Attracted by the Chinese culture and all that it represents, simply captivated and fascinated by this multimillenary writing or willing to open to more than a billion people at once?
Because before being a real asset on a resume, learning Chinese is a great door of entry to exchange, communicate, talk, converse and more generally to open to more than one sixth of the planet. Because yes, numerically, Mandarin is the most common native language in the world!
Although its writing is the antithesis of those we know in the West, it is very modern and adapted to what is happening today, even with ancient characters. For example, in Mandarin, computer translates by “brain + electric” (电脑). Pretty nifty, right?
To learn Chinese and write it, crucial step will be to master Chinese characters, also called ideograms.
It is very difficult to write correctly one or more characters of unknown pronunciation and phonetics. This is why learning simultaneously characters and the transcripts of these in Pinyin (romanization of writing and traditional Chinese calligraphy) seems to be the only viable path in the mastery of characters for us.
Note that it is possible, but it is especially true for reading, to only learn Pinyin without the characters.
Be aware that in order to master the writing of characters, it is essential to master the 8 basic features that define the drawing of every hanzi. Then come the keys numbered 214. These are the “brushstrokes” which form the building blocks of each character.
Moreover, the order of formation of a character is very important to be understood:
To help you see things more clearly, here is a little video:
The best way to learn mandarin is to start with the basics you’ll need everyday. (Photo via Visualhunt)
Before starting complicating things, let’s start with the basics directly! This helps motivating you and learning directly from hard facts. For example:
After having acquired some knowledge of vocabulary, having learned to recognize characters and write them, it’s time to move on to a few sentences of simple basics:
The website Chine.in offers 500 sentences to learn how to speak Chinese but also to learn to recognize the characters and write them. Through different themes, enrich your knowledge of the language (say hello, identify objects, years, months and days, the time, the age…).
You can use these tips and tricks to learn Chinese characters
Many paying or free formulas offer Chinese characters learning methods. We recommend to all readers that they first learn about cognitive and memory abilities of our brain and to inquire on studies related to the “forgetting curve.”
Speaking Chinese is good, know how to write it is even better! Use the forgetting curve to remember the best characters in time!
Some of the most effective methods offer you to learn the characters according to the teachings of the forgetting curve.
This is particularly the case of the Institute “Mosalingua” which allows you to create reminders of learning and that is very useful for the learning of Chinese vocabulary, one of the key, if it is not the most imporant one, of control or improvement of Chinese writing.
The website Chine-nouvelle has the advantage of offering a method based on 10 minutes of Chinese per day! In perfect harmony with what we recommend! The method is focused on both oral and writing because a language is learned in a living way, and not just on paper.
The internet is a door to Chinese language courses. (Photo via Visualhunt)
Immerse yourself in Chinese culture with Ramou.net! This modern website helps the learner to learn Chinese interactively to progress more quickly. The student is able to discover lessons, annotated texts, podcasts, Chinese fables, a dictionary, calligraphy…
Discover how to learn Chinese by reading…
Other more classical and conventional methods are available for the most skeptical. This is the case of many Youtube channels as ‘Sigur Camp’ offering an introduction and training to Chinese characters.
You can also find the Youtube Channel “Learn Chinese easy” to learn to write smoothly, at your own pace and without doing too much every day.
The videos are short and detail the steps to write pronouns, words like ‘person’, ‘tall’ and ‘heaven’ or even ‘Merry Christmas ‘. What you need to take the step to hard facts directly not to get bored!
Digital and interactive version is also a trail to explore, including the app “Pleco” which allows many things, among which a module allowing to explain the order of the strokes of each character or each key and leaving the user the opportunity to practise directly the calligraphy. Other applications to learn writing are also available.
Grammar and conjugation will allow you to learn to read in Chinese. They are actually quite simple:
Here, Ned Stark thinks that he would do better to go on a trip to China!
For example, to express a past gone action or a change in circumstances, the ideogram “了” is most commonly used.
Alone, it gives meaning to all the other previous characters of the sentence. It is for this reason that the most important when constructing a sentence in mandarin Chinese is to respect the word order, order generally changing the habits of the beginner or Western learner, because it is often contrary to ours.
An example to convince you:
In mandarin, 王 means ‘king’ and 国 means ‘country ‘. In English, we tend to translate 王国 by king of the country, or in other words: the sovereign. This is not correct and proves the importance of the order of the words in a sentence or a Chinese clause.
Actually, 王国 indeed means “the kingdom.” In other words, it is the last character of the sentence which is the most important and as reading several characters, the last one you will read will give or alter the meaning of the first read.
Learn more about Chinese characters…
Let’s start the… intensive exercise of grammar! Studying, only that works for progress!
To learn how to write in Chinese, a few rules still remain. Although there are a few exceptions (as in almost all languages, from English to German to Korean or Japanese), these are much rarer than the English grammatical exceptions!
To understand a sentence or a Chinese clause, in the first instance, you must find the verb, which can sometimes be complex because these verbs can also be names most of the time.
One of the peculiarities of the Chinese language is the use of the classifier, a particle which appears between a determiner and the name, to affiliate the name to a general category.
For example, for an end and long item, we’ll use the classifier “zhi” 支 that initially designates a branch but refers to the more general category of an end and long object by visual analogy. Thus, we find this character to designate a cigarette (支香烟) or even a pen (这支笔).
In Chinese, the classifiers are also used:
You will find a list of these classifiers on the Hanzidico website. Don’t start with this! Mandatory immediate discouragement!
To learn or perfect the mastery of Chinese grammar, many books are available as an Initiation to the Chinese syntax or Practical Chinese grammar which are reference books in this area. They can help you understand better the use of classifiers!
A few good reasons if you are not convinced at this stage!
As we like hard facts at Superprof, we concocted some tips so that each new learner can take pleasure in learning Mandarin:
A Chinese course via books, it’s not too bad, right?
Learn Chinese through tall tales. (Photo via Visualhunt)
Each of you would have understood, the ideal situation is to take an interest in side topics that are detached from the pure aspect of writing. This allows you to pique your curiosity compared to writing some terms or concepts. For those wishing to subscribe to blogs about Chinese food, the desire to enrich your vocabulary in terms of food or Chinese meals will probably come more naturally.
If despite all your efforts, you are unable to move quickly enough in Chinese, remember to take collective or individual courses!
A collective Chinese course has the advantage to be motivating by the created dynamics of group. Everyone give each other a boost. We learn from the mistakes of others, we want to be better than others and we can communicate not only by writing but also orally.
On the other hand, the group class as its name suggests, call on the collective. Which means that individuals must be set aside. A private Chinese class will have this advantage. It will be fully customized for the student and his needs. The teacher will be more attentive and can readjust the exercises based on the strengths and weaknesses of the learner.
You choose what suits you best. In both cases, you can easily find your happiness on our Superprof platform! Many Chinese teachers (2000) are available everywhere in the United Kingdom and by webcam for courses of Chinese in London and elsewhere in the UK!
Hourly rates depend a lot on the geographic location, the requested level and experience of the teacher. For example, in Paris the average price is € 24 per hour while in Nantes, it is €20.
Learn Chinese buy strengthening your memory. (Photo via Visualhunt)
Also discover this complete guide to learning Chinese…