Frequently I’ve heard my students or anyone who is interested in learning Mandarin complaining: “Learning Oriental is so hard, I can’t even pronounce properly and the characters are complicated compare to English.” Yes I agree that Chinese is hard, but the hardest thing I found is to obtain the learning process started effectively, and achieve an excellent foundation of basic knowledge and skills. Then once a student is on the right course, learning Chinese becomes easier the more you study.
CAN I suggest some key suggestions to make things easier for the very first time learners?
First of all, for the basics, there are 4 tones in Mandarin Chinese, and each character needs to pronounce with 1 of these 4 tones. Without knowing this, pronouncing Chinese can be extremely difficult. If you want to master the pronunciations of Chinese characters, then learning and practicing the tones is among the keys.
Second, the pronunciations of Mandarin Oriental are represented with alphabets written in Latin, which is called Pinyin. That’s why a lot of people find Chinese names written in English hard to pronounce, because you need to pronounce them as Latin instead. So the hard part is actually to remember the Latin pronunciations of English letters, and use them to pronounce every Chinese character with the tones, if they are written in Pinyin.
The Chinese characters themselves cannot be pronounced directly, because they were evolved into a language from ancient drawings in the last 5000 years. To pronounce a Chinese character, you need to know its Pinyin – alphabets written in Latin letters, together with its tones. And then once you memorize a Chinese character, you should remember what it appears like, so how exactly does it pronounce with the correct tone, and what does it mean. This might sound hard in the beginning, but with practice, you can actually increase the speed to 10 characters each day. I will suggest learning the characters by means of words and sentences, so as to relate and practice everything you have learned immediately, even if you are learning at the speed of 1 1 sentence per day. If you persist the learning process long enough, eventually it will be easy to master more than 2000 Chinese characters in a year’s time, or put simply, 300 sentences, that is enough for basic everyday conversations.
With regard to writing Chinese characters, I would recommend not to pursuit this skill at the beginning. This is because: unless this skill is completely needed, you can type Chinese characters on a computer using Pinyin, which is much easier. However, to understand learn Chinese in 5 minutes writing skills, you will have to study the components and the structures of Chinese characters first, and practice the hand writing on paper. This can boost your efforts of learning Chinese tremendously, and can take years of dedication to master the skill. While we have been living in a digital age now, understanding how to type Chinese characters is a lot easier and more effective.
Assuming you have gone this far and spend all of the efforts to understand and practice Oriental, then things become easier for you. All you need to do is learn more Chinese characters every day, and practice them if you have the opportunity. The grammar in Mandarin is a lot simpler compare to English; all you need would be to put the characters together in an effective solution to form a sentence. Finally, I wish you’ve got a great experience learning Chinese language, and maintain a long term substantial passion and efforts for the study.