Whenever you take on the task of learning a new language, you’re going to run into plenty of frustrations and challenges along the way. When switching from a Latin based alphabet to a character based form of writing, those challenges can become even stronger since there’s not even an easy connection between being able to visually see and read the word to help you speak faster.
However, if you’re dedicated to studying and learning as much as you can about this language, you will be able to do so. The key is knowing the basics to learning Chinese. By preparing yourself the right way and going in with the right attitude, you will be in much better shape to pick up on the lessons over the short and long term.
One of the first things to realize is that you’re not going to learn via just books. Even if the words are “written” in the English alphabet the way the Chinese words sound the way you would pronounce them. Chinese language, in particular, is a very tonal language where the accent put on the word defines meaning.
One of the Mandarin Language basics is understanding how important this emphasis is. It is not uncommon for a word to have 4, 5, or 6 meanings. The spelling is the same, but how the pronunciation is given makes all the difference depending on what meaning you’re going for. Many of these words have very different meanings, too. This can be the difference between asking for your food cooked at a certain level, complimenting a pet, or asking someone to assassinate someone else. Obviously you don’t want an understanding there!
The majority of your learning will be hearing over visual. One of the major basics to learning Chinese that helps most new students is to try and learn from a native speaker. If you can hear the inflections in Mandarin from someone who grew up speaking Mandarin, that makes a huge difference. Same with Cantonese or any other dialect that’s out there.
The next step after learning basic rules is to focus on words and phrases that you are most likely to use in real life. Even if the most useful phrases seem funny like, “I’ll have a beer please,” or “Hi, you’re really pretty,” at least these are lines you’re interested in remembering. This makes them easier to pick up, and means you will remember those individual words better in other situations/context as well!
There are no shortcuts to learning basic Chinese. If you are using a classroom or online course method, you’ll definitely want audio and video materials that you will be allowed to go over again and again. This will help you reinforce the sounds and inflections that you need to perfect in order to be able to speak Chinese fluency.
Learning Chinese is not an easy task, but if you tackle the basics the right way you might end up surprised by just how much you pick up!