Chinese friends or Chinese speakers who are learning (or would like to learn) Italian, don’t worry! We’re working for you!
We know that Mandarin Chinese and Italian are two very different and distant languages: one could say they are almost antipodes. And yet, Italian is a language that fascinates many synophone speakers because of its linguistic difference and its exotic character.
With this article, you will find some useful tips for all those Chinese speakers who want to learn the Italian language! We will help you overcome the possible linguistic and cultural differences you might encounter while learning the language of the Bel Paese.
Communicating means exchanging effective messages, and the first modality which we all think of when we speak of communication is the oral one. Starting from a phonological perspective (therefore linked to sound), here are some tricks that will help you better understand Italian.
1) We must first of all remember that Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, while Italian is not. In the spoken Mandarin Chinese, the intonation has a “semantic function”, that means it has the function of attributing a different meaning to the various words, while the intonation in the spoken Italian has a “pragmatical function”: it does not change the meaning of the word, but only its communicative intention.
E.g. caffè? (ascending tone à –> question)
E.g. caffè! (descending tone à –> exclamation).
2) Another aspect which you must pay attention to in Italian is the length of the sounds: if in any word a single (short) or double (long) consonant is inserted, the meaning of the word itself changes, which is not the case in Chinese:
E.g. pala (= shovel); palla (= ball)
3) How do you construct words in Italian and in Chinese?
The first major obstacle you might encounter when starting to study the Italian language is related to the syllable. In Italian, a word is formed by the fusion of several elements (syllables called “morphemes”): often this fusion leads to a total change of the original word:
E.g. io (= I) + plural form = noi
This does not happen in Chinese, where morphemes express only one meaning and never merge.
E.g. Wǒ (= I) + men (plural form) = wǒmen
4) Finally, Chinese friends and Chinese speakers, you must remember that, despite your culture might still be strongly influenced by Confucianism, which contributes to the hierarchization of interpersonal relationships (and this aspect is particularly manifested in the relationship between teacher and student, in which the teacher is perceived as an absolute source of knowledge, therefore students rarely intervene if not contacted by the teacher), in the Italian culture, it is fundamental to exchange ideas, doubts, curiosities between the teacher and their students. So, please, don’t be afraid of asking or sharing comments.
5) Another peculiarity of Italian lessons is the so-called “small talk” and the joke. Italians like to fill the lessons with some nice aspects that lighten the teaching load and lowers the teacher-teacher barriers. All this in no way wants to be perceived negatively as fertile ground for the creation of situations in which students might feel embarrassment or in which you might “lose your face” (in Chinese: diu mianzi 丟 ⾯ ⼦ , an essential component of Chinese culture which basically means losing one’s status, the credibility and esteem of the companions within a group). It is only the Italian way of dealing with not only the lessons, but every aspect of life in general!
Keep this suggestions in mind in your next Italian class and enjoy!