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 if 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.

You may ask is Mandarin tones important?
Yes of course! Tones are 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”

learn Mandarin

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 1000 fundamental words
3rd stage: Learn 3000 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.

Number

CN

Pinyin

Pronounce like Malay

1

Ibu

2

èr

Emak

3

sān

Son

4

Sir

5

Ubat

6

liù

Air Liur

7

Cheese

8

Bapa

9

jiǔ

Cium

10

shí

Shirt

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.

  1. Saya ada Satu Ibu
  2. Saya panggil dia Emak
  3. Emak saya ada Tiga Son
  4. Saya pergi jumpa Sir
  5. Sir bagi sayaLima biji Ubat
  6. Saya telan dengan 6 titis air Liur
  7. Dan saya makan tujuh keping Cheese
  8. Saya pergi jumpa Bapa
  9. Bapa cium saya sembilan kali
  10. Dan beli sepuluh shirt untuk saya

STEP 3 : Learn to construct sentence

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.

One of 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.

For example,
My mother everyday go to supermarket buy fruits
Wǒ de māmā měitiān qù chāojí shìchǎng mǎi shuǐguǒ
我的妈妈每天去超级市场买水果

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

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)

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.

When you learn more Mandarin words, you will notice the words sound the same, but they have totally different meaning. It is because same sound / pinyin could be different characters & meanings

For example, 书 shū = Book ,  输 shū = Lose. Both have exactly same pronunciation, but they are different characters and different meanings.

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
Mandarin language

Congratulation! Now you know how to learn Mandarin with BBC 5 Steps!

Now test your understanding of Mandarin. If you like this article, please like Belajar Bahasa Cina BBC Facebook page and share with your friends!