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10 mistakes to avoid for Mandarin learners

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If you're studying Mandarin, then you've almost certainly made some of the learner mistakes below in your time. The benefit of making mistakes is that you learn from them and avoid making more in future. This following is a list of common Mandarin learner mistakes.

如果你正在学习中文,你很可能也有犯过以下错误。犯错误的好处就是你可以从中吸取教训,防止以后再犯同样的错误。以下是汉语学习者常犯的一些错误。

These are generally elementary to intermediate level mistakes. If you've hit an advanced level of Mandarin, then hopefully these shouldn't be much of an issue for you.

这些基本上都是初级或中级水平的学习者会犯的错误。如果你已经达到高级水平了,那么这些错误对你来说都已经不是问题了。

1. Tones

声调

This is by far and away the most common kind of mistake. Mandarin's tones are a source of a lot of trouble for learners.

到目前为止,“声调”是最常见的错误。中文声调给学习者带来了很多困扰。

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of tones in Mandarin, but they really are essential. I'd go as far as to say that theyre the most important thing to get right in pronunciation.

中文学习者很容易低估声调的重要性,但是,声调却是汉语学习者必需掌握的一点,它是正确发音最重要的一部分。

Learn the tones from the very beginning, and keep paying them the same attention you pay to vowels and consonants. I find that doing a lot of listening is a good way to get the right sounds hammered in.

在一开始就应该学习声调,要像重视元音及辅音一样重视声调。我发现“多听”能帮助正确发音。

2. Over-using 和

The word "and" in English is very versatile, and this often causes English-speaking learners to latch on to 和 in Mandarin and use it for everything.

在英文中“and”的用法很多样化,因此很多以英语为母语的学习者在学汉语的时,不管什么时候都会使用“和”字。

There's actually a wide array of ways to express "and" in Mandarin, all of which have different uses.

实际上,汉语中有许多字可以表达“and”的意思,而且这些字的用法各不一样。

The main mistake with 和 is using it to connect phrases. English sentences like "I went to the café and ordered a coffee" can't be translated using 和 . In those cases you actually don't need a connector at all.

关于“和”字,学习者犯的最主要的错误就是用“和”字连接短语。例如,英语句子“I went to the café and ordered a coffee”不能翻译成“我去咖啡厅和点了一杯咖啡”,这种类似的句子根本就不需要连词。

There are numerous other ways that "and" can be converted into Mandarin (see the link above). The main thing to remember is that you can't use 和 to link actions together.

汉语中有很多词可以表达“and”的意思,切记,“和”字不能用于连接动作。

2. Word order of adverbials

状语顺序

Obviously Mandarin word order is a huge topic, but there is one particularly common mistake that's quite easy to clear up. English-speaking learners often put adverbials at the end of the sentence, when they should go before the verb.

显然,中文词序是一个大话题。但是有一个很常见的错误,而且这个错误很容易就能说清楚。那就是以英语为母语的汉语学习者通常会把状语放在句末,实际上状语应该置于动词之前。

Adverbials are bits of extra information about the verb, broadly grouped into time, manner and place. In English these can often go at the end of the sentence. For example in "I saw him in the park yesterday", the adverbial is "in the park yesterday".

状语是修饰动词的信息,可分为时间状语、方式状语及地点状语。在英语中,这些状语通常置于句末。例如“I saw him in the park yesterday”,其中状语为“in the park yesterday”。

In Mandarin this kind of information pretty much always has to go before the verb. Avoid the temptation to put it at the end of the sentence as this usually sounds a bit weird and confusing.

在汉语中,这类信息通常都置于动词之前。因此,请不要将其放在句末,因为这样听起来很奇怪,也会使听者感到困惑。

4. zh, ch, sh / j, q, x and_ ü_

Back to the pronunciation! Tones are by far the most important part of Mandarin pronunciation, in my view. However, these are the consonants that learners struggle with most often, plus the tricky vowel sound ü.

又回到发音这一部分了。在我看来,到目前为止,声调是汉语发音最重要的一部分。但是,学习者却通常把精力都放在学习辅音“zh”、“ch”、“sh”、“j”、“q”、“x”及元音“ü”上。

The best guide to these sounds is probably the one at Sinosplice. 

学习这些元音辅音最好的指南可能就是Sinosplice上的指南了。

Have a read of that guide, and keep listening, listening, listening.

朗读指南,然后不断地听、听、听。

The ü sound is usually a bit easier to grasp. The trick is to start saying "eee" then close your lips as if you're making an "oh" sound. The ü should then magically come out.

元音“ü”通常来说都比较容易掌握。发这个音的秘诀就是:先说“eee”,同时闭合嘴唇,像在说“oh”一样,这样就可以神奇地发出“ü”的音了。

Tip: ü is on the v key in most pinyin input systems.

小提示:用拼音输入法时,输“ü”时应按“v”键。

5. Not using topic-comment structure

不使用述题结构

A big feature of Mandarin sentence structure is that it is topic-prominent. This means that the most important item in the sentence should usually be put first, regardless of its grammatical role.

汉语句子的一大特点就是主题优先,也就是说,无论在句中做什么成分,最重要的部分都应放在句首。

In other words, put whatever the sentence is about first (the topic), then add the rest of the information (the comment). This is very unlike English, which not only has to have a subject, but must also put it first in the sentence.

换句话说,就是把主题放在句首,然后再加上其他的信息(评论)。这和英语完全不同,英语句子必须要有主语且主语必须当在句首。

6. 是 + adj

是+形容词

Adjectives in Mandarin are actually like verbs. They can be attached to nouns without a separate verb. As this is very different to many European languages, speakers of these languages often try to use adjectives with 是 (to be).

