Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard?

In David Moser’s  article “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard?  he gave out a few very good reasons:
1.  Because the writing system is ridiculous.
2. Because the language doesn't have the common sense to use an alphabet.
3. Because the writing system just ain't very phonetic.
4. Because you can't cheat by using cognates.
5. Because even looking up a word in the dictionary is complicated.
6. Then there's classical Chinese (wenyanwen).
7. Because there are too many romanization methods and they all suck.
8. Because tonal languages are weird.
9. Because east is east and west is west, and the twain have only recently met.

It is a very fun article to read.  If you have not read it yet, it is available at (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html )     Moser is now a highly respected Sinologist today both in the West and in China.  Yet, his experience is universal for anyone (the Westerner or the native Chinese) who learned Chinese via the old school way. Thus, if you did not read that article, you can never appreciate this new etymology.

With this new etymology,  all “because” of above disappear.  This new etymology claims that Chinese written language can be mastered in 90 days from an initial state of knowing not  a single Chinese word (both verbal and written) to a point of being able to read the current Chinese newspapers,  because of two newly discovered facts.

1. All (each and every) Chinese words (characters) are composited of from only 220 word roots.
2. The meaning of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.

In this forum “Words of the week,” I will show hundreds examples to prove   above two points. In this week, I will begin with three simple examples.
a. (not straight) is (not) (straight) .
b.   (not be used) is (not) (using, used).
c. (palm) is (top, upper) (hand), top side of the hand.

Of course, we will get more and more complex examples in the future.

Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong


  1. Hi Tien

    Thanks for another great post. I'm getting more and more interested in your approach, and wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.

    I speak 普通话 pretty well, but can't write the 字 to save my life (can read them though). Maybe one day :)

    Cheers, Brad

  2. Dear Brad:

    Thanks for your kind words.

    As the Chinese verbal system has only 1,000 different phonemes, it is a very easy verbal language to learn.

    On the contrary, the Chinese written language is the most difficult language to learn via the old school way. Yet, it becomes the easiest one with this new etymology. The world record is 90 days, and that case study is available at


  3. 其实我觉得英语也挺难的→_→