The EASY Guide to Learning Chinese for Beginners
Are you a complete beginner at learning Chinese? We all have to start somewhere! Welcome to LTL Mandarin School’s COMPLETE guide to learning Chinese for beginners.
There are many reasons to learn Mandarin, such as school exams, progressing in the workplace, communicating better with friends and family.
Learning Chinese for Beginners – In Singapore
Learning Chinese for Beginners – Fundamentals of Chinese
Learning Chinese for Beginners – From Zero to Hero
Learning Chinese for Beginners – The Right Tools
Learning Chinese for Beginners – in Singapore
When it comes to learning Chinese for beginners, LTL’s NO.1 recommendation is immersion into a culture speaking Chinese. Being around locals or native speakers is a FANTASTIC way kick start Learning Chinese for beginners.
If you ask us at LTL Singapore – there’s simply no better reason to learn Chinese in Singapore than to embrace every aspect of Singapore by living the language.
For 35% of Singaporeans, Mandarin is their primary language spoken at home, making it the second most widely spoken language in Singapore.
If you include other Chinese dialects to the mix (+12%), that’s a total of 47% of Singapore’s population speaking Chinese as a first language!
Can you get by in Singapore with only English?
Yes, of course you can, but that doesn’t mean you should only stick to English!
Walk the streets of Singapore, and you’ll realize Singapore’s history was and is one big melting pot of cultures. The most prominent culture being Chinese after significant immigration from China in Singapore’s early years.
Between 1824 and 1874 (50 years), Singapore’s population went from 10,000 to 100,000, with Chinese citizens making up a quarter of that rapidly growing number.
For those learning Chinese in Singapore, you have a unique opportunity to learn Chinese in a country with widely accessible native speakers and the chance to embrace the food, art, history, entertainment, and more of Chinese culture.
Fundamentals of Chinese
You might be asking yourself ‘where do I begin with learning Chinese for Beginners’ and ‘what are the fundamentals I need to know‘. Here are 3 things every Chinese beginner needs to know:
ONE – Your tones, initials and finals are going to be the starting blocks of learning Chinese Mandarin.
If you don’t know what we’re talking about, here is Amy to show you what is basically the ‘Chinese alphabet.’
Technically, there is no ‘Chinese alphabet’, but that’s a conversation for another day.
One of your first hurdles with learning Chinese for beginners is going to be getting your ears accustomed to Chinese tones. Without it, 2 seeming similar sounding words will have completely different meanings.
TWO – the second hurdle you’re jumping over is speaking! Be forewarned, this part of the job hurts (literally).
To pronounce Chinese words for the first time, coming from another language (like English) means your mouth will move in a way like never before. Meaning muscles are moving in a way they’ve never done so before. Do you know what that means?
Yep, you guessed it, mouth ache from talking if you can believe it!
THREE – The third hurdle is vocabulary. For the 3rd hurdle, if you’re learning Chinese for beginners we have some good news.
Many people would assume learning a language is a life-long struggle and that you may never communicate like a native speaker unless you know tens of thousands of words.
Well, you’d be dead wrong if you thought this, in-fact here’s the guy who when and proved it to the world:
As Chris Lonsdale discovered, the amount of vocabulary needed to communicate effectively might just surprise you!
Allow us to sum up his biggest takeaway for the amount of vocabulary you need to communicate (in any language).
Take the top 1000 most commonly used words in a language. From there, you’ll know 85% of everything needed in daily communication.
Three thousand words and you’re at 98% of all the essential vocabulary needed to communicate effectively.
You won’t be conducting talking about philosophy, law or banking in Chinese, BUT you’ll surely not be sweating when someone approaches you on the street and asks 你叫什么名字 or 你来自哪里.
Discover the meanings of these basic mandarin sentences and more.
If you’re wondering where, to begin with the most common Chinese words, there is already a fantastic system known Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi or HSK for short.
The HSK allows you and others to understand one’s Chinese abilities approximately.
There are, of course, shortcomings with using this purely as your metric of understanding one’s abilities. However, this exam has been the standard proficiency exam for universities and even some employers in China.
By the time you’re HSK4 you’ll no longer be learning Chinese for beginners.
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Learning Chinese for Beginners – Zero to Hero
If you’re learning Chinese for beginners we strongly recommend you listen to this interview by Emma, one of our online students who when from zero to hero with her Chinese studying online with us.
She proved first hand the principles mentioned above that with dedication, focused goals, and not to mention some fabulous language instructors, success is not as far away as you might think.
Before you embark on your language learning journey, she recommends reading Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner.
This is an exciting ‘brain hacking’ guide to languages taking what is known about neuroscience and linguistics to create the most efficient and enjoyable way to learning Chinese for beginners.
Learn Chinese as a Beginner – The Tools
So hopefully by now some of the pieces are coming together on learning Chinese for beginners. We’ve covered the basics to prepare you for this journey, but what are the tools to get started?
Here are seven tips and tricks you can apply right now!
