Travel, Teach, Live in China
Chinese is an ancient and interesting language, and the benefits of learning it in today's world are numerous. Learning this language, however, is not easy, primarily due to the fact that it lacks a phonetic alphabet. Don't worry. I have lived, and studied, in China for several years, and I am going to share some information that will help you accomplish your Chinese language learning goals. In order to be successful at learning Mandarin Chinese you must follow these three important steps.
Step One: Learning Pinyin
What is Pinyin? As I mentioned above, Chinese characters, for the most part, are not phonetic, meaning they have no sounds attributed to them. Instead, they are pictographs, symbols that represent different thoughts and ideas. These pictographs work well for communicating visually, through reading and writing. For example, if I draw a stick figure in the shape of the human form, we can both look at it and understand that I am communicating something about a person. The problem occurs when people from different geographical regions get together and try to communicate verbally.
Why is there a problem? Because in my village people may see the above mentioned stick figure and pronounce it "person." In your village, however, people may see the same figure and pronounce it "potato," making it very difficult for us to communicate verbally. Pinyin was developed to solve this problem, and it is the only way for you to learn how to correctly pronounce words in Mandarin Chinese. So, before learning how to read, write or pronounce Chinese characters, you must learn pinyin.
Step Two: Learning to Communicate Verbally
Once you understand pinyin, you need to use it, along with a native Chinese speaker, to learn how to properly pronounce Chinese, including mastering Chinese tones. I know, you don't have time to go to China and study with a native Chinese person. Don't worry. There are quite a few software programs and online courses out there that have recordings made by Chinese speakers.
You must use these programs. It is nearly impossible to learn how to pronounce Chinese tones without hearing them spoken by a native Chinese speaker. How important is it to get the tones right? Many Chinese words have four different unique meanings, each of which is expressed by a change of tone. If you don't master your tones, you will not be able to communicate effectively using the Chinese language.
Step Three: Tackling Chinese Characters
Once you have learned pinyin, you can move on to studying Chinese characters. Why should you do this last? Because when you memorize the meaning of a Chinese character, you will naturally assign a sound to it. Sure, in the beginning, you will simply translate the meaning into your native language. As you progress, though, you will want to develop the ability to "hear" the proper sound, in Chinese, in your head. In addition, if you plan on using your ability to read Chinese characters in a practical setting, in a restaurant, for example, you will have to be able to pronounce them correctly, and the only way to do that is to first learn pinyin and pronunciation.
Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, and, with the economic and political rise of Mainland China, learning the language has many practical benefits. Sure, it is a rather difficult language to learn, but if you follow the three steps outlined above, your progress will be swift and painless.
Visit my FREE learning Chinese pinyin page now. You can practice pronouncing your tones with a native Chinese speaker.
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