(If you have subscribe to our newsletter, please check your inbox/spam). In this article, we will summarize for you how to learn Mandarin easily in just 5 simple steps. You will be able to speak some Mandarin words after this (even you start with zero basic knowledge of Mandarin)
STEP 1: Learn Mandarin Pronunciation (Han Yu Pin Yin)
The first step is to learn how to pronounce Mandarin words. We will pronounce Mandarin words by reading the han yu pin yin. Han yu 汉语 means Mandarin, while pin yin 拼音 means spelling / ejaan in Malay.
Pinyin (eg: xué zhōng wén) is how Chinese words are pronounced, whereas Chinese characters (eg: 学中文) are how they are seen in textbooks, newspapers, books, etc. Pinyin is an essential tool for you to type characters by using qwerty keyboard on your laptop, tablet and phone.
There are 3 components of han yu pin yin 汉语拼音 which are:
– 6 vowels
– 4 + 1 tones
– 21 consonants
You will be able to pronounce almost 95% of all Mandarin words if you know how to pronounce the pinyin in the table below.
Let’s learn how to pronounce 6 vowels, 4 + 1 tones and 21 consonants by watching the videos.
STEP 2 : Learn Mandarin words
After you learn Mandarin pronunciation, we will now learn Mandarin vocabularies. Just like English, Malay and other languages, there are more than 100,000 words in Mandarin. So how do we get started?
We suggest our students to learn Mandarin words in 3 stages:
1st stage: Learn Top 100 most important words
2nd stage: Learn 500 fundamental words
3rd stage: Learn 2000 common words
If you want to speak fluent Mandarin, you need to have at least 1500 vocabularies. How long does it take to understand and remember 1500 vocabularies? We advise students to set their goal to learn 60 vocabularies per week. After 24 weeks, you will have around 1500 vocabularies. Let’s take 1 important topic that you must know, that is Numbers.
Pronounce like Malay
We use Malay language and create a story to memorise the numbers in sequence. Watch the video above to understand our way to memorise number.
- Saya ada Satu Ibu
- Saya panggil dia Emak
- Emak saya ada Tiga Son
- Saya pergi jumpa Sir
- Sir bagi sayaLima biji Ubat
- Saya telan dengan 6 titis air Liur
- Dan saya makan tujuh keping Cheese
- Saya pergi jumpa Bapa
- Bapa cium saya sembilan kali
- Dan beli sepuluh shirt untuk saya
STEP 3 : Learn to construct sentence
The formula to construct long sentence is using STPA / TSPA
S = Subjects (who) come at the beginning of the sentence
T = Time (when) come immediately before or after subject
P = Place (where) where an event happened
A = Action (what) verb + object, do something.
My mother everyday go to supermarket buy fruits
Wǒ de māmā měitiān qù chāojí shìchǎng mǎi shuǐguǒ
The formula to construct short sentence is to think like Malay sentence, always start Subject. Watch this video to learn how to say short sentence.
STEP 4 : Speak Mandarin everyday
After you have learn Mandarin pronunciation, vocabularies and sentence structure, the most important element to master Mandarin is to speak, speak & speak! Practice makes perfect! You have to speak Mandarin everyday and revise the lessons until you’re fully understood. It takes at least 100 hours of speaking Mandarin to be well-versed in Mandarin. (if 30 minutes a day, it will take 6 months)
Here are top 9 ways to practice Mandarin:
1. Choose the right study material & course
2. Read Chinese conversations aloud
3. Listen to Mandarin audio and repeat
4. Write down conversations in pin yin
5. Practice with Chinese songs
6. Get a language tutor
7. Understand & memorise the vocabulary
8. Don’t be shy to speak with anyone
9. Speak Mandarin everyday
STEP 5: Learn Chinese characters
If you are just starting to learn Mandarin, we encourage you to focus on conversational Mandarin. You can learn Chinese characters after you can speak fluent Mandarin with minimum 1500 vocabularies.
We don’t encourage Beginner students to learn Chinese characters at the beginning because it is not easy. As you know, Chinese characters is the hardest language to learn. See the images below and you will notice Chinese characters are not easy to recognise and write, but good news is it is easy to read the pinyin.
Congratulation! Now you know how to learn Mandarin with BBC 5 Steps!
Next section we will compare how easy or difficult to learn Mandarin compare to learning English, Malay and other languages.
