Learning Chinese FAQs

How to Learn Chinese Fast



Why is Chinese Unique?

Knowing how unique Chinese is would help you to speed up the learning process.

One way to do it is to compare the Chinese language with your mother tongue, or simply any language that you are familiar with.

Find out the key difference. This will make you more discerning and help you to focus on the most effectively areas when planning the learning strategy.

Using English as an example, Chinese is distinctly different in the following aspects: sound, tones and characters.

First of all, the sounds. Chinese is pronounced rather differently, when compared to English.

While there are sounds pronounced in a similar way, such as 'b' as in 'bed' and 'p' as in 'pen'; there are others that are distinctly different.

The words 'can' and 'women' are some good illustrations.

Second, Chinese is a tonal language.

Its major spoken form -- Mandarin -- has four tones.

You'll have to master these tones to the extent that they are beyond doubt, if you want to be comprehensable.

In other words, get them right before you speak the first Mandarin word. This will put you in the right mode, and save you the trouble of relearning later.

It is not difficult to do. I'm sure this tutorial on 4 Tones of Mandarin will be of great help.

Third, the characters.

Unlike English, Chinese is written in characters -- and it is difficult for you to guess their sounds at a glance.

They are not written in alphabet. You will need a different approach to recognize and pronounce the words.

One of the effective ways to do this is to appreciate the Chinese character as pictures. The Chinese characters are pictogram anyway!

Very often, you can guess their meaning by their look! For example, the character 人 means human looks like a man standing.

Read more about uniqueness of the Chinese language.

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Are Chinese and Mandarin the same thing?

When the topic of learning Chinese is brought up, the words 'Chinese' and 'Mandarin' are often used interchangeably.

The question is: do they mean the same thing?

The answer is yes and no.

Yes, because Mandarin is the official spoken Chinese, and speaking Mandarin is akin to speaking 'Chinese'. Knowing Mandarin allows you to move around China and communicating most Chinese with little difficulty.

No, because there are more than one spoken Chinese around. In addition to Mandarin, Chinese is also being spoken as dialects, including Cantonese, which is spoken widely in Hong Kong and many Chinatowns in the West.

Read more about Mandarin and dialects.

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Should I learn Chinese or Mandarin?

If you want to learnchinese, Mandarin is definitely the way to go, unless you want to speak to only people of a specific dialect group. 

Not only is Mandarin the official spoken language, it is the common spoken language for all Chinese, irregardless of dialect backgrounds. In fact, many younger Chinese do not speak dialects at all, and are conversant only in Mandarin.

You will not go wrong if you choose to learn mandarin, rather than dialects.

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Is Chinese difficult?

It depends on what you compare it with. These are some typical problems faced by learners of the language:



How to pronounce Chinese words? To some, its sounds can be weird. They are also very difficult to enunciate.



Chinese is a tonal language.  A change of tone can change the meaning of a syllable altogether. This can be scary to some!

  Characters: Chinese characters look complex.  They are difficult to write and remember.

Identify the major problems that you are facing when you plan your learning strategy. Proactively seek guidance, and identify tools that are able to help you overcome the problems.

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How Different is the Chinese pronunciations?

While Chinese may sound foreign to you, it actually share similarities with English. 

Among the similarities are the ways some of the vowels and consonants.  In Chinese, they are known as finals and initials.  For example, the ways to pronounce  'b' as in 'bed' and 'p' as in 'pen' are pretty similar between the two languages.

There are, of course, sounds that are very different nevertheless.
For example, 'can' and 'women' are pronounced in a totally different manner.

Learn to 'manage by exception', and you will master the Mandarin pronunciation far quicker.

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What is the best way to learn Chinese?

There are many good programs in the market that help you to master the Chinese language. Every program comes with its methodology. In any case, it will be helpful if you can do the following:

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