Never before have I been so happy that I don’t need to learn Chinese. I discovered this interesting and often amusing article on why the Chinese language–especially the written language–is so difficult to learn. For example, I didn’t realize that Chinese is a tonal language:
By itself, this property of Chinese would be hard enough; it means that, for us non-native speakers, there is this extra, seemingly irrelevant aspect of the sound of a word that you must memorize along with the vowels and consonants. But where the real difficulty comes in is when you start to really use Chinese to express yourself. You suddenly find yourself straitjacketed — when you say the sentence with the intonation that feels natural, the tones come out all wrong. For example, if you wish say something like “Hey, that’s my water glass you’re drinking out of!”, and you follow your intonational instincts — that is, to put a distinct falling tone on the first character of the word for “my” — you will have said a kind of gibberish that may or may not be understood.
This made me think: maybe this is why Chinese people tend to be so reserved. After all, if you can’t use your tone of voice to express emotion, you have to get a lot better at emotional control if you want to communicate.
I love that aspect of psychology, learning how a language both reflects and influences the people who speak it.