I bet all Chinese learners have heard the praise and lure of Chinese’s simplistic grammar. Learn Chinese now! It’s got no conjugations and very little suffixes. Easy!
Well, here’s my two cents on the topic.
Simplistic, not easy
So here’s the dealio. Coming from English, or even Spanish and other languages, looking at Chinese, seems like a walk in the park. Hah! No tense modifications, no gender affixes, no case inflections. How awesome is that!? This makes Chinese grammar simplistic, yes, but not easy. What Chinese loses in morphological complexity and tense, it gains in sentence structure, vocabulary and aspect. The 过，着 and 了’s of Chinese makes for a tough concept.
Furthermore, the difference between English and Chinese grammar, not only makes Chinese seem simplistic, but what it really does is dumbing down the Chinese grammar, because it allows us to think, that we don’t need to apply effort in understanding it’s grammar.
Now, I was told this when I started learning Chinese: the grammar is easy. However, this was the first time I started learning a new language. I fumbled a lot at first, like people do of course, but I was under the impression that the grammar was easy. Why is this taking so much time to understand? Why am I so unsure of my sentence structure? Why did I want to add extra things from English that need be said in Chinese: the prepositions for example.
This is because, grammar is not absolute.
I was influenced by English thinking AND I expected something easy.
Now in retrospect, I can say, Chinese grammar is fairly easy, because I have a grasp of it to some extent. But at the start, I had a lot of difficulty. The simplistic grammar was the hurdle. I wanted to make it more complex. I wanted to add extra words.
I remember one of my first orals in my Chinese 1st year class, I wrote so many 和’s because I thought it implied the same “and” in English as a conjunction. For example saying, “Today I went to the shop and then I bought a beer”. The Chinese equivalent would be, “今天我去了商店买到一瓶啤酒” and if you really want to add a conjunction you can add 然后, but it’s not really necessary.
Are you guys catching my drift here?
In a way, that’s why I like Chinese-Ordered English as an initial wake up call to the grammar of Chinese. LOOK! It is different! Simplistic yes, but realize this. Realize the simplicity. Realize that Chinese grammar is different from English. Don’t get stuck in the trap that simplicity = easy.
Oddly enough, when you get that Chinese grammar is different, it will become easy.
What’s your opinion on Chinese grammar? Any experiences to share? Leave a comment!