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Linguaholic

Interested in learning Mandarin, but feeling intimidated.


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Hi! So a couple years ago I started trying to learn Mandarin, but I found learning all the different tones really intimidating and gave up pretty quickly. Now I'm thinking about taking it up again, but I'm unsure how to get over that initial learning hurdle so that I can stay motivated. Those who have successfully stuck with learning Mandarin/Cantonese, how difficult did you find it was to learn all the tones and pronunciation. What advice do you have to someone who's feeling intimidated and doesn't really know where to begin?

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how difficult did you find it was to learn all the tones and pronunciation.

I speak Cantonese and I had the most DIFFICULT TIME EVER when I was learning tones for Mandarin. I don't think it actually helps my pronunciation since I can speak Mandarin fine, but it's really hard for me to write the pinyin out and put the tone marks on.

My recommendation is... to sign up and actually take a Chinese class. It's the only way to "push" yourself to keep on studying. Chinese is intimidating and without the initial push, some people might never get started. But once you get the hang of it, it gets much easier.

So hang in there!! ♥

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I cannot stress enough how important it is to have either a professional linguistics person or a native speaker to comment on your pronunciation. Relying on the internet and recorded voice overs is not good enough. There's always the slightest shifts in the tone of our voices because we are all human, and relying on a single repeated recording on the internet is not good enough due to the fact that everyone's voices will sound different.

Really, once you get past the pronunciation barrier, everything else is not as hard as you think. Look towards the future and see yourself being able to speak fluently; that's how I always motivate myself when doing something that is either difficult or tedious to accomplish.

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Thanks for your advice - I think I will take Mandarin up again. It's true what you say though - this is one of those things where I really can't learn it by myself, at least initially. I'm currently teaching myself Japanese and that's going well, but I did have a teacher for 6 months to get me started, so I think I'll have to do the same with Mandarin.

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It is a really intimidating language as I have heard they use another alphabet to ours and so for me things like that are real hinderances and barriers. I think that if I was to get into the language really well it would be from hearing or being engaged in a Chinese community. That way you can pick up on some of the phrases more naturally.

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  • 1 year later...

It all depends on you. If you have got time and the money then you can opt for the immersion programmes by joining a good school in China. It's the best way to learn the language at least Chinese Mandarin. As Chinese language can be learnt so well with the culture. As you will be able to see closely the traditions, customs, etc. which have the references in the language. And if you are not so comfortable with this you can go for the classroom or the online courses as they have become cheaper due to competition. The reason I  have asked you to go for these 2 options is that  the more you practice and talk Chinese it's good for you as pronunciation is the main factor. If you want to learn Chinese online, don't go for the books, Apps, software, because there is no way in it find and correct your mistakes.

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It is a really intimidating language as I have heard they use another alphabet to ours and so for me things like that are real hinderances and barriers. I think that if I was to get into the language really well it would be from hearing or being engaged in a Chinese community. That way you can pick up on some of the phrases more naturally.

Chinese is actually not using any Alphabet at all. This is a common misconception about the Chinese language. Chinese is using characters and in general one character is representing one syllable. In ancient Chinese, one character mainly represented one word but this changed a lot over time. So you might wonder how many characters are there in Chinese? There are actually thousands of characters! You need to know about 3000-4000 characters in order to read a newspaper, but you have to take into account that you will need to know an endless amount of character combinations as well, as words are generally made up of at least two characters. There are some 1-character-words as well, but as mentioned previously, this is not the standard in Modern Mandarin Chinese. I could go on forever with talking about Chinese, so if you have some specific questions, feel free to ask :=)

kind regards

Lingua

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Chinese is actually not using any Alphabet at all. This is a common misconception about the Chinese language. Chinese is using characters and in general one character is representing one syllable. In ancient Chinese, one character mainly represented one word but this changed a lot over time. So you might wonder how many characters are there in Chinese? There are actually thousands of characters! You need to know about 3000-4000 characters in order to read a newspaper, but you have to take into account that you will need to know an endless amount of character combinations as well, as words are generally made up of at least two characters. There are some 1-character-words as well, but as mentioned previously, this is not the standard in Modern Mandarin Chinese. I could go on forever with talking about Chinese, so if you have some specific questions, feel free to ask :=)

 

kind regards

 

Lingua

Although true this wasn't exactly motivational :D:D:D

Hi! So a couple years ago I started trying to learn Mandarin, but I found learning all the different tones really intimidating and gave up pretty quickly. Now I'm thinking about taking it up again, but I'm unsure how to get over that initial learning hurdle so that I can stay motivated. Those who have successfully stuck with learning Mandarin/Cantonese, how difficult did you find it was to learn all the tones and pronunciation. What advice do you have to someone who's feeling intimidated and doesn't really know where to begin?

Get a native speaker, or somebody capable of teaching chinese to help you out with the tones, and your first characters.

A basic course of Chinese should get you started (if you don't drop out lol) and then you could pick up on your own. This is what I did. I had native speaker as a teacher and she taught me the tones and some characters. This basic course was really basic and it was only one class a week - too slow for me. So I quickly moved to studying on my own. But that initial help with the tones was essential for me. Since it was my first time to encounter a tone based language it was nearly impossible for me to comprehend what the bleeb was going on at first.

Looking back it's not *that* difficult. It just takes time getting used to since it's so different. Same for the characters. After you learn a couple hundred you will hit this *critical mass* (that's what I like to call it) and it will become much more easier for you to learn new ones. The first few hundred though - ouch! Hell on earth!

Just jump into it head first, stick with it and you're golden!

