Chinese is a language that many people today wish to learn since it offers excellent career opportunities. The availability of specialized courses is growing every day, and individuals who choose to study a language “from scratch” without an instructor or on a set timetable can do so. So, how can one learn Chinese, and where should one begin? Let’s attempt to solve it.
About the Chinese language in general
- First, given the huge number of nationalities within China, it is obvious that there are plenty of different dialects (about 56). And, classically, all these dialects sound so different that it would be easier to call them distinct languages. Fortunately, there is an official state language that is used for television broadcasting and is also taught in schools and universities, “Mandarin” or simply “Putonghua” (普通话 pǔtōnghuà). It should be known by every Chinese citizen.
- The central unit of meaning is a syllable. In modern Putonghua, there are a little more than 400 syllables.
- In total, it is possible to count about 50 thousand hieroglyphs (according to some sources, even as many as 70 thousand). But, exhale with relief, for comprehensible communication, it will be enough to know two or three thousand of the most common. But if we imagine that hieroglyphs are like letters in our alphabet, all relief vaporizes. We only have 26 of them (for those who are native speakers of English)!
How long does it take to learn Chinese and Mandarin
If you are wondering how long does it take to learn chinese, the answer is quite simple – 2000-2500 hours.
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it takes 88 weeks (2,200 hours) for English speakers to become a native/bilingual Chinese speaker. Chinese is one of the 5 hardest languages for English speakers to learn.
But once you learn it (Mandarin in particular), you can communicate with practically a billion speakers.
Why Chinese is so hard to learn and complicated
Chinese is a difficult language to understand both by ear and by grammar. But if you are determined to learn it from the basics on your own, it’s fine to try. You can make jokes to your colleagues in Chinese, but they won’t understand anything 🙂 Not the best practice, but obviously a lot of fun. You can find a vast amount of training materials on the Internet right now; videos, websites, and electronic manuals.
Many people set a goal to learn Chinese, but very few achieve it because:
- Chinese is an insanely complicated language.
- It is best to learn Chinese from native speakers; that is, either in your country with a teacher (not the cheapest treat) or move to China for a while, which is even more expensive.
- You have to learn a lot. The mere fact that the meaning depends on the tone already inspires horror.
- In general, the desire to get acquainted with Chinese is lost by many already after the above points. But nobody canceled curiosity.
Is Mandarin hard to learn
Mandarin is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Everyone who learns this supposedly difficult language is met with surprise and approval. But you don’t have to worry. Any language is mastered quickly and efficiently if you systematize your knowledge and learning periods. And using the tips below, you can accelerate your learning of Mandarin.
TOP-11 Tips for learning Chinese
We’ve put together a few tips and tricks that we hope will help you learn Chinese faster.
Start with the structure
The best way to start is to familiarize yourself with the structure of the Chinese language. To do this, find thematic videos in lesson format. You will need to understand the basics of grammar in order to construct a sentence correctly orally. Next, you need to master the following aspects: writing (characters), phonetics, and grammar. It is very important to emphasize dialectology and the transcribing scheme.
The key to mastering any language at all is the development of conversational skills. It may seem very strange to you, but there is no alphabet in Chinese. Here, the characters represent meaning, and there are a considerable number of them, almost 70,000. But do not grasp at your head; a tourist knowing 1000 characters is likely enough because the Chinese themselves located in the provinces know only 2000 signs.
For everyday conversations, 1000 hieroglyphs are enough. The most important thing here is the tone. Find video tutorials on special transcription, where a word of characters is written and pronounced in Latin. Memorize the pronunciation itself.
Depending on the tone, Chinese words can have several meanings. The five tones are:
- high and flat,
- short and fast rising,
- descending and declining,
- and short and fast falling,
- in addition to neutral.
Learning phonetics with an instructor and a native speaker is preferable. If you’re unsure which dialect to use (and there are several in Chinese), go with Mandarin; it’s the most widely used, and you won’t blunder.
Learn Chinese words
You should start learning Chinese with the simple words you need to communicate: “你好” – hello, “是” – yes, “不” – no, “再见” – goodbye, “日” – day, “早” – morning, “晚” – evening, etc.
Attention! Right now you can already put these words in your personal dictionary 🙂
Then learn the sentences
Start with phrases and more complex expressions once you’ve mastered the terms. These may be used to carry on a conversation and improve your speaking skills. It is required to say: “你好吗?” (How are you?), “谢谢你” (Thank you), “请” (Please) and “恕我直言” (Excuse me).
Don’t forget to make language cards with these sentences and words too!
Study the tones in Chinese and work on them
Let’s take a closer look at the tones of the Chinese language:
- 1st tone – slow and extended with a high melody, like an unfinished phrase.
- 2nd tone – intonation from medium to a high level, as if in a question.
- 3rd tone – the tone drops down at the beginning of the phrase, then rises sharply to a medium level, i.e., the effect of perplexity.
- 4th tone – the intonation descends with an imperative tone.
Learn to read and write Chinese
To save time learning Chinese characters, you should become proficient in the system of transcribing Chinese sounds using Latin letters.
For instance, 我刷卡 – [wǒ shuā kǎ] – I’ll pay with my card.
You can learn to read and write Chinese without using characters by using this method. Some Chinese characters will still need to be learned, which is a difficult undertaking. You will develop your writing skills by doing this. Write hieroglyphs every day, find a native-speaking buddy, and communicate with them frequently. Request that he send back your messages after fixing any errors.
To become a reading expert, you must spend at least 20 minutes every day practicing. Pinyin-published children’s books and textbooks are excellent choices. Everything you come across in Chinese, including labels and restaurant signs, should be read. The most important thing is to practice frequently!
Work on your pronunciation more
Use tones in your language. You could use some YouTube videos for this. Keep in mind that a word’s tone can convey a variety of meanings when learning new words.
Work on your grammar
There are many grammar rules in Chinese. But in many ways, it is a clean and straightforward language devoid of plurals, verb tenses, cases, or inflections.
Immerse yourself in the language environment
Immersion in the language context is the most effective technique for learning Chinese. You may swiftly hone your abilities by using video messengers to communicate with Chinese people.
Watch movies in Chinese
You can fully immerse yourself in the linguistic environment with this technique. It can be used to work on pronunciation and tones.
Listen to audio materials in Chinese
Your primary job is to listen to Chinese speech more frequently so that you may learn key terms and expressions for conversation while you’re driving, doing sports, or cleaning the house.
Conclusions about learning Chinese by yourself
Making mistakes is the biggest barrier to learning Chinese. Set aside your worries and uncertainties because they are a part of the process. You must be patient and persistent.
But remember, techniques and a system are the most important parts in the process of learning any foreign language. In fact, you can learn a foreign language at least several times more effectively and faster than the average student… Take a look at the mini-book that describes the master plan of the studies and everything you need to know about building your learning process the right way. You can read it literally in one evening.
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