Top 5 Tips to Help You Learn Chinese


What is one of the problems that most foreigners often come across during their stay in China? Language! If you happen to study or work in China, you might notice that local people’s knowledge of English is quite limited. That’s why more and more foreigners start to realize that acquiring some basic knowledge of Chinese will certainly be helpful for them to communicate with their Chinese friends or colleagues. Well, if you would like to study Chinese, or if you are studying Chinese at the moment, here we would like to offer you some advice or tips on how to make Chinese learning efficient and enjoyable and help you learn it faster.

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1. Work on your pronunciation

The Chinese phonetic system is something that you need to make an effort to master. First of all, there are 4 tones in the Chinese language, and 2 combinations of the same letters with different tones represent different characters, which means that have completely different meanings. For example, “nǐ” (third tone) means “you”, whereas “ní” (second tone) means “mud”. Second, it’s common in Chinese that several different characters share exactly the same pronunciation. For instance, “yú” means “fish”. However, another character (with the same pronunciation) “yú” means “remaining”.

Therefore, when two Chinese people are talking to each other, the correct interpretation of a sentence largely depends on the context. A mistake in tones could lead to misunderstanding and make other people feel confused. If you are a total beginner, there are quite a few learning materials available in bookstores and online to help you become familiar with the Chinese phonetic system.

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2. Start from listening and speaking

If you have just started to study Chinese, you certainly hope to be able to talk with Chinese people as soon as possible. That’s why it’d be more sensible to start from listening and speaking instead of struggling with Chinese characters from the right beginning. Another reason is that it’s not very difficult to ask simple questions in Chinese as many Chinese words only contain one or two syllables. It can certainly give beginners the extra boost to achieve more on their learning journeys.

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3. Think “Chinese”

The word order in a Chinese sentence is sometimes very different from that in English, and it’s very important to grasp the logic behind a Chinese expression or sentence. A big problem for Chinese learners of different levels is the process of switching from English (or a student’s mother tongue if other than English) to Chinese when they are trying to express their own views. Hence, it’s essential for foreigners to develop “Chinese” logical thinking and practice it with Chinese native speakers in order to get used to different Chinese sentence structures.

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4. Make some Chinese friends

One of the most effective ways to improve your Chinese is to practice it with native speakers. Having some Chinese friends around you will not only help you quickly improve your Chinese language skills but also provide you with an opportunity to have an insight into Chinese people’s daily life. In general, young people in China are willing to make foreign friends (especially English-speaking friends) as they would also like to improve their English.

As mentioned above, one thing you need to bear in mind is that you’ll have to pay extra attention to your pronunciation when talking with Chinese people. Sometimes even a slight mistake in your pronunciation could cause misunderstanding. Therefore, you will be in a more advantageous position compared with other Chinese learners if you have some Chinese friends who can help correct your pronunciation mistakes.  Another important benefit of practicing Chinese with native speakers is that you will get to know some popular slang words that you won’t find in traditional Chinese textbooks.

Nowadays Chinese people tend to use a large number of slang and jargon words in their daily communication. Especially when it comes to chatting with friends on WeChat. Therefore, gaining a better understanding of the meaning of popular slang words will definitely help you “make more interesting dialogs” with your Chinese friends.

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5. Sign up for a Chinese language course

Studying Chinese is a marathon rather than a sprint. It’ll take a long time for you to make noticeable progress in terms of all the learning aspects including listening, reading, speaking and writing. Therefore, it’d be ideal for you to spend at least 30 minutes on Chinese on a daily basis in order to gradually gain confidence in your Chinese language ability. It means persistence is crucial in your learning process.

A good way to “force” yourself to devote a certain amount of time to learning Chinese on a regular basis is to sign up for a Chinese language course. By attending Chinese classes at a language school, you will be having an experienced Chinese language teacher focus on your individual performance. You will also have the opportunity to make friends from different cultural backgrounds, with whom you can share your own Chinese learning experience. In addition, you will be given well-designed homework every time for you to reinforce what you’ve learned in class.

That’s Mandarin is always ready to help you during your learning journey. Our Chinese language school is one of the oldest and most reputable and trustful ones. Sign up for the course in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen and enjoy every minute spending in class. Join That’s Mandarin family.

If you happen to be in China, you might notice that Chinese people use their phones to pay for everything. To know how to do it have a look at our article about Payment Apps in China.


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Marketing team at That's Mandarin sharing news and views on Chinese language and culture.

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That’s Mandarin Blog offers tips and advice on living and studying Mandarin in China, and explores the stark cultural differences between the East, the West – and everything in between.

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