Posts tagged: Spanish

Thoughts on Language Learning (Part 4 of ?)

I realized this a little while ago, but am only getting around to writing it down now: the reason why people are so confused about this idea of Chinese grammar is because there isn’t any. At least, not in the conventional expected sense as with other languages. You know those rules that you have to learn in other languages about conjugating verbs, so on and so forth? Chinese doesn’t have rules like that. It’s so simple, especially if you’re coming from another SVO-language, which, fortunately, English is. Actually, a significant portion of the day-to-day stuff that gets picked up in language classes are subtler (less widespread, and thus less explicitly taught) grammar patterns that involve very specific vocabulary. For example, how do you use words like “ぜんぜん” or” はず”/”つもり” in Japanese, or words like “because” or “not only…but also” in English, or words like “lo” or “estar”/”ser” in Spanish, or words like “ni” or “manquer” in French. The broadness of applicability varies among these terms, but the point is that the grammar points fall between the extremes: between applicability across the language (e.g. “this is how you conjugate all verbs ending in…”) and very narrow applicability (e.g. “蜻蜓 means ‘dragonfly’ [in Chinese]“).

Indeed, Chinese is full of such grammar points. Most of what is usefully learned in Chinese classes, besides vocabulary, are what I will refer to as “common/useful phrase constructions.” As the examples in the preceding paragraph demonstrate, most languages have these kinds of grammar points, but most other languages also have more widely applicable and necessary grammar points, including, but not limited to, things like verb conjugations, rules for noun-adjective gender/count agreement, etc.

So all this while, I’ve been slightly mystified as to why all I seem to be able to teach are these sorts of “common/useful phrase constructions” in my Chinese class sessions and worrying slightly that information is being imparted more slowly because there’s not more widely applicable grammar information that I can provide. But now that I’ve realized that all languages have this type of information (and in fact, Japanese has both vast tracts of widely applicable stuff to keep in mind and lots of these applicable-to-a-mid-range-of-the-language grammar points, which does make it slightly more annoying to teach), I will continue to teach Chinese as I have been, because this is, in fact, the way to teach this language, in my humble opinion.

WordPress Themes