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Learning Mandarin Chinese Language

Updated on August 5, 2013

How to learn Chinese? It's SOOO DIFFICULT!

Hello everyone! Welcome to my lens! So I am assuming you landed on this lens with the motive of "How to Learn Chinese" ya? GREAT!!! Let's not delay anymore, buckle up! Bear in mind that, I will NOT go in depth in each particular category or topic, but a comprehensive OVERVIEW of How to Learn Chinese.

Alright, let's start off with a bit of my background. I am born, raised and educated as a native Chinese. BUT, don't be stereotype and generalize all Chinese are from China! Heck no, there are Chinese all around the world! I am from Malaysia.

Being in a multiracial country, I always get these "OHHHHH!! Chinese language is SOOO confusing! Damn it's difficult! How'd you guys cope with? It's soooo... soooo... Why there's so many characters and annotations? Nothing similar to English.. *sigh*" Oh well, I guess that's partially true. Overview of the World Top Influential Languages, no doubt English is the first, followed by French and Spanish, then Chinese.

Language Difficulty Ranking for a Native English Speaker - Don't let this demotivates you however, read on!

General Misconceptions!

It's not what you think it is.

Before I move on, I would like to emphasize on some general MisConceptions that everyone has.

1. Mandarin Chinese is a language, HOWEVER Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew... are dialects, they are not part of the language but instead they are spoken by different ethnic group of Chinese.

2. Chinese language has its completely own set of symbols and characters, and does not have anything similar to English in terms of writing. (This is one of the reasons why it's difficult to native English speakers.)

3. There are two types of Chinese Writing, the Traditional and the Simplified version. Simplified version is the improvised version and is commonly used in today's newspaper and education. However, in some countries for example China, they do practice and use Traditional writing, however that's the minority.

Eyes open and compare the differences between Traditional and Simplified, Traditional has way more strokes than Simplified!!

4. Modern days now, we READ from LEFT to RIGHT, not from up to down like those you watched in movies (That's olden days).

OFF-TOPIC, Just Fyi,

5. Chinese use Chopsticks! Lol, don't ask me why!! >_<

6. Chinese don't FLY! We are human as well, don't get misled by action movies!


Well, I can't think of any more to add on. So yeah, basically that's about it! If you have any confusions, just hit me up on the comment section below.

Getting Started!

What do you need?

First off, you need a steady, long lasting motivated mind, a raging burning heart, a mystical driving force and.... Haha! Just kidding!

1. Learning Materials

Learn Mandarin Online, I would highly recommend this, either you're learning by yourself at home or signed up for classes, as the course is online based and you can access it anytime anywhere! Not to mention, I went through some of the courses offered, what's creditable is that the pronouncer has a very CLEAR and ACCURATE pronunciation, the pace is perfectly fit for starters.

2. Time and Scheduling

Language is not like any other subject where you can do last-minute work, memorize and vomit out. NO!! You need daily practices, write, read and speak. Schedule and allocate around half an hour daily for yourself to go through what you've learn and try to write and speak 'em out!

3. Start small

Start with basics, do not rush yourself to "RUN" when you can't even walk!

Step-By-Step in Learning Mandarin Chinese

1. Start with learning the 4 tones.

Alright, so you have all your learning materials ready, what's next? One of the first steps in Learning Chinese is getting adapted to Chinese pronunciation. Learning and mastering it helps in your further speaking and listening skills.

In every single Chinese word, there is a tone over it. Each tone is drawn or hover over the word to show different ways of pronouncing it. And of course, different tone gives different pronunciation and gives different meaning. What I meant is, a same word can have up to 4 different meanings depending on how you pronounce it. They are called the "Pin Yin"! Confusing right, afraid not!


The FOUR Tones! - Watch the video for better illustrations!

( - ) - High, flat tone.

( / ) - Rising tone

( V ) - Dipping tone, say the word goes down then up. It's like going up and down the hill.

( \ ) - Lowering tone, when you say it, it's like saying "Huh?!!!!" in exclamation mark!

