Essential things to know before learning Chinese

Mar 05

Before trying to pick up the language, there are several things you or your kids should know be familiar with such as the tones, characters and sentence order. You or your kids will definitely have an easier time knowing all these in advance as it can be fairly confusing later on, if otherwise.

Let’s first talk about tones. As most of us know,  Chinese is a tonal language. In general, we will be speaking Mandarin (as opposed to other dialects) as it is the most common spoken language among the Chinese. It is especially used widely on the Northern part of China. Mandarin has four tones. The change of tone can change the meaning all together. For example, the syllable ‘ma’ could mean ‘mother’ when it is pronounced in the first tone; but mean ‘scold’ when it is pronounced in the forth tone. If you are curious to know, other Chinese dialects are tonal as well and some even have more than four tones which increase complicacy to many who wish to learn it. It is very important to first master the correct tones or you or your kids will have a very hard time trying to nail down the meaning of the words across. The common mistakes many people does are neglecting the tone and focusing on the memorizing the characters and use of grammar instead which should be the other way round.

The next essential thing any learner should know is the Chinese Characters. Like we mentioned before it should come after understanding how the tones work.  Knowing the Chinese characters help you to read while the tones help you to speak. There are many people nowadays who can speak but cannot read because recognizing the vast amount Chinese characters can be a titanic task to call. What makes it more difficult is that there are many words that share the same sound, but holds different meaning entirely.

Learning to read can take a lot of time and effort and will be easier for kids to adopt at early age while they are still at a curious and learnable state.

Last but not least, word order plays a big part in learning Chinese as well. One thing any learners should set in mind is that the word order can be quite inflexible hence it is more advisable that most of the new learners should avoid changing the order especially when they are not sure about it. For example, ‘ni hao ma’ suggest ‘how are you’ but if it is changed into ‘ma ni hao’, the context change entirely into ‘Mother, you are great’.

Knowing all these essentials will definitely help in making the Chinese language more learnable for many who are trying to pick up that language.


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