#1 – Get a Certified Language Teacher
Crazy right! Trust us when we tell you that there is no better option than to take classes with a qualified teacher. Especially when learning Chinese for beginners, the guidance they can give is invaluable.
We’ve helped over 7,000 students reach their language learning goals at LTL Mandarin School since 2007. We know the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to learning Chinese for beginners. There are costly mistakes both financially and time-wise that can be avoided!
#2 – Flexi Classes
If you don’t have the time or money to take in-person classes, we have the next best thing!
Flexi Classes are a revolutionary way to learn Mandarin online. Again coming back to the idea of working with qualified language instructors, we bring them to you 24/7 with this world-first platform.
Flexi Classes are online group classes based on the HSK running 24/7. Each class is part of a detailed HSK curriculum so that you can progress with the Chinese language with fellow language learners and our fantastic teachers.
There is even a learning Chinese for beginners section to Flexi Classes! So you can start on the ground floor of learning the language!
Group classes sizes are restricted to 6 students, with an average of 2 per class.
#3 – Spaced Repetition Systems
When it comes to learning new vocabulary, every language learner will tell you the best tool at your disposal is Spaced Repetition System. You can find out more about spaced repetition on our eight killer tips for learning a language.
If we had to summarise spaced repetition learning, it is reviewing vocabulary or concepts right at the moment you’re going to forget it.
You might be wondering, how do I know when I’m going to forget something? We’ll there is plenty of software out there to track what you’re learning and help you review it at the right moment.
If you want to make your resources and manually type all the Chinese, you’re learning and use spaced repetition system. Anki is one of the best programs out there.
However, if you’re looking for a spaced repetition program made by mandarin language learners for language learners, you can do no better than Hack Chinese.
You can get 15% off Hack Chinese right now on our Chinese apps discounts page.
#4 – Language Exchange Partner
As we mentioned earlier, 1 in 3 Singaporeans are speaking Mandarin as their native language! Why not get a language learning partner as a way of learning Chinese in Singapore?
This is possibly the easiest way to kick off learning Chinese for beginners and it’s FREE!
If you speak another language or have another skill they are interested in, why not pay for Chinese lessons with your time, not money!
If you can’t find a native speaker to learn Chinese in Singapore with, and that’s a BIG IF, then turn to the internet! There are plenty of apps and forums with people learning a language willing to teach you mandarin in exchange for you sharing your language.
Here are our top recommended apps if you want to go down this path:
#5 – Learning Chinese for Beginners – Apps
If you haven’t guessed already, we think talking with native speakers, either qualified teachers and language exchange partners is undoubtedly the best way to learn Chinese in Singapore (or anywhere).
Apps to learn Chinese can be a fantastic tool, but after years of using them and reviewing them, we can honestly say it is almost impossible to learn a language talking to a computer… SORRY apps, but it’s true.
So, when it comes to learning languages, think of them as boosters to learning Chinese, not the core language learning.
There are so many apps out there, each with pros and cons, focusing on things like stroke order, flashcards, grammar, or trying to do it all. We’re not saying which is best; it can come down to personal preference at the end of the day.
If you want to have a few Chinese learning apps on your phone, here are 31 app reviews for you to check out and find the right ones for you.
#6 – Learning Chinese for Beginners – Posters
One thing that can be invaluable for learning Chinese for beginners is to look at the Chinese characters you’re learning first thing when you wake up and the last thing when you go to bed, how about hanging up some Chinese learning posters?
We have a vast collection you can download and print right now FOR FREE. Three we would recommend are:
- 100 Most Common Characters – DOWNLOAD HERE
- Measure Words – DOWNLOAD HERE
- Chinese Radicals – DOWNLOAD HERE
#7 – Learning Chinese for Beginners – Netflix
Now there’s a headline you probably weren’t expecting! You can learn Chinese with Netflix?! Well, with just Netflix, perhaps not, but for improving your listening and reading… Absolutely!
Chinese movies are a fantastic tool for learning Chinese for beginners! It’s the fastest way to get your ears listening to Chinese right now!
So, first of all, if you haven’t discovered the wonderful world of Chinese movies on Netflix, here is a comprehensive list of all the films, with county codes to make sure they’re playing where you are.
Pssssssssstttt. Download a VPN, and you’ll unlock all the movies on that list – but you didn’t hear that from us.
Secondly, did you know you can turn your favourite shows in any language into a language learning tool! Re-watch Friends, Community, Breaking Bad and more but with multiple subtitles.
Available at the click of a button thanks to the wonderful chrome extension Language Learning with Netflix.
The same feature is also possible with their latest chrome extension, Language Learning with YouTube.
#8 – Learning Chinese for Beginners – YouTube
Speaking of YouTube, aside from LTL Mandarin School‘s YouTube channel (*cough go Subscribe) there are hundreds of channels dedicated to making videos for learning Chinese.
Here’s our TOP YouTube recommendations for learning Chinese!
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