You master this, I guarantee you wouldn't have any problems in pronunciation! :)

2. Learn the Consonants & Vowels

Essential Basics!

As any other languages, Chinese language do have consonants and vowels. There are 21 consonants and 16 vowels, combined together to form more than 400 mono-syllabic sounds. How do I start? Head over to How to Pronounce Mandarin Chinese!!




Credits to China Highlights.

3. Write & Pronounce Pin Yin

Chinese Romanization

Pin Yin is a way to write Chinese using the English alphabets. It allows starters to read and write Chinese without using the Chinese Characters. My advice is, practice writing the Roman Pin Yin characters and pronounce it accurately before learning the formidable task of ACTUAL Chinese writing (Characters).


4. Learn the Essential Vocabularies & Verbs

Begin Your Journey with Vocabs!

As of every other languages, first step in writing a foreign language is always aim for its essential vocabularies. So, where do I start? I've compiled and jot down a list below, tackle them step-by-step, one-by-step:

A. Pronouns

B. Numbers

C. Greetings

D. Time

E. Colors

F. Directions

G. Verbs

There are too many verbs to be listed down. You learn them along, so no worries!

5. Increasing Your Vocabularies

The more you learn, the more you understand.

Hmm... so lets say you've master all the essential basics, time to seek and expand your vocabularies. Learn different kinds of situation vocabulary, either from listening, reading, talking... the more you learn, the more you understand. Do take it slow and steady, you don't wanna get confused and messed up! Definitely not like the picture below, do you?

6. Learn the Grammer

Take a step further!

Grammer, ahhhhhhh! The tough part of every language. Once you master the grammer, you can literally form any sentences provided you have the vocabs! So yes, you have NO CHOICE but to learn it. If you're ever going to learn a skill, why not take it to the highest level? Be the MASTER! Take note that, Mandarin Chinese grammer is very different from English. Below is a list:

A. Sentence Structure

B. Questions

Who, What, When, Why, Where, How....

C. Adjectives

D. Measurements

E. Present and Past Tense

7. Finally, Read & Write Chinese Characters

Should I say the toughest step?

The Chinese Writing System is considerably the hardest step of learning Mandarin Chinese. To read a Chinese article or newspaper, one must learn about 2000 Chinese Characters. For your information, Chinese writing originated from ancient pictographs.

1. Learn the Chinese Character Profiling.

2. Learn the proper method of writing Chinese Characters, the Order of Stroke.

The best way to learn them is to write them down several times each and keep repeating.

What You Should Know?

Keys to learning!

1. The crucial part in Chinese is the TONES or you call it pronunciation.

My advice is spare some time to practice time, incorporate them in your daily speaking.

For example, when native English speaker speaks and pronouns the word "Yes", it can be "Yes. Yes? or Yes!" Different English tones of the word "Yes" have the same meaning, only the expression is different, either a reply, a question, or an exclamation tone. However, in Chinese, Pin Yin for the word "Yes" is "Shi", when different tones are used, it can mean "Yes", "Stone", "Death" and "Four". Hope this clarifies your confusions. That is why perfect pronunciation plays a very important aspect in Chinese dialogues. You don't want to mean the wrong thing, do you?

2. Chinese is a very systematic and analytic language.

Unlike Spanish, Chinese characters do not have moods. They do not have gender, except Pronouns. Unlike English, Chinese characters do not conjugate even thou it is single or plural form. They do not have [S] at the back like Cat(s), Dog(s). Also, Chinese Characters can standalone.

3. Do not Delay, Procrastinate your Learning.

If you're on serious learning, don't ever skip a day or a few weeks just because you don't have time. Trust me, you'll forget everything and have to start over from scratch. Grab yourself opportunities to speak it, ie. Get/ Make some Chinese friends. Or maybe you can try using flash cards or even play a CD in your car while going to work or studies. The point is Keep On Practicing!