Richard

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Get a native speaker, or somebody capable of teaching chinese to help you out with the tones, and your first characters.

Unless you really like to be corrected often & face-to-face, I wouldn't recommend this. I think most would have better success learning pinyin on their own. There are so many excellent audio programs available now, and they are so much lower pressure than a teacher, it's hard for me to imagine not taking advantage of it.

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Unless you really like to be corrected often & face-to-face, I wouldn't recommend this. I think most would have better success learning pinyin on their own. There are so many excellent audio programs available now, and they are so much lower pressure than a teacher, it's hard for me to imagine not taking advantage of it.

While I agree, I don't argue with results. I got a really good head-start by spending a few hours with a native and getting better understanding of what the hell is going on. It was that much easier to take off on my own later.

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Hi! So a couple years ago I started trying to learn Mandarin, but I found learning all the different tones really intimidating and gave up pretty quickly. Now I'm thinking about taking it up again, but I'm unsure how to get over that initial learning hurdle so that I can stay motivated. Those who have successfully stuck with learning Mandarin/Cantonese, how difficult did you find it was to learn all the tones and pronunciation. What advice do you have to someone who's feeling intimidated and doesn't really know where to begin?

I feel the same Sarah676 because I also feel intimidated by the tones when trying to learn Mandarin/Cantonese Chinese. At first I thought that the Chinese language is the hardest or the most difficult language to learn in the world because of the tones and the other obstacles limiting me to learning it effectively. You know I am very interested to learn the language also because I love the culture in the first place and there are a lot of Chinese speaking people. I soon found out that it can be possible despite the odds but these challenges can be overcame through hard work and sheer dedication. And these values can help you succeed in any thing we work for. Good luck and more power.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The bad news are tones are an essential part of learning Chinese. And they are difficult. And you have to learn them at the beginning, as once you are used to saying them wrong it is very hard to change this later.

The good news are there are only four of them. So this is learnable, you just need to spend the time doing it and get a proper teacher to show you.

The other good news are that problems you face with other languages at the beginning (conjugations, grammar, tenses) are much easier in Chinese than most other languages. So while some things are more difficult, others are easier.

If you are wondering how to start to learn Chinese, have a look at this Ebook http://www.livethelanguage.cn/how-to-learn-chinese which gives pretty good advice from different people who mastered the language about how to learn.

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  • 1 month later...

I can understand your difficulties in learning tones, because it requires rote memory and endless pratice unless you live in Chinese-speaking countries. Even worse, resources and textbooks on Chinese pronunciation are scarce compared to English, which has millions of learners in China...

Maybe we can help each other with pronunciation on skype if you think this is an effect way. I speak mandarin Chinese and hope to improve my English pronunciation with native speakers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been studying Chinese for three years and I completely understand how you feel about the tones. I still wonder how my Chinese teacher never got angry at me because my tones were TERRIBLE. That being said, everyone is bad at something when they first start it. The best way to learn the tones is to first picture them in your head. There are a lot of pictures online showing where the tones start and end. The one below is a good example of how the tones should sound. 

                                                                                              pronu_tones.gif

The second step is to trace the tones in the air with your finger. First tone is a high straight line, second tone is a crooked line going up and so on. Get a feel for how the tones should sound. Thirdly say each tone with a simple vowel sound( like a) while tracing the tone in the air with your finger. It will help reinforce how the tone should sound and help you picture the tone while you pronounce it. So when you say first tone's "ā" you should trace a straight horizontal line in the air and so on with the rest of the tones.This helped me a lot when I would mix third tone and fourth tone up. Lastly listen to educational videos for kids, they tend to water it down a bit and put in repetitive catchy songs that will make learning them easier for you. Once you have the tones down, you'll find learning the language much easier. The video's below are great helpers with distinguishing the tones. The first one covers phonetics too but if you only want the tones start the video at the 2:00 mark. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4WeL7PvQCU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFwF297Q4bA

Hopefully with these you'll find Chinese to be a little less daunting and test it out again. 

学中文很难可是你应该尝试它。可能你会喜欢它。 加油!

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 10/26/2013, 3:33:54, Sarah676 said:

Hi! So a couple years ago I started trying to learn Mandarin, but I found learning all the different tones really intimidating and gave up pretty quickly. Now I'm thinking about taking it up again, but I'm unsure how to get over that initial learning hurdle so that I can stay motivated. Those who have successfully stuck with learning Mandarin/Cantonese, how difficult did you find it was to learn all the tones and pronunciation. What advice do you have to someone who's feeling intimidated and doesn't really know where to begin?

I know where you're coming from! I've studied up to somewhere in my second year of Mandarin Chinese. I thought I was going to master this one in no time given my four years of Japanese studied previously. I've never even been to Japan, but went to China twice before I started learning the language (two weeks in Shanghai, then two weeks in Guangzhou). One can survive in China without knowing the language, but you are much better off knowing the language and understanding the culture.

As the previous poster shows, it's not that difficult to learn the tones with a good teacher and good feedback. And it helps if your wife is Chinese :wink:. My wife is Cantonese and they have maybe nine different tones to master! 

What is really intimidating, isn't the tones, nor the language, nor even the teacher... it's the rest of the class who all started off the same day as me, but had enormous previous experience! Japanese is easy to learn from scratch. Both Japanese and Chinese are so much fun to learn. The key is finding a good "class plus teacher" combination and get into study groups if possible. Don't feel self-conscious, just surround yourself with a variety of people at different learning stages to yourself, but make sure most of them are at about the same level and just have fun. :-)

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