The first steps to learning Chinese

Getting it right at the beginning will ease one into learning the Chinese language. (Pixabay pic)

Learning Chinese can be difficult, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your personal and career life if you choose to pursue it.

Here are a few things you need to know before making a start:

1. Learn to recognise the characters first

Recognising the characters is a huge step to learning Chinese. Most of the character a learner will encounter are made up of the most common 2,000 characters or so.

Recognising the characters helps to develop vocabulary as well. Make character meaning, sound and recognition part of the daily study until you can recognise most of it.

Depending on pacing, this will take a year or two to complete.

2. Practise the tones and pronunciation

Learning the tones is as important as learning the language itself. If the pronunciation is not perfect, it can easily lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

It would be best to start practising the tones while learning the language. It is much harder to fix mispronunciation if it becomes a habit from the beginning.

The basic way to practise Chinese tones is to learn through listening to the tones of one syllable.

Every person who speaks in Chinese has their own tones so the more exposure one gets by listening to different people, the better the chances of grasping what is being said.

Practise makes perfect! Having a Mandarin-speaking friend to talk to will help you refine your pronunciation of difficult words. (Rawpixel pic)

Look for a Mandarin-speaking partner who can provide feedback on pronunciation, or look out for recordings by native Mandarin speakers.

Record practice sessions and compare them with the native tones to get a feel for whether or not there is improvement.

Emphasise learning the vocabulary since that is the biggest challenge when it comes to speaking in Chinese.

3. Graded readers and Pleco document reader

Knowing characters is not enough when it comes to learning Chinese, one still has to read it. Two things can significantly help beginners – Pleco’s document reader and graded readers.

Pleco allows one to open files and by clicking on unfamiliar words, the reader will automatically translate them for you. It is useful as it saves time from trying to copy and paste characters. The document can be used to translate anything on web pages as well.

Graded readers are useful as they help one learn to read more comfortably without the need to look up every second word. Some of the best graded reader series are the Mandarin Companion’s Graded Readers, Tales and Traditions and Graded Chinese Reader.

4. Watching movies dubbed in Chinese

A good way to learn a new language is to watch shows one has previously watched in English that have been dubbed in Chinese.

Re-watching shows helps one follow the story while picking up new vocabulary. Once one is accustomed to watching dubbed shows, start branching out to new movies and television series.

This article first appeared in jobstore.com

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