Sara’s Mandarin Monday: Watch out these mistakes in your Chinese essays

While writing Chinese blog posts here and studying teaching Chinese at university, I’ve learned a lot about writing Chinese essays. This Monday I decide to share all my mistakes with you so you don’t have to do the same mistakes I have done! Lets take a look what kind of mistakes happen when writing essays in Chinese and take my mistakes as examples.

Forgetting something important

Usually you forget a word in the sentence where it’s supposed to be.

For example:

如果你选择丁克(的)生活方式,中国父母一定不同意 > Here I forgot to add 的
我对(这些)都感兴趣 > Here I forgot to add 这些
在中国每个地方每个民族(都)有他们的特色菜 > And here I forgot to add 都

When you forget to add something it might turn your sentence not natural, hard to understand and/or grammatically incorrect.

Adding something that shouldn’t be added

This is the opposite to the first one. Here you add something that you think should be in the sentence, but it’s actually incorrect.

For example:

我应该多一点跟中国人聊天 > No need to add 一点 here
这是她第二次来中国 > Shouldn’t add 过 here
怎么会用这样的话来问别人他们怎么样 > And should remove 他们

Adding something extra can easily become a bad habit. Many learners use too many 了 in the sentence because they don’t know when to use or not to use it. Often these mistakes are because of poor grammar skills.

Choosing the wrong word

This is the challenge for intermediate students! You know many words that have a similar meaning and you don’t know which one to use in one particular sentence. It’s easy to make a mistake and choose wrong one.

For example:

在芬兰中国餐厅的菜跟真真(真正)的中国菜完全不一样。> Chinese doesn’t have a word 真真, should be 真正
()瑞典菜跟我们差不多 > Common mistake to use the wrong measure word
在芬兰我们一般一次吃一()菜 > This is a measure word mistake also

Putting a word in the wrong place inside a sentence

Sometimes you know which word to use, put you fail to put it in the wrong place in the sentence.

For example:

那时候我是跟她^认识的 > The wrong position of 那时候, should be put to ^ place
但是那个地方^只是个博物馆  > Wrong position of 不, should be put in front of 只
写中文博客是个很好的方法提高自己的写作水平^ > Wrong position of 方法, should be put in the end of the sentence and add 的 before it (…的方法)

Mixing two sentences into one

This is the monster of mistakes where you put two sentences into one and in the process you make a mistake. Many beginners learn a lot of new sentence structures and can get confused how to use them. But in this case simple is better and you should avoid putting everything together.

Here is one example:

但是我不太喜欢在那里按摩员没有工资 > In this sentence I wanted to say that I don’t like the massage place because masseurs don’t have a salary, it would be better to divide these in two sentences: …,但是我不太喜欢在那里按摩, 是因为按摩师没有工资。

How to improve your Chinese essay skills?

After going over all of these mistakes it might feel a bit intimidating to write an essay ever again, but that’s exactly what you (and I) should do!

Here are some tips to improve your Chinese essays:

  1. Write a lot of essays and get the corrected by a teacher or a tutor (or a blog reader!)
  2. Read a lot in Chinese in order to get a feeling of what is correct writing
  3. Study grammar and especially those aspects where you make mistakes, learn why something is correct or incorrect
  4. Write a blog post in Chinese and leave a comment to this post with a link to your Chinese blog post!


Besides writing my own Chinese essays and recording me speaking Chinese, I decided that on Mandarin Monday I should also be helping all of you who study Chinese too! Learn from my mistakes, so you can improve faster than I do. And for quick tips on learning Chinese check out How Can I Learn Chinese.