Learning any language is difficult, but for native speakers of Chinese, learning English can be especially problematic. Chinese, unlike Germanic or Romance languages, has both a different vocabulary and pitch. This means that a native speaker of Chinese must begin virtually from scratch when learning English.
In English, our voices rise at the end of questions, and otherwise, our voices drop. This is in stark contrast to many East Asian languages including Chinese, where the voice rises at the end of sentences. For example, in the simple English statement "I love you" the speaker's voice drops on the last word. The Chinese equivalent "Wo ai ne" is spoken with the voice rising on the last word. There are many nonnative speakers of English whose command of vocabulary, grammar and syntax is perfect, but their speech seems a little "odd" or "off" because they have failed to master this difference in emphasis and pitch.
Hearing the language you are learning is a time-honored way to gain proficiency and fluency. With the prevalence of media, as well as audio language resources, it is easier to find examples of the speech of native English speakers than ever before. The more time you spend listening to native English speakers, the easier it will be for you to pick up on their speech patterns. Exercise care when choosing native English speakers to use as models. Regional variations in accent are vast, and you will tend to pick up some of the accent of the models you choose. This can make a difference if you're learning English for professional purposes. Avoid copying strong regional accents. One easy way to help your brain absorb the speech patterns of English is to listen to music where the singing is performed in English by native English speakers.
There are a variety of publications that feature English and Chinese side by side. These publications allow you to expand your vocabulary and increase your reading fluency easily. Because you have a Chinese translation readily available, you will be able to easily understand any idiomatic expressions that you may run across.
Stephanie Crumley Hill is a childbirth educator who for more than 20 years has written professionally about pregnancy, family and a variety of health and medical topics. A former print magazine editor, her insurance articles for “Resource” magazine garnered numerous awards. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Georgia.