汉语中的形容词实际上很像动词。它们可以直接与名词连用,无需动词。这和欧洲的许多语言都不同,因此汉语学习者在讲汉语的时候通常会在形容词前加“是”。

The most common way to link adjectives to nouns is with 很. This is often described as meaning "very", but its main function in this case is just to sit between the noun and adjective. "她很高" can just be translated as "she's tall".

“很”是最常见的用于连接形容词和名词的字,其英文意思为“very”,但其句法功能则只是连接名词和形容词。“她很高”可以直接翻译成“she's tall”。

7. 没有 + 了

没有 is used to negate past actions, and 了 is used to mark completed actions. 了 grammar is complicated, so it's easy to mistakenly think that 了 is about the past tense. This then leads people to use 了 in phrases with 没有.

“没有”用于否定过去的动作,“了”则表示动作完成。“了”语法很复杂,因此,学习者很容易会错误地认为“了”是指过去时。这样,学习者就会将“没有”和“了”连用。

This doesn't actually make sense, as 了 is about completed actions. An action can't be completed if it was never done. 没有 alone is enough to express that something was not done.

实际上,这种用法是错误的,因为“了”表示动作已经完成。没有付诸实践动作谈何完成?“没有”本身就可以表示那个动作没有付诸于实践。

As always, though, there's an exception to rule. 没有 also has meanings like "there are not" and "not have", and 了 can be used with these to express "there are no more" or "not any more".

然而,这个规则有一个例外,因为“没有”也可以表示“there are not”和“not have”,在这种情况下“了”可以与“没有”连用,表示“there are not”或“not any more”。

了 just can't be used with 没有 when it's a negating a past action.

当“没有”是用于否定过去的动作时,不能与“了”连用。

8. 了 and results

“了”及结果

A lot of learners assume that phrases like "我来了" and "我回家了" mean "I've arrived" and "I've come home".

很多学习者都会认为像“我来了”,“我回家了”等类似的句子意思为“I've arrived”及“I've come home”.

They actually mean "I'm on my way" and "I'm going home".

实际上,这两个句子翻译成英文应是"I'm on my way"和 "I'm going home"。

This is because the 了 in these sentences is sentence 了, not aspect 了. Aspect 了 is the one that marks completed actions, whilst sentence 了 is for 'status updates'. It introduces a new situation.

这是因为在这些句子中的“了”是用在句末的助词,而非指“时态”。“了”表示时态时,是指某个动作已经完成,而置于句末或停顿地方的“了”则是表示“出现新的情况”。

So "我来了" means something like "it is now the case that I'm on my way". Similarly with "我回家了": "it is now the case that I'm going home."

因此“我来了”是表示“it is now the case that I'm on my way”。 同理,我回来了是表示“it is now the case that I'm going home”。

To say that you have arrived, you need to use the actual word "arrive": 到. You then get "我到了" and "我回到家了".

若欲表达你已经到了,则需要加上表示你到了的字:到。因此,你需要说“我到了”及“我回到家了”.

9. Positive-negative inversion + 吗

正反疑问句+吗

Two common ways to form questions in Mandarin are positive-negative inversion, and adding 吗. After learning both, you can easily slip into putting both into one sentence, which is usually incorrect.

汉语中有两种常见的问句形式,一是正反疑问句,一是在句末加“吗”的疑问句。学过这两种问句之后,很容易会犯一个错误:将这两个问句合成一个问句。

With positive negative inversion you form a question by adding a negative form of the verb right after it. Some examples:

组织正反疑问句时,动词后面紧跟其否定形式。例如:

你是不是日本人? 

Nǐ shì bùshì rìběn rén? 

Are you Japanese?

他有没有签证? 

Tā yǒu méiyǒu qiānzhèng? 

Does he have a visa?

And forming questions with 吗 is famously easy: you just stick it on the end of a statement.

组织“吗”疑问句很简单:你只要在句末加上“吗”就可以了。

In most cases, using both these questions in one sentence is incorrect. Be aware, though, that sometimes it's actually fine. This happens when you're asking a question about a something embedded in the sentence. For example:

大部分情况下,在同一个句子中同时用这两个问句是错误的。但是,当“正反疑问句”在句中作某个成分,你针对这个成分提问时,这种情况下,一个句中则可以出现两种形式的问句。例如:

你知道他有没有签证吗? 

Nǐ zhīdào tā yǒu méiyǒu qiānzhèng ma? 

Do you know if he has a visa?

You could think of this sentence as involving two questions: does he have a visa, and do you know about it? Hence two question forms being acceptable in one sentence. Apart from this kind of sentence, though, only one question form should be used.

你可以认为这个句子包含两个问句:他有签证吗?你知道吗?因此在这种情况下,同一个句子中可以有两种问句。除了这类句子之外,其他的情况下,一个句子中只能有一种问句。

10. Too much information

信息过多

This one is about putting unnecessary information in a Mandarin sentence.

信息过多是指一个句子中包含有不必要的信息。

Mandarin tends to be very efficient. Subjects can often be omitted, as well as any other information that's obvious in the context.

汉语非常简洁。在一个语境下,主语以及其他的明显的信息可以省略。

Something that a lot of learners do is include a lot of information that can actually be left out. Only including the essentials produces more elegant, functional sentences that sound more natural.

大部分听者都需要自己去厘清被省略掉的信息。句中只含有必要的信息能使句子更加优雅,功能更强,听起来也更加自然。

Translated from: eastasiastudent.net

2016-06-21

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