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Confucius Institute

Practical tips for Mandarin beginners

6 October 2015

Welcome to Mandarin Chinese language courses. If you are just starting to learn the language, this may be the beginning of an exciting journey! We have put together some useful tips in preparation to your language lessons.

Welcome to Mandarin Chinese language courses. People don't speak to each other solely because it’s the hot language of the month, it's a business advantage that one needs to have, it's the only way to stand out in the piles of university applications, and so forth. If you are just starting to learn the language, this may be the beginning of an exciting journey!

We have put together some useful tips in preparation to your language lessons.

Know the differences

Mandarin Chinese is not as hard as you might think; it’s just different in some aspects compared to English. For example, Mandarin, a stress-timed language, has 4 tones, which are:

Tone 1: Level Tone (ping) –> —
Tone 2: Rising Tone (shang) –> /
Tone 3: Departing Tone (qu) –> V
Tone 4: Entering/Stop-Final Tone (ru) –> \

Tones matter, but don’t be limited by them. Have a good sense of humour and take it easy on yourself when you don’t get it right the first time around. There is also the different written system. Chinese script is not based on the Roman alphabet, as most Western languages are. Only when you’ve realized these differences, you will find it easier to engage yourself fully.

Know your learning medium

If you know your best and favourite learning medium, use it! Are you a classroom-textbook-contextual-teacher-student learner? That is what you will experience in our Confucius Institute language classes. Or are you a one-on-one private learner? Perhaps speak to our tutors to learn Mandarin in our 1-2-1 sessions is a viable option.

Know your resources

We offer some useful online resources to help you learn Mandarin Chinese independently.

To practice Pinyin:

To practice Chinese characters:

Online dictionary:

Know how to practice, practice, practice!

Whether you ask your Chinese friends to speak Chinese with you, go to Chinatown to eat at the local restaurants, watching Chinese movies or listening to Chinese songs. You should try to find every opportunity to speak Chinese, but it is equally important to hear the language, hear the proper tones in order to really encompass more of the language as a whole. You also have the opportunity to practice your spoken Chinese with native speakers at our Mandarin Corner.

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