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Perhaps you enjoy watching Chinese movies but keeping your eyes on the subtitles while watching is frustrating. Maybe it’s time you took the challenge of learning to speak another language!

Jokes apart, there are other reasons you should learn to communicate in Chinese. Imagine being able to express yourself in the language of a fifth of the world’s population? Sounds empowering, right?

Meanwhile, Chinese is a broad name for languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Haka, and several others. Mandarin Chinese is easily the most widespread of these varieties.

You share the thought of the majority if you think the Chinese language is hard to learn. Do we begin with the tonality or the strokes used in writing? Now, would you believe you can learn to speak this language at home? Yes, you can.

A Chinese proverb goes thus, “Qiānlǐ zhī xíng shǐ yú zúxià,” meaning by interpretation, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Reading this article to the end is the first step to set you on the Chinese-speaking path. See this write-up as your ultimate hack to start conversing in what many consider one of the most hard-to-learn languages in the world. Here are five more crucial steps to take

1. Don’t Worry About the Alphabet

Knowing the alphabet of a language is often a great starting point when learning them, but you can’t say the same for the Chinese language. There isn’t any alphabet, to begin with, but a series of glyphs that bear some meaning independently and collectively. Writing in those complex strokes requires some mastery of imagery-glyphs and image components. But don’t worry! you can begin learning the Chinese language using the Hanyu Pinyin.

Hanyu Pinyin, or Pinyin for short, is a system of representation of the Chinese character sounds in the Roman alphabet. The technique makes learning the language much easier since you do not have to deal with the symbols immediately.

For example, “hello” in Chinese characters is written 你好. You’d probably wonder what the latter means. You can write this out with the sound of Nǐ hǎo in Pinyin. That should make some sense. So, forget the Chinese characters for now. You’ll get there in time.

2. Master the Tones

If you’ve heard the Chinese language, you should notice that tonality is crucial to correct speaking. Chinese has four essential tones namely:

  • Ping: This is a level and higher pitch tone
  • Shang: This is a rising tone that commences at a lower pitch and ends at a slightly higher pitch
  • Qu: Wavier (falling rising) in nature because it starts at a neutral tone, dips to a lower pitch, and ends at a higher pitch
  • RU: Call it a falling tone, and you’ll be right. The syllable starts at a slightly higher than neutral pitch before falling quickly and strongly.

Knowing how to identify these tones would help you pronounce words the way they should be. You would notice them like stress signs in the roman expression of the written Chinese language. These would serve as guides for proper intonation.

Getting this first step right would help you read the more expressive form of Chinese writing and convey the true meaning. Else, you may as well be saying something else. For example, mǎ and mā represent two different things. The former means a horse, and the latter refers to your mother! Now you know why you should take tonation more seriously.

3. Memorize the Basic Vocabulary and Phrases

One of the basics of learning any language is knowing some phrases and basic vocabulary. You could begin with learning simple greetings or salutations and their responses. You can start with greetings for the different times of the day, asking about the welfare of another, and telling your name. And don’t forget the parts of your body.

Here are a few examples:

  • Good morning: Written as 早上好 or Zǎoshang hǎo, and pronounced as Zao shun how
  • Good afternoon: Written as下午好 or Xiàwǔ hǎo, and pronounced as zia who how
  • Good evening: Written as 晚上好 or Wǎnshàng hǎo, and pronounced as one shun how
  • What’s your name? Written as 你叫什么名字? or nǐ jiào shén me míng zì, and pronounced as nee jee-ou shurn muh ming zi
  • Hello: written as 你好 or nǐhǎo, pronounced as nee how

Look up several others and write them down. There are software and online dictionaries and translators to help you with these. Google translate can come in handy in this situation too.

Surround yourself with relevant materials to aid your learning. English to Chinese dictionary should be the first of the materials you should have. It wouldn’t cost you anything as you can download it from your mobile platform’s online store or PC.

