Learn to Speak and Read Mandarin Chinese
Interested in learning Mandarin Chinese? You’re not alone. Mandarin is one of the most popular languages for business, travel, and pleasure.
Many people think that learning Mandarin Chinese is difficult. There is no doubt that learning to write Mandarin Chinese characters presents a formidable challenge that can take years to master. Learning to speak Mandarin Chinese, however, is fairly simple because there are none of the verb conjugations that are found in many Western languages.
Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the pitch of a syllable can change its meaning. There are four tones in spoken Mandarin: high; rising; falling and rising; and falling.
These kinds of tones are also used in English for emphasis or inflection, but Mandarin tones are entirely different. The tones are the most challenging part of spoken Mandarin, but once the concept has been absorbed, Mandarin vocabulary and grammar is surprisingly easy.
LEARNING MANDARIN TONES
We have several articles and exercises to help you master the four Mandarin tones. You should practice your tones every day until you can pronounce them and recognize them easily.
Take advantage of the sound files that are included in these tone lessons by repeating them until you can accurately produce the four tones.
Practicing the Four Tones
The next step is to combine the tones with each other. These exercises will help:
Starting with the First Tone
Starting with the Second Tone
Starting with the Third Tone
Starting with the Fourth Tone
Test your ability to recognize Mandarin tones by taking this quiz:
Mandarin Tone Audio Quiz
Most people hold back learning Chinese characters until they have at least a basic understanding of the spoken langauge.
Fortunately, there is an alternative way of reading and writing Mandarin that is based on the Western (Roman) alphabet – Romanization.
Romanization transposes the sounds of spoken Chinese into the Roman alphabet so that learners can read and write the language. There are several systems of Romanization, but the most popular is Pinyin.
All of the lessons on this website use Pinyin, and it is also used in the majority of textbooks and other learning materials. Being able to read and write Pinyin is essential for studying Mandarin Chinese.
Here are some Pinyin resources:
Pinyin Romanization to Learn Mandarin
Write Chinese Characters Using Pinyin
Wean Yourself From Pinyin
There are a few stumbling blocks when it comes to Mandarin grammar. Sentence construction is often quite different from Western languages, so you must learn to think in Mandarin rather than trying to translate from one language to another.
Take heart, though. In many ways, Mandarin grammar is very easy. There are no verb conjugations, and you never have to worry about subject / object agreements.
Here are some articles and lessons on Mandarin grammar:
Mandarin Sentence Structure
EXPANDING YOUR VOCABULARY
Once you’ve got the basics of tones and pronunciation, you can begin to concentrate on expanding your vocabulary. Here are some vocabulary-building resources:
Asking the Way
Where Do You Live?
Using the Phone
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
We have several audio quizzes which can help you in your study of Mandarin by testing your listening comprehension.
Numbers from One to Ten
What time is it?