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How to Learn Mandarin as a Beginner

If this is your first attempt at learning the Chinese language, then whether you intend to learn by yourself or find a teacher, there is a great learning way you can use to help you how to learn Mandarin Chinese as beginner.

Before trying to learn some new words, you need to practice pronunciation for about 15 lessons. The system of Chinese pronunciation is very different from English. When you learn English, you need to learn the pronunciation of each word one by one, but in Chinese, after you have practiced for about one month, you can read any word in the dictionary as long as there is Pinyin written above it.
So what is Pinyin?. Below is an example:

Look at this word. “你”is the Chinese character for the word “you,” and “nǐ” is the Pinyin form of “你.”If you want to read Chinese books, you must learn Chinese characters. There is no Pinyin in Chinese books. Pinyin only helps people to read Chinese characters.

Every Chinese character has a basic meaning, and two or three Chinese characters can make a word when put together. For example, “nǐ你”means “you,” and “hǎo好”means “good.” If you put them together, you get “nǐ hǎo 你好,” or “you good,” which means “hello.”

A single Pinyin can be called a “syllable.” Every syllable is composed of three parts: for instance, in the word “nǐ,” “n” is an initial (the same as a consonant in English), “i” is a final (normally vowels), and the tone is above the “i.”

Here are all of the 23 initials in Chinese:

b p m f d t n l g k h j q x z c s zh ch sh r y w

Here are all of the basic finals:

a o e i u v ai ei ao an en ang eng ong in ing iu uo ou ie ve er un vn

The way to pronounce initials and finals is different from English. It would be best to find a professional teacher to help you practice. One initial and one final can be put together, adding a tone to make a syllable. There are five tones in Chinese: the first tone, the second tone, the third tone, the fourth tone and a neutral tone.

Even as a beginner, you can speak out the sounds of initials and finals very well by watching Chinese teaching videos, but you still need a teacher to help you practice tones. Practicing tones is the most important thing you need to do. If you can’t speak with the four tones clearly, you will have really strong accent and people will have a very difficult time understanding you.

First, practice the tone of syllables, like “mā má mǎ mà.” When you are really familiar with the four tones, start to practice the pronunciation of words. Words are always made of two or three Chinese characters, so there will always be two or three syllables in each word. Before practicing the pronunciation of words, you need to know “the third tone rule.” The third tone is the most difficult of the tones. It always changes.

The third tone drops down and then rises. When you pronounce a single third tone, it just drops down and then rises. But in a word, if a third tone precedes another third tone, you only need to pronounce the rising part, omitting the dropping down part. When the third tone precedes other rest tones, correspondingly, you only need to pronounce the dropping down part. People have a habit of only pronouncing the dropping down part of the third tone when the third tone is at the end of a word, phrase or sentence. So you will find that, in most situations, you only need to pronounce the dropping down part of the third tone.

After practicing pronunciations of words, you can start to practice reading short sentences. During this long period of Pinyin practicing, don’t worry if you can’t remember the meaning of so many words; you will learn the meaning later. Right now, just focus on the pronunciation.

When you finish this step successfully, congratulations! You are ready to learn regular lessons. You will learn words first, then grammar, then read passages. You should be proud that you can read out any Chinese words with Pinyin correctly now.

If you have any problem on how to learn Mandarin? Just please leave your comment.

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Qin Chen focuses on teaching Chinese and language acquisition. She is willing to introduce more about Chinese learning ways and skills. Now, she is working as Mandarin teacher at All Mandarin.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. well high are you to old to learn chinese at 54 i need to learn spend about 1-2 hours a day what should i learn the charcters or pinyin please

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