How to Learn Mandarin: 5 Top Tips

Are you looking to learn Chinese Mandarin before you get on a plane and enjoy a trip to China?  If so, you’ll be surprised (and pleased) to know that it isn’t going to be as impossible as you’d think.

While there are some that may make it sound impossible or very challenging, learning Mandarin is totally do-able and it’s also really beneficial because even a little bit of understanding in the language can help a lot.

5 Top Tips of Learning Mandarin for Beginners

Here are some helpful tips and pieces of information to focus on when you decide to tackle learning Chinese.

1. Build a Solid Foundation with the Basics

How to Learn Mandarin build a foundation

Just like when you’re learning anything, including skills and hobbies, you’ll want to take a moment to learn the basics. Since these basics are the building blocks of the language, you’ll need them for every part that you learn. These basics include the four tones, pinyin, and the basic grammar.

  • The tones

The first tone is a high and flat one. There’s no dip or inflection to the tone at all (think of a high monotone, essentially).

The second tone is a rising tone. It would have an inflection similar to when you say “What?” in English. It ends on the high tone.

The third tone is a varying one that is like saying a letter in English (such as spelling something out to someone). It can either start in the middle and go up, or start in the middle and go down.

The fourth tone is a lowering one. It’s like when you say “okay” as an acknowledgement to someone . It starts from high and drops down to low.

These are tones used in Mandarin Chinese. Doesn’t seem so foreign, does it?

  • Pinyin

Pinyin is something that often seems foreign to those who learn Chinese, but it can be really helpful to sound out something, as it is often written out. Pinyin is the pronunciation spelled out using a Roman alphabet to do so.

Think of it like phonetic spellings. You simply need to know how to read the Roman listings and how they sound.  This will take some time to get right, but it is worthwhile.

  • Grammar

Grammar often makes most people shudder, but you don’t need to worry about problems such as conjugations, number or subject agreement, or even tense.

Stringing a sentence together focuses more on the idea of  topic and classifiers as well as preferences, which don’t have an equivalent in English.

  • Putting all together

By putting some time and effort into each of these basic language details, you’ll find that you can advance faster and easier because you’ve got the building blocks in place already.

Plus, taking the language small bites often means that you’ll feel about learning phrases or words because you’ll be familiar with how to pronounce a word that you otherwise wouldn’t be familiar with.

This is part of why kids are told to “sound it out” when they learn to read in school! As annoying as it may be at first, it can make a serious difference in a very positive way when learning Chinese.

2. Learn Some Conversational Phrases

How to Learn Mandarin learn some conversational phrases

When you are looking at getting used to phrases, take advantage of meeting with a friend that speaks Chinese (or a language lab) to put your skills to use. Have a conversation with them and make sure that they correct any mistakes in pronunciation as you go.

It can also be fun to know that focusing on how to learn Mandarin in real social situations can be done with a buddy! Just make sure you do it with someone who speaks the language enough to be of help and service.

3. Advance Your Chinese with Online Courses

How to Learn Mandarin take online course

Tips on how to learn Chinese also can be found in something like online courses! There are all sorts of them out there that are geared towards different aspects and they can be really great when you are a classic book learner as well.

This is a great option to consider if you want to learn it along with a family member or a partner that can do it with you.

4. Create an Immersive Chinese Learning Environment

How to Learn Mandarin create immersive learning environment

They say that immersion is the best way to learn a language, and you it’s certainly a great way to consider especially if you are not one to shy away from a challenge. Try Chinese TV or movies as well as YouTube channels and music.

You can also take a look at visiting a local Chinatown and getting together with a language group or even a series of Chinese-speaking friends! Pick an immersive environment that feels right for you.

5. Travel or Work in China

How to Learn Mandarin travel or work in China

Another take on the immersion, you can consider travelling or working in China. ESL is a big thing there, so you can consider teaching English in Chinese schools and get paid.  These kinds of situations also offer free Chinese to teachers as well, usually.

If you are working or travelling, don’t be afraid to talk to locals and use your Mandarin!  Most will appreciate the effort and it can be really rewarding to do something as “simple” but important as ordering a meal in Mandarin from start to finish. Plus, it can do wonders for your confidence level, so you’ll want to seriously consider it!

Let Go of Your Perfectionism

One important thing to note with learning Chinese is that you aren’t trying to master the language. The entire goal of doing this is to make sure that you can communicate about the things that are most important, when you need to do so, and understand what someone is responding or asking of you.

We all tend to have a sense of perfectionism when it comes to making mistakes and we don’t want to try for fear of failure or embarrassment. Remember the goal and really try to get out there and use the language as much as possible! No one will care if you make a mistake and they’ll be impressed that you are so bold about speaking the language!

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