Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard (为什么中文这么TM难?)


A funny article by David Moser (from University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies) about the difficulties of learning Chinese. Quite long but interesting, see whether it will strike a chord with you? But I hope you are not going to be afraid of Chinese after reading! 🙂


From Schriftfestschrift: Essays on Writing and Language in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday (Sino-Platonic Papers No. 27, August 1991), edited by Victor H. Mair

“The first question any thoughtful person might ask when reading the title of this essay is, “Hard for whom?” A reasonable question. After all, Chinese people seem to learn it just fine. When little Chinese kids go through the “terrible twos”, it’s Chinese they use to drive their parents crazy, and in a few years the same kids are actually using those impossibly complicated Chinese characters to scribble love notes and shopping lists. So what do I mean by “hard”? Since I know at the outset that the whole tone of this document is going to involve a lot of whining and complaining, I may as well come right out and say exactly what I mean. I mean hard for me, a native English speaker trying to learn Chinese as an adult, going through the whole process with the textbooks, the tapes, the conversation partners, etc., the whole torturous rigmarole. I mean hard for me — and, of course, for the many other Westerners who have spent years of their lives bashing their heads against the Great Wall of Chinese.”

Read the whole article in PDF format.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steve Whittington
    Jan 20, 2015 @ 17:04:31

    Thanks Nancy – good and amusing article, though not great news for relative beginners!

    But what does the “TM” in the title mean? 




  2. ljtatt
    Jan 27, 2015 @ 11:06:07

    Interesting article. Personally I think Chinese is not difficult, just time consuming. Learning a Chinese character is easy, you just write it out a few hundred times. Writing it a few hundred times is, of course, time consuming. In many ways I think it is easier for a native English speaker to learn Chinese than a native Chinese speaker to learn English.


  3. ljtatt
    Jun 14, 2015 @ 13:23:09

    Since I respectfully disagree with this article, I have taken the effort to write a blog post arguing the exact opposite, that Mandarin is in fact easier than most other languages. I would be interested to hear the thoughts of other language learners


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