Chinese: 拜拜!

So, this is super late and I’m sorry. As I’ll explain in the video and from the last post, the Eurovision Song Contest took most of my time this weekend. Congratulations to Alexander Rybak and Norway for winning!

As you’ll probably definitely see in the video, Chinese tripped me up a few times. I feel so guilty saying this, but I’m glad to move on! There are so many wonderful aspects of Chinese, but this language seems like a huge road map with lots of twists and turns. And it doesn’t help that I’m not a good navigator.

I also wanted to talk about a common misconception (a mistake I made in the video). Chinese characters are NOT pictographs. According to the Chinese language wiki, many of the characters actually have phonetic bases, with phonetic and semantic elements added to them (I’m assuming this is where the strokes come in). Not quite an alphabet, but not hieroglyphs either.

SUMMARY: The Chinese language’s background is as long and expansive as the dynasties that paint the country’s rich history.  The first dynasty, Qin, began in 221 B.C. and would begin a long series of empires, with the last one ending in the 1900s. Written Chinese was standardized during the Qin dynasty, and both written and spoken forms were influenced by the following Han and other periods; in particular, the Song dynasty saw a bloom in art, culture and literature. Written Chinese is thought to have appeared from ancient inscriptions on animal bones. Hanzi, modern Chinese characters, were modified to concur with the Mandarin dialect in the 1920s.


Did I say that I was glad to be done with Chinese? I probably did somewhere in the video recap below. My immediate thoughts: big, intricate and time-consuming. There are so many things to learn, but there’s still a big question mark as to whether this would be the right language for me.


Intelligibility: 3
Complexity: 1
Resonance: 2
Continuation: 2


15 thoughts on “Chinese: 拜拜!

  1. Chinese language is fun and challenging!!!
    If you are interested, just spend 10 minutes everyday to pick up chinese at my site(

  2. Hi Keith,

    Your effort is an inspiration.

    I have a couple of things to say:

    Would it possible to click on the language title on the left-hand side and go immediatly to that language page on your site? Forgive me I don’t know anything about website construction.

    Could you say a little about what tools/materials youare using for each or all languages and roughly how much time you are devoting to each?

    How about Portugal in the Eurovision? I’m sure I heard the Spanish entry use some english…I thought Iceland, Portugal and Albania were the best. Didn’t like our entry (UK). The lyrics verge on the arrogant and Sir Andrew Webber’s ego of ‘playing ‘ piano onstage was infuriating at least.

    It was more interesting when for some years each country had to sing in their national tongue. Although, you can always rely on the French ;-).

    Cheers from England!

    1. Jason,

      Thank you so much for reading my blog! I will definitely add links of my posts on the blog. Forgive me, I haven’t had time to organize things like I wanted! As for tools, I usually link to them in the blog or have them listed on the right navigation bar. I spend roughly 6-8 hours per language (at least for Part One of the blog); a little quick, but I’m going on first impressions only right now.

      As for Eurovision, I loved Portugal and Albania as well. I’m really sad the contest is over, but now I’m saving to go to Olso in 2010! Some of my other favorites were the UK (a comeback story of sorts), Iceland, Croatia (such a beautiful song and voice) and Moldova. But I agree, I love it when entrants sing in their national tongue.

      1. Hi Keith

        Can I offer you some advice on flying to Norway although you might already know about it?

        There is an airline called Ryannair who fly to Oslo from London Stansted – the airport Obama uses here! Cavaet – you may have to schlep across London form another airport , although transport links exist , or fly to Dublin then onto Stansted with Ryannair. Ryannair charges for everything – see their website- and you nedd to book say 3 months ahead to get $20 (exc. taxes!) flights.

        Ryannair does fly direct to Oslo from Dublin, which does of course receive flights from the US.

        Easyjet, a similar airline, flies from London Gatwick to Copenhagen.

        Just a thought. Hope the above makes some sort of sense.


      2. Hi Jason! Thank you so much for the link about Ryanair! I’ve heard lots of great things about it from friends here and overseas (although the exorbitant fees tidbit is kind of a bummer). I will definitely consider using them, as I will try to go to Europe again next year!

  3. 加油!

    Wahhh you look nothing like I pictured after hearing your voice on the World.

    You sound very nerdy (sorry!) but you don’t look it at all!

    Your tones are very good, but it sounds like you’re singing rather than speaking.

    A company that I used to work for recently started this site for learning Chinese.

    You’ve got it right that Chinese isn’t fully pictographs but I think you’ve misunderstood about strokes.

    Most Hanzi are two (or more) separate components, one of which is a pictograph, the other which is a phoenetic element.

    Good luck!

    1. Haha, I wonder if I should be disappointed? 😉

      And thanks! I had been practicing them forever and I was so happy when I finally mastered them. But I think it sounds like I’m singing them because I’m saying them longer, right? More practice, maybe.

      And thanks for the info about hanzi. I’ll clarify in the blog.

      As always, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  4. Me again!

    Keith et al thought you’d be interested to know that kelly over on Aspiring Polyglot is also learning several languages from A to Z. Her choices are different though. Perhaps in some months ( even now?) you two could have a web-chat or correspond with eas other about your experiences?



  5. i’m moving to vietnam in august and i’m both excited and intimidated by trying to learn vietnamese; mostly because of the tones. but the alphabet is latin (which will make reading easier) and i’ve heard that a huge chunk of the vocab comes from chinese (i assume mandarin, but i don’t know for sure). so, this may be a plus if i ever decide to ‘tackle’ madarin.

    i’m very interested in which languages become finalists.

  6. Chinese? Don’t you mean Mandarin? There really is no “Chinese” language unless you’re talking about classical Chinese which is not a spoken language – there is a group of Chinese languages including Mandarin (“Putonghua”), Cantonese, Taiwanese, Fujianese,Shanghainese, etc. Sorry to be picky.

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