Student's post, by Keong:
It's often said that learning Chinese (Mandarin) is very difficult. When considering the truth or otherwise of that virtual cliché, the reality is that learning ANY foreign language presents all sorts of challenges – particularly when at that stage of learning (and it is a long stage) where you are relying on memory, when language ability is not yet at that level which can reasonably be described as 'fluent' and there is no practical opportunity for immersion.
Ok, the title sounds pretentious. But everyone has a reason to write. My reason to write 20 Mandarin textbooks, to put up with the pain and the long hours, are stated below.
Many people start learning Mandarin after they have started their career. For them, time is precious. But often, half of the time they spend on learning Mandarin is wasted. They often spend too much time trying to remember the tones, and lose the opportunity to do focused practice.
Have you ever had dinner in a Chinese restaurant? If you have, you probably noticed how loud the diners are! The atmosphere is bright with lots of lights on. These Chinese people eat, chat and laugh, merrily. This is in contrast with dining in a western restaurant. The light is dim. The diners eat quietly. If you have taken a flight with many Chinese tourists, you will find yourself surrounded by a happy buzz. But if sit with many western people in an airplane, you will notice that nobody is talking to each another. This brought lots of westerners' comment: "ah, Chinese people are so loud".
I have only played mahjong twice. Each time I played for four to five hours. The game started after dinner, and it was finished just before mid-night.
In Hong Kong, this game is also called máquè (麻雀) which means sparrow. I was quite puzzled when I first saw the huge street signs saying "sparrow house", but I eventually figured out that it meant mahjong. According to Wikipedia, "sparrow" is still the most commonly used name in southern China. For me, I only see it displayed prominently in Hong Kong. I have either not noticed the street signs in other southern cities, or overlooked them completely. The reason might be my limited experience in playing mahjong.
Learning Mandarin effectively is about understanding input and output. Let's take a closer look in the context of speaking and listening.
The basic input is sounds, words, patterns, meanings, grammars and etc. The basic output is student's ability to listen and to speak, to carry on a conversation or to express some ideas.