If you can afford, sign up for classes, so that you have an experienced tutor who can corrects your mistake on the spot and direct your on the right track. Persistence is your key to success!

4. Taiwanese Mandarin is almost or should I say VERY similar to mainland Mandarin

However you don't need to know this as it is very technical. Just Fyi, let me put it in this way, American English and British English. Got it? :)

Heads Up!

Some DO's and DON'Ts!

Here's some heads up for you IF you're ever going to learn Chinese, thank me later!

1. Ground rule, please remember DO NOT trust 100% Google Translate.

It sucks! Believe me, I am a native speaker, Google Translate is just horrible... *shake head* , I mean if you are in doubts, not sure on the vocabs, learn from natives.

2. Please be Open Minded.

You're learning a completely new language and its culture, so let's just be open minded and be ready to accept corrections and criticism.

3. I don't know if this applies to you, When I learn something new, I always go for the "Bad" or the vulgar words first! *shy* Sorry!

Because screwing someone over with different language is too "fun", no offense! One warning here, if you are to learn something rude, please remain to yourself and minimize the usage as Chinese have this superficial belief that "Curses" can haunt you for a lifetime. Be a gentlemen, have some class, do you? :)

4. Make sure to get hands on Reliable and Reputable learning resources.

You don't wanna learn the wrong vocabularies and meanings, do you?

Last but not least,

To sum everything up!

Thank for your patience to read up to this point, you have my appreciation! I just want to say Learning Chinese is not impossible IF you are keen.



If this lens write-up benefits you, give me a squid LIKE!

If you have any doubts, comment section below! I'll more than glad to assist you whenever I can.

Stay tune for more lens write-up! Thank you and have a nice day!!


Don't just stop, read and go, drop me a comment! - Make this lens merrier!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You have presented a lot of valuable info here. This has helped me understand some basic concepts. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Excellent lens. I have heard a lot of Chinese speakers, since I spent nine years in a Chinese church (though services were in English.) Many of my close friends are Chinese. What I've learned is I don't have the ear it takes to learn Chinese. I didn't even have the ear to learn Russian. I'd have a lot of trouble with the tones. But you have explained this very well.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent lens and very informative article (lens)!

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Keepingscore: Thank you for the kind compliment! Much appreciate! ;) Glad you enjoyed my write-up!

    • Keepingscore profile image


      6 years ago

      Best article I have ever read on the Chinese language, very complete. Your English far better than many native English writers as well, congratulations.

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @SheilaMilne: Thank you! Yeah, and that is why you need a native speaker to teach/ speak with if you're serious learning ;)

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      This is really fascinating! I'd love to learn but I'm not sure I could manage the different tones properly.

      Welcome to Squidoo!

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @VicPalombo: You're definitely most welcomed! Glad you enjoyed ;)

    • VicPalombo profile image


      6 years ago

      Perfect explanation! I'm impressed

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 

      6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      I would love to learn to speak Mandarin. But I am somewhat intimidated. It is indeed a difficult language for an English speaker to grasp.

    • Squidpress profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, great lens, makes me want to learn!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      So much great info here.

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @DeepaVenkitesh LM: Glad to hear that!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image


      6 years ago

      What a fantastic resource! Great lens! Cheers~cb

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great range of lenses and images. This one has got to be toughest subject to put across.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm interested in Chinese as well but I think my head maybe too hard..hahaha

    • royyap profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens and greetings from a fellow Malaysian.

    • DeepaVenkitesh LM profile image

      DeepaVenkitesh LM 

      6 years ago

      thanks, my son will like this. i too wanted to learn Chinese Mandarin.

    • DesignSpace profile image


      6 years ago

      This lens is so informative! I love it!

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @crstnblue: Go go! It's rewarding! Learning an extra language doesn't harm ;)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great job done here!

      Wish to get the drive one day to learn mandarin... :)

    • Joeyyip profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @angmatthews: Thanks! Glad you liked it! ;) Tc!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting lens! I especially liked the Language Difficulty Ranking.


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