If you know the following 5 things, learning Mandarin Chinese will become easier. Mandarin Chinese is a very logical but free language.
See Mandarin Chinese as a totally new language, don’t always try to compare with your own language.
If a learner always tries to make comparation between Mandarin Chinese and his/her own language, he/she will face to a bottleneck very soon. I am not saying you can’t compare them, but don’t ask: Why I can say so in my language, but can’t say it in Mandarin Chinese.
No, you can’t, just can’t. Mandarin Chinese is not your mother language. Any two languages with differences. If you stick on asking this kind of question, it will stop you becoming better.
Learning a new language needs time! There is no short cut way to master it.
There was a student in my class, he looks very confident. But he messes up every test during the coming few days. Before the end of the second week, he disappeared.
I heard that he gave up and leave our center. After talking with some of his classmate, I realized that he thinks he can speak as good as a Mandarin native speaker within 6 months.
Anyone who ever learn a real NEW language should know this is MISSION IMPOSSIVEABLE to master it within a short period. Give yourself enough and reason time to learn it.
You need to pay more attention to Tones
When we are singing, we need melody. When we speak Mandarin Chinese, we need tones.
Tones is an important element in Chinese. If you don’t care about it, then you will have problem in using it. People may probably misunderstand you. Here is an example：
「買mǎi」pronounce 3rd tone, which means to buy;
「賣mài」pronounce 4th tone, which means to sell
There is no tense, genders in Mandarin Chinese, but do have measure words(classifier) .
Mandarin Chinese use doesn’t have clear tense in sentences. Except this, the object, like newspaper and chair, in Mandarin Chinese doesn’t have genders. However, Mandarin Chinese do have genders for man and woman, bull and cow.
As measure words(classifier), is a quite important and necessary part in Mandarin Chinese. The basic pattern is:
Nu. (amount) + Measure word + Noun.(singular form)
Most of the languages in the world are based on alphabet, but Mandarin Chinese is not. Chinese characters including 3 parts: meaning, shape and pronunciation. We won’t know which character people are saying unless we saw it (not in a sentence). The shape (radical and parts) normally can help beginners to understand and memories its meaning.
First of all, When learning Mandarin/ Chinese, ask yourself the following 2 questions before you decided to learn Chinese characters or not：
Question 1: What your purpose is?
This is a very important question. If you only need to go to a Mandarin/ Chinese speaking country for few days or weeks. Learning Mandarin/Chinese is because you wish your trip there will be more convenient and easier, after that you won’t use it any more. Then, use Pin-yin system to help yourself get used to Mandarin/ Chinese will be a great idea.
But, if you want to master it, at least can use it properly in the future, then why not learn characters from the very beginning? Writing and reading are also part of any language.
Another thing you need to consider is Chinese is not a spelling language, Chinese has a lot characters with same pronunciation but represent different meanings.
For example, “Shì”, there are at least 5 different characters, all with different meaning, such as “is”、”try”、”watch”、”things” and “room”(是、試、視、事、室).
Question 2: Why you don’t want to learn Chinese characters?
This is an interesting question. If you say no to something, should be a reason with it. Are they too hard to remember? Do you fear to learn it? Do you think learning them spend you too much time? Do you think learning Characters are wasting your time?
No matter what your reason is, you are saying no to it. Try to think why? Will you learn Italian but refuse to learn how to write and read them?
Sometime I may hear learners compliant about how difficult to write Chinese characters or why they need to learn it. To me, I am more interested in why you don’t want to do it instead of why you need to do it.
Secondary, as a professional teacher, I would like to share my experiences about this as below:
Learning how to write and read Chinese characters is a must, but not necessary to be as fast as your listening and speaking skills.
We can learn how to write and read form some simple characters. Those characters are more like pictures or with very few strokes. Most of those characters may become the radical or parts of some complicated characters.
As a learner, if this is your first time to hear Mandarin/ Chinese, you can focus on listening and speaking more than writing and reading. Sooner or later, as long as you are keeping learning, you’ll see your improvement.
Don’t push yourself too much. There is an old saying in Chinese：More haste, less speed(欲速則不達).
Use a smart way to learn Chinese characters.
Practicing is necessary, even to a native Mandarin/ Chinese speaker. Apart from that, we need to find a smart way to learn Chinese characters.
First, as I mentioned in point one, most of Chinese characters can be separated into 2 or more parts. Some of them be called as Radical, some of them be called as part. No matter what they be called, they may be seen repeated.
