Community Web Version Now Available
Alex Diaz
Advice to study Mandarin I'm interested in learning Mandarin, and I was hoping I could get some helpful information/advice on studying the language. I'd like a bery breif overview about how the language works in comparison with other languages like English (what is Hanzi? Pinyin? When are normal letters used in the Chinese culture) What should a new student be focusing on? (Chinese characters?) I basically looking for advice that you all think is important for a beginner. I have studied Spanish for 2 years and have a good level, but The addition of the Chinese characters confuses me? (It's not just a question of grammar and pronunciation, it's something new for me).
Jan 29, 2016 10:07 PM
15
0
Answers · 15
Pinyin is a system for romanizing the Chinese characters (=hanzi). You should learn that first (as do chinese children at school) to get to know the pronunciation. Pinyin is also used for typing Chinese into the computer or phone. If you for instance type p i n y i n on your keyboard, the computer can automatically change it into 拼音. There are also other systems for the phonetic notation of Chinese without using the Chinese characters, but Pinyin is the standard in the Chinese mainland. If you want to learn some basic Chinese, then it is possible to ignore the characters and just learn pinyin. But you would be totally illiterate, when visiting China. If you want to reach an intermediate level, you have to learn at least either simplified or traditional characters. And when you want to reach an advanced level, you will end up learning both. Examples Simplified: 学习,车,发 Traditional: 學習,車,發 Some recommendations for apps and weblinks: "Hacking Chinese" is a very resourceful website with plenty of tips about "how" to learn Chinese: http://www.hackingchinese.com/ "Chinese Forums" is an active Chinese language learning community: http://www.chinese-forums.com/ "Pleco" is THE dictionary for your smart phone and tablet: https://www.pleco.com/ "Skritter" is a website (and they have an app as well) for learning to write the Chinese characters: http://www.skritter.com/
January 29, 2016
My advice to teenage and adult (as opposed to children under 10) is always this: 1. Join a proper class. Follow the official HSK syllabus. Do not try to learn by yourself. 2. Just diligently follow the textbooks and the class syllabus, and do all the required work. Take the HSK exams. It is counter-productive to try to work out by yourself the macro professional education questions such as "Which should I learn first?", "How does Chinese compare with English", etc. Why do I say so? It is because these questions have been discussed over a period of decades by experts in the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language, and the fruits of their collective wisdom are the textbooks, the courses at the Confucius Institutes and the HSK syllabus. All you need is to use these tools. There is no need for you to join their intellectual quest. Be a pragmatic learner. Join a class and start learning. When you are at a very advanced level, and only then, you can start thinking about all the intellectual and linguistic foundations of teaching and learning Chinese as a foreign language. Most people don't bother. Why not? It is because most people have no desire to be a scholar in education. They just want to use the language.
January 30, 2016
I also have studied a bit of Mandarin Chinese. I find that the best way to start is by studying pinyin (the Romanisation of the Chinese characters). This is essential to learning the pronunciation of words. Chinese is also a tonal language and the only way you will grasp the tones properly is through communication with native speakers and exposure to the spoken language. Finally, in terms of Chinese characters, it depends on whether or not you want to learn traditional (that used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and many overseas Chinese communities) or simplified (the writing system used in Mainland China). There is a good book that I recommend called Chineasy by ShaoLin (I think that is her name) and it breaks the Chinese characters down and makes them simpler to learn and understand. Here is a talk she did about learning Chinese characters: http://www.ted.com/talks/shaolan_learn_to_read_chinese_with_ease http://chineasy.org/basics.aspx?set=1502
January 29, 2016
There are already some really detailed replies to this question, so I'll comment on some different points... :) Firstly, I've never made a separate effort to study Traditional Chinese characters... in fact, I'd say I even tried to avoid them! However, recently I was messaging a friend living in Taiwan. She used traditional characters, and I used simplified characters... and there was no problem. I could understand almost everything she said, despite rarely ever seeing (and certainly not studying) the traditional characters. The difference may appear daunting, but there is a strong resemblance in many cases. And when I couldn't recognize a particular character, the context (word order, surrounding characters, topic of conversation) generally lead to a "oh! That's what it means...!" After you begin to feel comfortable speaking Mandarin and reading simplified characters, exploring traditional characters won't be a problem. Of course, it may sometimes have its challenges, but with spoken Chinese and simplified characters under your belt, you'll definitely be able to overcome them. So I advise studying simple characters (as it is initially easier when learning to write) and not to worry so much about transitioning to traditional. Oh, and of course, studying just pinyin is (for me, at least) not a good option. At first, it may appear easier, but as you progress it will become a problem as it can't convey all of what the actual Chinese characters can. Secondly, I (maybe controversially, lol) don't think that Chinese grammar needs to be given separate attention. Admittedly, my grammar is far from perfect, but I honestly believe that the grammar can be picked up naturally through conversation with native speakers. I have a friend living in Suzhou who works in Chinese (completely fluent), and she also suggested focusing primarily on building vocabulary, as the grammar can be surprisingly flexible. Okay, that's all. Hope it's some food for thought. Jake
January 30, 2016
I'd try to learn the meaning of the most common 1500 or so characters as early as possible. Learning their pronunciation can come later, and you don't even need to be able to write them if you can type them. A couple of reasons: -Reading is the easiest language skill to practice for beginners, because you can set your own pace. If you don't understand the characters, you're gonna be missing out on one of the most convenient sources of input and easiest ways for you to improve your Chinese -Once you reach a critical mass of characters, you'll realize that reading is simpler in Chinese than in most foreign languages of a different family. This happens because each character carries some meaning and therefore it's easier to make sense of words you've never come across before. For a Chinese person learning English to have a similar advantage with reading, he or she would need to have a perfect command of Latin, Ancient Greek, Norman French and Old Germanic in order to be able to identify the components of most words. -Learning the meaning of characters, if done right, can be fun and sort of a break from the kind of work you usually do, so it's easy to turn it into a new learning habit. -After you've learnt some characters, you'll find that words that you never seemed to remember now stick with you very easily, because your memory has something to hold onto. (btw, I'm not saying not to listen to or speak Chinese at the beginning. Definitely do that too! Just trying to be realistic and consider what would be the easiest / most rewarding learning habit for you to develop )
January 30, 2016
Show More
Alex Diaz
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Italian, Spanish
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), French, Italian, Spanish