Next, get your sticky notes and other memory tools. Write down as much vocabulary as you can handle in sticky notes and paste them around your house. Hook them to your walls, refrigerator, bedside table, kitchen cabinet, and other areas you would see often.

4. Learn the Numerals

Knowing the Chinese numerical system is crucial as this would aid your expression in speaking the language. Knowing numbers allows you to count, tell time, declare quantities, and more. Luckily, it isn’t hard to learn Chinese numerals as it is logical and straightforward. In fact, mastering the first ten numbers of the Chinese numerals guarantees you can count up to ninety-nine.

  • One: written as (一) or in Pinyin and pronounced [eee] as you would in the English
  • Two: written as (二) or èr in Pinyin and pronounced [err] as you would in English
  • Three: written as (三) or sān in Pinyin and pronounced [saan] as you would in English
  • Four: written as (四) or in Pinyin and pronounced [ssuh] as you would in English
  • Five: written as (五) or in Pinyin and pronounced [oo] as you would in English
  • Six: written as (六) or liù in Pinyin and pronounced [lee-yoe] as you would in English
  • Seven: written as (七) or in Pinyin and pronounced [chi] as you would in English
  • Eight: written as (八) or in Pinyin and pronounced [baa] as you would in English
  • Nine: written as (九) or jiǔ in Pinyin and pronounced [jee-yoe] as you would in English
  • Ten: written as (十) or shí in Pinyin and pronounced [sh] as you would in English

As earlier promised, once you can memorize these first ten numbers, you can read much higher ones following logic. Now, look at this. Eleven is ten (shí), and one () put together and pronounced as such.

  • Eleven: written as (十一) or shíyī in Pinyin and pronounced [sheee] as you would in English

Others follow like that. We told you it is straightforward to learn! For tens, 20 in Chinese is “two-ten”, that is, writing two(二) or èr before ten (十) or shí. Now let’s count twenty to ninety.

  • Twenty: written as (二十) or Èrshí in Pinyin
  • Thirty: written as (三十) or Sānshí in Pinyin
  • Forty: written as (四十) or Sìshí or in Pinyin
  • Fifty: written as (五十) or Wǔshí in Pinyin
  • Sixty: written as (六十) or Liùshí in Pinyin
  • Seventy: written as (七十) or Qīshí in Pinyin
  • Eighty: written as (八十) or Bāshí in Pinyin
  • Ninety: written as (九十) or Jiǔshí in Pinyin

A hundred is written as 百 or Bǎi, and a thousand is 千 or Qiān. The rules for writing hundreds and thousands are the same as explained in the tens. Let’s round up this section by writing four thousand five hundred and sixty-seven in Chinese using the logic described. Try it yourself. You should have 四千五百六十七 or Sìqiān wǔbǎi liùshíqī. Now, that’s good of you.

5. Speak and Hear Chinese Every Day

Whatever little you’ve learned, it would be ineffective if you do not speak it often. Doing this helps you commit the Chinese vocabulary to memory and recall it when needed. There are several applications online that can help you do this daily. You can take a more radical approach by setting your phone’s default language to Chinese if you so desire. Only be sure you already know your way around it should you need to revert it.

Meanwhile, you can always access Chinese radio stations, movies with subtitles, and music to hone your listening skills and help with intonation. The ability to pick the sounds with your ears is critical to being an excellent Chinese language speaker. Not to mention that you could learn new words as well.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this article till now, we are sure the initial feeling of despair of learning the Chinese language is gradually ebbing. Following the rules that guide sentence formation would get you there in no time. Thankfully, as you’ve seen by now, it is quite easy to make sentences in Chinese once you know the appropriate words to assemble.

Lastly, need we say that you will need some determination to get through the learning process? Here is another Chinese proverb to get you going. “Wànshì kāitóu nán,” meaning “everything is difficult at the beginning.” You’ll need a bit of the Chinese can-do spirit to learn their tongue.


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