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Differences between Mandarin Chinese and English

Differences between Mandarin Chinese and English

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In this article, we are going to share 6 major differences between Mandarin Chinese and English. Once you aware the major differences between these two languages, you will reduce your mistakes, be more fluent and express better in Mandarin Chinese

1. English uses abstract word while Mandarin Chinese uses logical word creation

Here are the examples of what Chinese literally means in English

- Computer =  电脑 Diàn nǎo . Literally means = electric brain

- Neighborhoods = 左邻右舍 Zuǒ lín yòu shè . Literally means =  left neighbor right residence

- Happy = 开心 kāi xīn . Literally means = Open heart

Chinese is ridiculously logical when it relates to numbers : Monday is “week one”, Tuesday is “week two”, Wednesday “week three” and so on. Same for the months! The number 1 is yī,10 is shí, 11 is shí yī “ten, one”, 99 is jiǔ shí jiǔ “nine ten, nine”

Note: Chinese characters are also logical character creation– Chinese characters aren’t random brush strokes, there is reason behind these mysterious and beautiful symbols. It’s usually not enough to let you guess what it means, but it is a powerful tool to help you remember. For example:

adult1 Picture from Chineasy.com

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2.  Passive voice is very commonly used in English. Whereas Chinese usually uses the active voice which is more direct and straight forward, for examples:

This car was repaired by Sam. = Sam 修理这辆车 Sam xiū lǐ zhè liàng chē

The dishes will be being washed by John.   = John 洗碗碟 xǐ wǎn dié

The letter is being written by Sarah = Sarah写这封信 xiě zhè fēng xìn

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3. Sentence structure. We are not sure the correct sentence structure for English, but we have formula to construct sentence structure for Mandarin Chinese which is STPA or TSPA (S = subject, T = time, P = place, A = action)

Which one is the correct sentence structure for English? (You can comment below)

I work in Kuala Lumpur at 5am tomorrow morning

I work in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow at 5am

Tomorrow 5am I work in Kuala Lumpur

I go to KL to work tomorrow morning at 5am . There are only 2 ways to construct sentences in Mandarin Chinese

我明天早上五点去吉隆坡工作

Wǒ míngtiān zǎoshang wǔ diǎn qù jílóngpō gōngzuò

Or

明天早上五点我去吉隆坡工作

míngtiān zǎoshang  wǔ diǎn wǒ qù jílóngpō gōngzuò

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4. Flexible parts of speech – It is rather difficult to figure out how to make a noun out of a verb or an adjective out of a verb for English. But in Chinese, it’s not obvious what’s an adjective and what’s a verb, they merge and float into each other, which generally means it’s easier to understand and easier to guess how to use. Here are the examples:

Mandarin Verbs Nouns Adjectives Adverbs
接受   accept acceptance acceptable
实现   achieve achievement achievable
欣赏   admire admiration admirable
  建议   advise advice advisable

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5. English emphasizes the structure, while Chinese focuses on the meaning. In English, it is very common to see one long sentence with long modifier, and use of pronouns like “we”, “she”, “they” in addition to “that” and “which”, to avoid recurrences. In Chinese we can only find short sentences or long sentences divided to short phrases separated by comma.

Overall, English sentences are usually long and Chinese sentences are usually short. One should “Get the meaning, forget the words” in Chinese learning. Let’s look at some examples here:

I want to go to school 我要去学校 Wǒ yào qù xuéxiào. Literally means = I want go school

I know how to swim. 我会游泳 Wǒ huì yóuyǒng. Literally means: I know swim

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6. Chinese doesn’t distinguish between yesterday, today and tomorrow in the same way as we do in English. Most of the time, it’s simply indicated by a word describing when something happens, rather than changing the structure of the sentence. Verbs do not change their form based on when they took place.

Have you eaten? I have not eaten

你吃了吗?  我还没有吃

Nǐ chī le ma? Wǒ hái méi yǒu chī

Literally means: You eat already a? I still not yet eat.

Now it is your turn! Do you notice about these major differences before reading this article? Any differences that we miss out? Comment your thoughts below

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