Why Learn Mandarin is difficult
1. Learn Chinese Characters
Pinyin (eg: xué zhōng wén) is how Chinese words are pronounced, whereas Chinese characters (eg: 学中文) are how they are seen in textbooks, newspapers, books, etc. Pinyin is an essential tool for you to type characters by using qwerty keyboard on your laptop, tablet and phone. It is true that Chinese characters are the most difficult characters in the world. Even the simplest word in English “I / me” is written as 我 wǒ (which has 7 strokes)
2. Learn Mandarin tones ( 4 + 1 Tones )
Tones is important because different tones = different meanings. For example, 妈麻马骂
妈 (mā) first tone, meaning “mom”
麻 (má) second tone, meaning “numb”
马 (mǎ) third tone, meaning “horse”
骂 (mà) fourth tone, meaning “to curse/scold”
3. Same pinyin, but could be different characters or meanings
When you learn more Mandarin words, you will notice the words sound the same, but they have totally different meaning.
For example, 书 shū = Book , 输 shū = Lose. Both have exactly same pronunciation, but they are different characters and different meanings.
Why Learn Mandarin is easy
1. No grammatical cases
Mandarin words don’t change according to function. Whatever function a word has in a sentence, it generally looks the same. But in English, we have to differentiate “We / us, They/them, I/ me”In English, “he goes to class”; “he go school” is wrong. Chinese Mandarin does not need to differentiate am /is /are /was /were or has /have /had, etc.
2. Flexible parts of speech
For non-natives, a difficult part of learning English is to figure out how to make a noun out of a verb or an adjective out of a verb. For example, we say “ice” (noun), “icy” (adjective) and “to ice (over)/freeze” (verb). In Chinese, there is only one single verb 冰 (bīng). This means that speaking and writing becomes much easier since you don’t need to remember so many different forms.
In Chinese, it’s not obvious what’s an adjective and what’s a verb, they merge and float into each other, which generally means it’s easier to understand and easier to guess how to use.
3. No gender
When you learn French, you need to remember if each noun is meant to be “le” or “la”; when learning German, you have “der”, “die” and “das”. Chinese has no (grammatical) gender. In Chinese, you don’t need to bother about gender, because there is no such thing as grammatical gender.
4. No tenses
Mandarin doesn’t distinguish between yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is no need to differentiate “am, is, are, was, were”
5. Neat use of numbers
Some languages have really difficult ways of counting. In French, 99 is said as “4 20 19”, in Danish 70 is “half fourth”, but 90 is “half fifth”. Chinese is really simple. 11 is “10 1”, 250 is “2 100 5 10” and 9490 is “9 1000 400 9 10”. Monday is “week one”, Tuesday is “week two”, and so on. Same for the months! Number 1 is yī, 10 is shí, 11 is shí yī “ten, one”, 99 is jiǔ shí jiǔ “nine ten nine = sembilan puluh sembilan.
6. Sentence structure
There are only a few patterns you need to learn, and once you’ve done that, you can just fill in the words you’ve learnt and people will be able to understand. Even if you mix things up, people will usually still understand.
7. Logical number system
Some languages have really difficult ways of counting. In French, 99 is said as “4 20 19”, in Danish 70 is “half fourth”, but 90 is “half fifth”. Chinese is really simple. 11 is “10 1”, 250 is “2 100 5 10” and 9490 is “9 1000 400 9 10”.
8. Logic character and word creation
Words, i.e. characters put together, contain a lot more meaning than characters. They are created in a way which is often obvious or at least understandable for a student
电 diàn = ELECTRIC
电脑 diàn nǎo literally direct translate is “electric brain”. It actually means COMPUTER.
电话 diàn huà literally direct translate is “electric talk”. It actually means TELEPHONE
电池 diàn chí literally direct translate is “electric reservoir”. It actually means BATTERY
电影 diàn yǐng literally direct translate is “electric shadow”. It actually means MOVIE
Take a guess. What is 电视机 diàn shì jī ?
Tips: 视 shì = view ; 机 jī = machine
Your answer : _____________
Learn Mandarin is not as difficult as what you think. When you start learning Mandarin, you will notice that Mandarin is actually very similar to Malay in terms of pronunciation and sentence structure. Most people say Malay is easier than English, which means Mandarin is easier to learn than English.
If you want to learn something, you want to become friends with it, you don’t want to regard it as an unbeatable enemy! We won’t deny that Mandarin has unique challenges that are difficult to overcome, but try to look at Mandarin as being easy and exciting, rather than difficult or impossible. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now you should understand the basic of Mandarin language. Thank you for reading till end of this article, now we’d like to hear you speaking Mandarin and we have created “Speak Mandarin Challenge” for you. Click the button below to get started!