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How to start to learn Chinese


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1.Your first step is to learn pinyin;

2.Then you will learn the basic four tones

3. Use some daily-used expressions( such as greetings, expressing thanks, making an introduction) as long as the pinyin stuff which shows you how to read the Chinese characters;

4. try to read them out loud and try to practice as often as possible

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I think learning radicals is an important step for beginners, because it will make recognition of characters much easier. Not that you can't just memorise the characters by rote alone, I just found that learning even just part of the radicals helped my recognition of characters.

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  • 1 year later...

It depends on the ways you learn. In general, you can learn Chinese yourself from the online resource and learn Chinese with a teacher, and the native teacher is best.

According to your requirements, you need

1. Mastering the tones

2. Remembering the characters

It is a bit difficult but keep working if you choose study yourself, so I suggest you find an Mandarin learning shool to study. You can try Hanbridge Mandarin, it provides both online and offline learning, and recommended by most students. Give it a look!

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Ideally you want a native speaker to help you out with the tones. You can learn them by yourself of course, but it would take a lot work off your shoulders if you had someone fluent help you out with the basics.

Then start learning words, phrases. Build on that.

I think - unless you're in China or other Chinese speaking country - having some quality audio lessons is of utmost importance. It's better to know a few words and speak them well than many poorly spoken. It's not just the tones you gotta watch out for, there is many similar sounds in Chinese (q, ch, j,...). It's just as important to tell these apart as it is to pull off the tones correctly.

Learning the characters is important if you're aiming to truly master the language. But like I said, the audio and the right pronunciation should be your priority. At least that's what payed off for me the most.

Happy hunting

Richard

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I wrote this a while back...
 
Step 1 – Isolated pronunciation
 
Goals: Correctly repeat any single pinyin syllable after hearing it. Read single pinyin syllables out loud with correct pronunciation. Do all this with correct tones and know which tones are being used when you hear them.
 
Expansion: Pronunciation requires special attention in Mandarin because it’s a tonal language, with tone changes (sandhi), and a few sounds westerners aren’t normally accustomed to. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again here – tones are crucial. If you don’t make a serious effort to get them right before you start conversing, you will probably not be understood. Tones are more important than initials and finals (consonant and vowel sounds); there are regional variations in pronunciation of initials and finals, so natives are used to that fact and will give you some leeway with them. But tones are consistent, meaning there is very little leeway, so it’s more important to get them right.
 
How to do it - working with a pinyin table. There are many available - I’ve picked one at random to work with.
 
Pinyin is made up of initials and finals. Initial + final = syllable. You’ll find out later that each Chinese character (hanzi) has a one syllable pronunciation. The table has all possible syllables; there are about 400. If you click one of the syllables, you get a pop-up with audio for the four different tones. The goal in working with the pinyin table is to be able to pronounce all the syllables correctly in all four tones. There are many ways to do this, so it’s ok to experiment, but always listen to the audio before trying to pronounce a syllable for the first time. Here’s the method I suggest:
 
1)  Select the 1st syllable in the 1st column (a), select the 1st tone, listen, repeat; select the 2nd tone, listen repeat; select the 3rd tone, listen, repeat; select the 4th tone, listen, repeat; pronounce the 1st tone, listen, repeat; pronounce the 2nd tone, listen, repeat; pronounce the 3rd tone, listen, repeat; pronounce the 4th  tone, listen, repeat.
 
2)  Select 2nd syllable in the 1st column (ba), and repeat step 1. After completing the first column, do them over, but only pronounce, listen, repeat.
 
3)  Repeat for the 2nd column. Keep it up for 30min – 2hrs per day.
 
4)  The next day, do it by row instead of columns. You will need to work through the entire table by columns and rows several times to get comfortable reading pinyin.
 
It takes some time to get comfortable reading the pinyin table, probably 10+ hrs. Spreading it out over a couple weeks makes it sink in much better.
 
Reading about and studying pronunciation. After you have finished your dose of pinyin table work for the day, do some reading. First, read this pronunciation guide in Sinosplice.
 
There is a lot to Chinese pronunciation. It’s best to practice it, read about it, and practice it some more, each time trying to incorporate the things you’ve read about. You will always be checking your pronunciation by listening to the table, so try to pay attention and pick out the things that you read about too.
 
After finishing Sinosplice, work your way through the pronunciation module for FSI.
 
This might sound like overkill, but there are actually some things in FSI that aren’t in Sinosplice. Note – for this stage, focus on single syllables; leave multiple syllables and tone rules for later.
 
Practice recognizing tones. After you feel like you are reading single pinyin syllables correctly, it’s time get good at recognizing tones. I recommend using Pinyin Practice.
 
At this stage, just do the single syllable drills. You can come back to combinations later.
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  • 3 weeks later...

@Wanda yes, very good introduction

However, how you learn it will depend very much on the situation you are in. Are you doing it in or outside of China? Full or part-time? Is your aim to become fluent or survival Chinese? For fun or work?

If you are in China, you will focus much more on sentences you can immediately use, if you want to become fluent you should spend more time building the basics (tones especially) than if you just want to quick and dirty get to basic communication abilities etc.

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  • 2 months later...

Listening to chinese songs is a good way to be familiar how the chinese language sounds. Formally, I started with the four basic tones which should be listened to from time to time. Then with the easiest chinese characters and the msot important for everyday used as numbers and months. 

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A good introduction on how one should go about learning Chinese is this Ebook that has 10 people who studied Mandarin explain how they did it and what they would advice a beginner to pay attention to. There are a lot of different approaches to learning the language and people's opinions obviously differ, but it is good to get some advice from people who went through the process.

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Since most people learn second language through English,an easy way to learn a language is to write English words pronunciations in your script as well as in Roman transliteration. This way one may be able to read and write new characters.

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On 1/25/2016, 12:19:37, Vietal said:

Since most people learn second language through English,an easy way to learn a language is to write English words pronunciations in your script as well as in Roman transliteration. This way one may be able to read and write new characters.

But this thread is about learning Mandarin. Mandarin has a simple phonetic script available which uses mostly english letters, called pinyin. So your suggestion isn't very useful in this case.

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Yes, this thread is about learning Mandarian which can be phonetically learned in Roman-Pinyin without learning Mandarian alphabetic characters.

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10 hours ago, Vietal said:

Yes, this thread is about learning Mandarian which can be phonetically learned in Roman-Pinyin without learning Mandarian alphabetic characters.

It's called pinyin, or hanyu pinyin, not Roman-Pinyin. I removed content of yours that's not relevant to this thread. If you want to make lengthy posts about IPA, then do it in an IPA thread.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi, 

There are two parts of foundations for beginners to start learning Chinese:

1. Understand how to speak Chinese by learning the phonetic system (pinyin)

2. Understand how to read and write Chinese words by learning the basic structures of Chinese characters.  

Pinyin is the official phonetic system to transcribe Mandarin Chinese sounds into the Roman alphabet. Each Pinyin sound consists of three components: an initial, a final and a tone.  

All Chinese characters are built up from basic strokes and radicals. Radicals are usually pictographs that represent objects in the real world. 

Jenny

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