in Chinese is “I in Fudan University study” (我在复旦大学学习 Wǒ zài fùdàn dàxué xuéxí). It’s the same as timing phrases, we put the place from big to small. For example in English “I study at Fudan University in Shanghai”, but in Chinese is “I in Shanghai Fudan University study” (我在上海复旦大学学习 Wǒ zài shànghǎi fùdàn dàxué xuéxí).
2: Skipping Chinese measure words
In Chinese, if you want to describe the specified amount of every single item, you always need a measure word after the amount and before the item name. It seems illogical and superfluous. But there’s something quite similar in English! For example, In English, you will say ‘a sheet of paper’, ‘a set of furniture’, ‘a school of fish’, and so on. Here ‘sheet’, ‘set’, and ‘school’ can be considered measure words or classifiers.
In Chinese, measure words are important, yet cause some headache to Chinese language learners. Different measure words are used for different kinds of objects. The structure is “Number + Measure Word + Object”. For example, 个 (gè) is the first measure word you will learn. When you’re not sure what measure word to use for a particular noun, you should use “个 (gè)” to save yourself some trouble. Cause if you skip measure words completely, Chinese people won’t understand you at all.
There are over a hundred, but here are a few different measure words for different kinds of objects so you get the idea.
- First, the measure word ‘zhāng 张’. We used it for flat objects such as tables or paper. For example ‘一张桌子 yì zhāng zhuōzi’、’一张纸yì zhāng zhǐ’.
- Second, the measure word ‘tiáo 条’. We used it for long thin objects such as ropes. For example ‘一条绳子 yì tiáo shéngzi’
- Third, the measure word ‘běn (本)’. We used it for objects with volume such as books or magazines. For example ‘一本书 yì běn shū’, ‘一本杂志 yì běn zázhì’
1. Misplaced adverbial words
There are a lot of adverbial words in Chinese, and for the beginning Chinese language students they always feel confused about how to arrange the sentence. Such as the Time words, the Location words, the Manner, and other words. Here we take two examples to show you.
- I go to work by subway
我上班坐地铁。(Wǒ shàngbān zuò dìtiě.)
我坐地铁上班。(Wǒ zuò dìtiě shàngbān.)
- I play basketball with my friends
我打篮球跟我的朋友。(Wǒ dǎ lánqiú gēn wǒde péngyou.)
我跟我的朋友打篮球。(Wǒ gēn wǒde péngyou dǎ lánqiú.)
Other common beginner mistakes
These are written out as separate articles:
- Using”hé(和)” in the wrong way
- Negate an action in the wrong way
- Overuse of “是” (shì: to be)
- How to use ‘了 (le)’ in Chinese
- Usage of “就 (jiù)”
- Verb complements
And that’s it! Mandarin is not an easy language. At GoEast Mandarin, we believe mistakes and accents are a sign of your bravery, and there are no shortcuts! Now that you understand how to fix these beginner mistakes, keep practicing with your teachers until the correct ones stick, and become natural when speaking Chinese. Beg