As a regional dialect spoken in China and Taiwan, Mandarin is often regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn. However, the article below will break down the ins and outs of this language from the regional differences to the cultural ones and how each will play a part in your learning and understanding of it.
Although both Taiwanese Mandarin and the Mandarin spoken in Mainland China share many similarities, one area in which they differ is the characters used in written language. With simplified characters being adopted in Mainland China and Singapore in the 1950s, the Mandarin spoken in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong still utilizes traditional Chinese characters in their written form.
One of the first considerations to take into account is understanding the four mandarin tones, the tones can respectively be described as the high flat tone, the rising tone, the dipping tone and the lowering tone. Understanding the difference and intention behind the tones is essential as they can influence the meaning behind words. The following factor to take into account is Pinyin, which is the Romanization of the Chinese characters based on their pronunciation. Thankfully the digital world has made typing these letters a lot easier with the availability of Pinyin specific keyboards rising as well as the option to manually change preferences being available.
Today we will break down simple ways that with practice will help any newcomer easily understand and master Mandarin, including free tips and learning resources.
Easy Steps for Learning Chinese Listening
When learning any new language one of the hardest aspects to pick up can be pronunciation especially when the language contains regional differences. In this regard, listening is one of the key skills to develop when learning any language as it will not only help you understand these regional differences but also the difference in the necessary pronunciations and intonations.
Learning new words and vocabulary
Understanding the vocabulary of any new language is one of the best ways to help speed up the learning process as this will assist the learner in being able to identify words and phrases when hearing them through phonetics.
Example: Thankfully the digital world has provided us with some useful tools to help in this regard, with the app Memrise being one of them. Through the use of repetitively shown flashcards, the app helps learners widen their vocabulary and gain invaluable practice when it comes to many languages.
Choose a suitable listening resources
Although learning the ins and outs of a new language through reading and study is a necessary endeavor, one of the best ways to learn which has been proven successful time and time again is listening to the language being spoken. Not only does this help improve and provide a better understanding of pronunciation but it allows the listener to have their first impression in terms of the vocabulary be as accurate as possible.
With radio becoming less popular, a new format has taken over: the podcast. Available to anyone who has an internet connection and device from which to watch or listen, podcasts are a great way for listeners to keep up to date with the latest news in their desired industry or help learn a new language by listening to podcasts in that language. As this is a free resource that can be conveniently used on the go they make a great way for listeners to continue to learn their language of choice without having to slow down.
Learn Mandarin Daily
Hosted on Spotify this podcast helps listeners build up their Cantonese vocabulary through weekly episodes as well as zoom lessons:
Available to listen to on YouTube, this podcast gives listeners the ability to not only expand their vocabulary but also gain a deeper understanding of Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The podcast is also great for beginners as English and mandarin are spoken interchangeably throughout giving the listener a chance to keep up.
With Korean drama being all the rage, Chinese dramas and films are often not mentioned as often, however, they serve as a great way for watchers to learn Mandarin as they offer a more relaxed and entertaining way to learn pronunciation and intonation and are definitely a more fun way for cinephiles to learn.
Accidentally in Love
For those in the mood for love, this drama has it all. With the main character forgoing her wealthy, privileged life in favour of posing as an ordinary girl who falls for a pop star while at school.
This animated film gives learners the opportunity to learn about the ancient Chinese myth of the white snake through its beautiful and soulful animation.
With listening being of the best ways to learn any new language, it then makes sense that listening to songs in that native language would be a great way to embed them within one’s unconsciousness. Chinese songs, therefore, are a great way for any learner to familiarise themselves not only with the language and its pronunciation but also its melody.
This online radio station allows users to find music in the language of their choice, from various artists while also having access to song lyrics and can be accessed via a desktop PC or mobile sˉmartphone.
Listening actively and effectively
- Practice with subs first: If your language level is beginner, you can choose to listen with the subtitles
- Make notes of the new words/phrases: new phrases appear often, so making notes will help you remember these phrases and words more easily in the future.
- Rewind if necessary: If you don’t understand a part clearly, rewind to it and familiarise yourself with it
- Repeat: repeating after each sentence and paragraph not only aids in the memory of new words but also in the practice of speaking Mandarin.
Learn to speak Chinese fluently
Seeing as we have now developed an understanding of why listening is such an important skill to master when it comes to learning languages, the next step to focus on is speaking. Learning how to speak Chinese will be tricky at first but after mastering the steps and below, any learner should be on their way to being able to hold a conversation in Mandarin.
1. Talk to native speakers
One of the easiest ways to grasp a language is to speak to natives from that country or city. With modern technology that has become easier than ever, AmazingTalker offers learners access to private tutors with native Mandarin speakers from all over the world. With the platform being online, learners can access it and their lessons no matter where they are in the world, at their easiest convenience.
2. Repeat again and again
Whenever listening to native speakers, a story, a dialogue, try to repeat or learn the phrases that they use.
3. Retell a story/a dialogue
Try to form a new story, a new dialogue from the ones you hear and retell them. This will provide you with great resources for practice.
4. Voice recording
Recording aids in the detection of incorrect pronunciation, grammatical errors, tone errors, and so on…correct… record once more
Free Resources to learn Chinese Reading online
Helping learners around the world with their Mandarin, the contributors of HSK Reading provide readers with various content pieces to be read as well as their translations at various learning levels. Whether you’re just beginning, intermediate or at the expert level, the website will have something for everyone.
Similar to HSK Reading, Mandarin Bean offers learners a variety of stories that can be read free of charge including their translations, at any level of expertise.
Available on the Google Play store as well as the Apple store, M Mandarin is great for comic lovers as this app allows learners to get their fix while learning Mandarin. Another bonus is that often the accompanying image can actually help the reader to decipher the characters and words.
Practice writing Chinese characters
A good way to familiarize yourself with Mandarin is to practice writing the characters of the regional Chinese you wish to learn. Whether you’re looking to understand Taiwanese Mandarin or the Mandarin that is spoken in mainland China there are many resources available to help learners improve their grasp on writing the applicable characters, with YouTube being an invaluable resource.
Tips to practice Chinese writing:
-Buy yourself a beautiful notebook, a good pen to motivate yourself
-Starting with Chinese writing practice book: squared paper with handwriting samples ( a picture of the book )
-Practice writing, from a basic simple word to a sentence.
-Be persistent in your writing practice. This will only help familiarise you with the charcters.
-Practice every day: there’s no need to spend too much time every day, but repetition as a habit is essential.
In conclusion, the best way to master the beautiful language of Mandarin is to practice regularly, dedication will be the key to mastering understanding the difference between the regional dialects, how to pronounce words as well as understanding how to interpret and read Chinese characters. For those who are interested in learning Mandarin, please feel free to browse through some of AmazingTalker’s great introductory articles on Basic Chinese expressions as well as saying goodbye in Chinese.Remember to visit the website to sign up for personal online tutoring, that is available across the world.