Mark Clulow

How I Learned Mandarin Chinese (Tips!)

Being able to communicate confidently in Mandarin Chinese makes my daily life here in China infinitely easier. I hope you will find some of these tips useful!

  1. Learn pinyin. It's brilliant.
  2. Ask a friend to test your pronunciation. If you're saying some words wrong, simply correct course.
  3. is excellent because it talks around the subject. (FILES)
  4. Lonely Planet's "Mandarin Pocket Phrasebook" (CN/EN/pinyin, makes any social interaction awesome)
  5. Don't EVER say "wo ting bu dong" 我听不懂, because that's translates into Chinese: "I'm an idiot, don't talk to me"
  6. Instead, nod and smile until something goes horribly wrong, in which case pull a straight face and make the 'no' gesture with your head.
  7. Key phrases 1: "这是什么?" - "zhe shi shen me?" - "What is this?" - VOCAB BUILDER: point at something you want to know how to say in Chinese and say this phrase, to which 99% of Chinese people will respond to by saying the one, two or three characters that describe what it is you're pointing at.
  8. If you don't get it on the first try, confidently say "ah?", from low to high rising tone
  9. Key phrases 2: "拼音怎么写?" - "pin yin zen me xie?" - "Pinyin: how to write?" - 95% of Chinese people I have encountered know their ABCs and the pinyin romanisation of Mandarin Chinese. “'你好',拼音怎么写?”: N,I...H,A,O - ni hao. Now write EVERYTHING down!
  10. TALK! Chinese people LOVE talking to foreigners, so don't be shy! Just chat!
  11. Apps: Memrise, The Chairman Bao, Pleco, Google Translate, WeChat
  12. iPhone users: make sure you have the pinyin keyboard installed. When you have Chinese characters on the screen, activate the pinyin keyboard, select the characters, and the predictive text space will also include the pinyin of the characters you highlighted!

Last Updated: 2017-03-11


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