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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There's actually a wide array of ways to express "and" in Mandarin, all of which have different uses.
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.
2. Word order of adverbials
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.
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.
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.
The best guide to these sounds is probably the one at Sinosplice.
Have a read of that guide, and keep listening, listening, listening.
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.
Tip: ü is on the v key in most pinyin input systems.
5. Not using topic-comment structure
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.
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.
6. 是 + adj
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).
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".
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.
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.
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.
8. 了 and results
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.
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".
9. Positive-negative inversion + 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.
With positive negative inversion you form a question by adding a negative form of the verb right after it. Some examples:
Nǐ shì bùshì rìběn rén?
Are you Japanese?
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.
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:
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.
10. Too much information
This one is about putting unnecessary information in a Mandarin sentence.
Mandarin tends to be very efficient. Subjects can often be omitted, as well as any other information that's obvious in the context.
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.
Translated from: eastasiastudent.net