Here are some examples：
「好」、「她」、「媽」：these 3 characters are all with 「女」
「吃」、「喝」、「唱」：these 3 characters are all with 「口」
Here come a harder one：
「星」、「產」、「醒」：these 3 characters are all with 「生」
Really knowing them doesn’t means “identify” them, also need get the connection between characters and characters.
Find the fun part of it.
Writing is boring if you only write it. We can make it more fun by watching video to know how Chinese characters been created, use quizlet, finding similar parts from a group of Chinese characters and so on.
If you like singing, try some Chinese songs, or some short youtube videos(not the teaching one), games in Chinese. Anything except watching your textbook only.
Try to use it.
If you don’t want to use it, then you won’t have the motivation to learn it. Also, if you don’t use a skill or knowledge, you will forget easily. So no matter how much characters you learned already, try to use them.
No matter you are in which level, it is good to know these 5 tips for improving your Chinese/Mandarin skills. Hope you may find that learning Chinese/Mandarin is not something hard to do after reading this.
Use those vocabularies you know already
You may think “I am not an 8-year-old child”, I want to explain myself in more advance vocabularies, and it is hard to present complicated ideas in simple sentence.
IT IS NOT TRUE！
How can I express my thought clear by using those words that I first hear or see？I even don’t know if those words are proper or not.
So, don’t be afraid to use simple words or sentence. The point is how much you understood the words you use.
I learn this from one of my students. She is from London. Her Mandarin is good. I ask her to help doing some translation in some card-prediction-reading articles.
When she gave me her paper, It surprised me！ I know more than 90% of the words she choice.
But before asking her help, when I try to do it by myself, I even don’t think they are good choices.
So, next time, don’t struggle in how hard or formal the vocabulary is. How much you can control will be the key point.
Don’t try to use the word you just get from a dictionary or google translate. It won’t help.
To communicate with people is always more important than grammar correct.
Why do you want to learn a new language？The answer is very clear：because I want to talk to them, understand them, and hope they can understand me. So, everything starts from “communication”.
According to Sociocultural theory, our mental function is from participating cultural mediation integrated into daily activities with the others. Learners as active participants by interacting with the environment.
For example, when you read my writing, it is very easy to find grammar mistakes. I am not a native English speaker, but I believe you can understand what I want to say clearly.
Why？Because, I focus on communicate instead of grammar.
Following the first tips, I only use what I knew before. When I communicate with people, grammar is the secondary, meaning goes first.
Of course, good grammar still very important, but if I can’t make people understand me, there is no value for a prefect grammar structure.
Next time, when you use Mandarin/Chinese to chat with people, try to make people understand you first, don’t stick on grammar too mush.
Start to think in Mandarin, instead of your language.
A lot of students learn Mandarin/Chinese well, they have great academic achievement. But when talk with a Chinese native speaker, they couldn’t do their job well. Think about why？
Because they used to think, in they own language, not in Mandarin/Chinese directly. So, they are translating between these two languages. When they can’t find proper words or grammar to convert it, they may fell panic.
Like my daughter, she starts to learn English when she was 4-year-old. I remember it was a day when she was in grade 6th, I asked her try to do some simple translation between Chinese and English.
She responds me that she doesn’t know how to do it. She tells me that she can use English, she never translates it. She has no idea about it.
There are several ways to learn a language, to build up the “new system” in the new language is one of the best ways. Don’t ask “why your language is different with my language? Why?”, try to think in the new language you are learning, such as Mandarin/Chinese.
Use it, not only study it.
Language is for communicating. If you don’t try to use it, there is no function for it. Some advanced students can’t use Mandarin as good as a lower-level students.
Why? Normally is because the better-use students use Mandarin more often than those advanced. They don’t see Chinese as a subject in school, they see it as something useful.
Those advanced students want to form good sentences just like they want to have great points in the test, but the better-use students only want to use it as a tool in the real life.
There for, if you want to improve your Mandarin/Chinese skills, use it, not only study it in your class. No matter by reading news, watching shows or videos, writing something or talking with somebody, just use it.
Learning is something we like to do, not something we must to do.
If learning something can’t make us became happier, then probably better think further if we need to continue or not.
It means, try something we like. If you like singing, maybe you can listen songs; if you like drama, you can find good films.
Some of my students they speak Mandarin/Chinese really good. Most of them have strong motivation. Where is the motivation from? Sometime is the move star they like、sometimes is the drama、sometimes is computer games、sometime is their relatives and so on.
It doesn’t matter what the reason is, the most important part is they are willing to learn. They are doing something they like!
Try those 5 tips, you will find how useful it will be.