For a few months now, I have been on a new journey in my Mandarin learning. The previous one was working through Heisig & Richardson's first book (simplified or traditional, affiliated links) on learning how to read and write Chinese. I made it through 1500 characters in about 3-4 months, and I had great support from all of you as I did so.
But now being able to read & write characters, and having learned a whole bunch of compound words (through flashcards), I have extended this into understanding how Mandarin sentences are constructed. In my opinion, this is the least intuitive part of learning Chinese, and it's what keeps me from having coversations which flow as smoothly as I'd like.
Don't believe people who tell you that Mandarin is the same as English: subject-verb-object. I mean, it is. Kinda.
The problem is that when you first get past "I drink beer" (我喝啤酒, wǒ hē píjiǔ) (subject-verb-object, in both cases), things get a bit fuzzy and non-intuitive. But once you've got a feel for Chinese sentences, it starts to come back into focus, and you realise that to a large degree (again!) it is S-V-O.
Just to show you what I mean about this being non-intuitive, take a look at the following sentences, which are arranged as follows:
S1. What should I give him as a gift?
wǒ gāi sòng shénme lǐwù gěi tā?
(I) (should) (give) (what gift) (give him)?
S2. She enjoys sharing her experience of learning the Chinese language.
Tā hěn xǐhuan gēn biérén fēnxiǎng tā xuéxí Zhōngwén de jīngyàn.
(she) (very likes) (with others) (share) (her) (study Chinese)'s (experience).
S3. People who want a tattoo must go to a proper tatto parlour.
yào wénshēn de rén, bìxū qù zhuānyè de wénshēn diàn.
(want tattoo)'s (people), (must) (go to) (professional)'s (tattoo parlour)
Certainly not intuitive, but definitely learnable.
The purpose of this series is to get you as quickly from the "newbie S-V-O" to the "more advanced S-V-O" phase, without getting too stuck in the middle. And this is as much to document my learning for myself, as it is to share my learning for your benefit.
To make sure you don't miss out, ensure you subscribe to Mandarin Segments. I look forward to your active participation.
Copyright acknowledgement: Over time I have collected a variety of sentences, and loaded them into my flashcard system. By this stage, I no longer have any idea where they came from. Some are of my own construction, or from friends who have emailed or instant-messaged me. Others have been copied from websites along the way. To make sure I give credit where due, the following sites are the most likely external sources:
20,000 Mandarin Sentences
Collins (paper) dictionary
Articles in the Life Sentences series so far:
- Getting Sentenced in Mandarin: where to get sample sentences
To see all posts in the "Life Sentences" series, click here.