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Differences Between Chinese and English - Character Structure and Pronunciation

In my previous article, I mentioned that Chinese and English belong to different language families. The two most distinctive differences are character structure and pronunciation. For a beginner in Chinese language learning, one obstacle is mastering different tones; another is memorizing so many Chinese characters.

Unlike grammar, characters and pronunciation are the foundation for beginners. The differences in characters and pronunciation are seldom taught to students in many textbooks, but they are often discussed in the most in-depth papers and books about Chinese language. How to discover the unveiled secrets? I will explain all these complicated linguistic terms in a simple way of expression not only to help those Chinese language learners, but also to arouse the interest of those who still have concerns about Chinese learning.

Difference of character structure between Chinese and English - Chinese character is pictograph and has the function of expressing ideas. There are about 2500 the most commonly used characters in Chinese. A Chinese character is like a picture. With the combination of different characters, you can express infinite meanings with limited Chinese characters. In English people create words with 26 letters, but they have to create more and more English words to represent the new concepts and things. We can conclude this from the amendment of the dictionaries that the Xinhua Dictionary (the most widely used dictionary in China) has little modification in the recent 50 years, whiles the English dictionary is becoming thicker and thicker.

Pronunciation difference between Chinese and English - Four tones are the unique features in Chinese among all kinds of languages in the world. All Chinese characters are monosyllable with four tones. It is extremely effective in expressing an idea. Though English words also have monosyllable, most of the words are polysyllable. In this way, a meaning could be expressed easier in Chinese by using monosyllable and different tones, whiles the specific meaning may be expressed in English by using all pronunciations and sometimes even long and short tones.

When learning a completely different language, you'd better make a comparison with your mother tongue. In that way, you may find that the "picturesque" Chinese characters are not difficult to memorize. Chinese is such a fascinating language that one may not only benefit from communicating with others, but also benefit from the magnificent culture.