Why are you here to learn Mandarin?

Many people are trying to learn a foreign language online by seeking help from native speakers.  While this can benefit you a lot, it can also be quite dangerous. So I personally would ask more than one native speaker for advice before accepting a suggestion. Also it’s a good idea to have enough linguistic knowledge about the language you are learning, and get some grammar books and dictionaries to check a native speaker’s suggestions.


Look at the following two versions of the same paragraph:


Version 1A:

<em>I was surprised to receive a notification from the post office last Friday. On seeing some Chinese characters on the unexpected parcel at the post office, I was even more surprised. But I soon figured out from whom this parcel was: a father and his son from China. They sent me the gift to thank me for guiding the son to learn English. I was really grateful to them.</em>


Version 1B:

<em>I was most surprised to receive a notification from the post office last Friday. I went to the post office to collect this unexpected package. There were Chinese characters written on the top. Then I immediately knew from whom this was from. My heart reeked of gratitude. You see, it was a gift from a father and son from China as a way to thank me in guiding his son's English.</em>

<em> </em>

Assuming you are English, it’s obvious to you which version is better. So you should be pretty sure which author is a more reliable corrector. But if you don’t speak Chinese sufficiently well, would it be equally clear when facing two different Chinese correctors? Let’s look at two versions of a Chinese paragraph.



Jun 22, 2014 7:37 AM
Comments · 4

Hi you asked me to comment. I am not a professional, just a volunteer (and I am not learning Mandarin BTW). I don't know who you are referring to as correctors. There are mostly volunteer correctors and they do their best to help other people. Sometimes the correctors are native speakers, and sometimes I see that some are not, they are also learning the language being corrected. You are correct, one should seek multiple opinions. On the other hand, if one is paying a professional teacher to correct your work, you should expect higher quality.

ok I hope that helps! -phil

June 26, 2014

I think you were referring to Jeff :) 

June 22, 2014

It may be clear to native Chinese speakers that Version 2A does not really sound Chinese though it uses Chinese characters. But it’s not surprising non-native Chinese speakers might be bewildered.  


In fact, Version 1B and 2A were written by the same author who claimed to be a native English and Chinese speaker. This person is the single most popular corrector in both languages on italki. Version 1A and 2B were written by me based on his idea. I did make a few corrections before showing you version 2A: I removed some spaces (which are clearly not a part of the Chinese language) and some non-Chinese punctuation. This was because these mistakes were too obvious. But even Version 2B is not perfectly coherent, because unless he can reorganise his ideas in a reasonable way, there’s no technical way to save this messy paragraph.


My point is every native speaker and corrector makes mistakes. That’s human nature. As a non-English person, I must have made many mistakes in this post and in Version 1B. I’m not suggesting I’m a better corrector than he is. Even though I’m a native Chinese speaker, I also may make mistakes in Version 2B, and some can be silly.


Therefore, to ensure you are benefited from rather than harmed by online language communities, you ought to listen to different ideas and have the capacity to tell the difference between the right and wrong ones.


However, it seems that so many people are here to learn Mandarin, and they obviously don’t have such capacity. I was just wondering these people’s rationale. Could you give me some clues? Thanks.

June 22, 2014

Version 2A:


<em> </em>

Version 2B:


<em> </em>

June 22, 2014
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Shanghainese), English
Learning Language
Chinese (Shanghainese), English