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Want To Learn Mandarin? Here’s How To Begin

Photo Credit: Learn Chinese Mandarin Lessons Online
Photo Credit: Learn Chinese Mandarin Lessons Online

So, you’ve read our last language blog post and decided that you want to learn Mandarin, but where do you begin?

The first step when learning any language is determining how you would like to learn it, and there are several options. You can travel to a country that predominantly speaks the language, you could meet fluent speakers from your local community, or you can enroll in a formal language course. You may even get the opportunity to do all three!

[Photo Credit: Beijing Language and Culture University]

There are many online and in-person courses available, and it is likely that a Mandarin course is being offered closer than you think. You can also research the top Universities in the U.S. that offer Chinese Language Degrees, or look into the top online language courses to be able to study in the comfort of your own home!

If you are looking to venture a bit further to get the full immersive experience, there are Mandarin language courses available at schools in China like Renmin University of China, School of Chinese Language and Literature (SCLL), and Beijing Language and Culture University, and did you know that here at CUSEF we offer introductory as well as intermediate Mandarin courses to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States?

CUSEF’S Spring 2022 Mandarin Course, featuring students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. [Photo Credit: CUSEF]

Once you have decided on which course you want to take, and where, you may be wondering what to expect when your studies begin. A majority of Mandarin courses will start with an introduction to the Pinyin-Chinese phonetics system. Pinyin is a helpful tool when learning Mandarin that allows you to spell out Chinese words with the latin alphabet, and helps students get used to pronouncing the four tones in Mandarin correctly. Through the use of different accents over letters, you can begin to learn how to pronounce Mandarin words correctly!

Some experts suggest learning the basics of the Mandarin language in Pinyin before attempting to learn traditional Chinese characters, or Hanzi. It is much easier to learn how to read unfamiliar characters once you have an understanding of the pronunciation and meaning of the words you are trying to read. That being said, if you are dedicated to learning Mandarin it is important to know that no native speaker uses Pinyin, and you will not find it written anywhere formally. This is why it is recommended to begin introducing Chinese characters to your vocabulary once you reach the intermediate level of your studies. “Being able to read and comprehend Mandarin is extremely important, but learning to write hanzi is just as important,” said Destiny Jackson, a senior from Bowie State University who is enrolled in CUSEF’s beginner and intermediate courses.

[Photo Credit: Language Spud]

In your beginner course of Mandarin, you can expect to learn vocabulary and grammar in the same way you may learn any other language. First will come introductions, both formal and informal, so that you can properly greet and introduce yourself to someone new. Once you have introduced yourself, it is important in conversation to be able to answer questions, such as where you live, where you are from, what you are studying, and how old you are.

In an introductory course, such as ours here at CUSEF, you will learn greetings, describing the family, numbers, time and dates, hobbies, food and drinks, phone calls, shopping, weather, and more! These lessons not only teach vocabulary, but grammar as well. Reid Chunn, a student at Harris-Stowe State University who is currently enrolled in our intermediate Mandarin course, recommends working on annunciation if you decide to learn Mandarin, as it can sometimes be challenging to learn how to properly pronounce tones, and this is especially true if you are a native English speaker. According to Chunn, learning Mandarin has given him a much deeper understanding of Chinese culture, and a greater appreciation of people’s backgrounds and history.

[Photo Credit: Study CLI]

The best way to approach learning any new language is to do so with specific goals in mind, both long and short-term. Ask yourself, where do I want to be in 5 years with my language skills? What opportunities do I want to have by learning this language? Then, draft out concrete steps and action plans to achieve these goals!

Once you have begun to master the Mandarin language, you will find that it does not take long to begin experiencing the many benefits and advantages it will bring you. If you are interested in learning for professional reasons, some studies show that learning a second language can boost your salary by 15%. If you are hoping to experience a new culture, learning Mandarin will open up a world of new opportunities and experiences for you, especially if you wish to travel to China. For students like Digvijay Mohite, who is at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, learning Mandarin with CUSEF has helped him better understand the current political and economic climate around the world, and has given him the opportunity to learn new perspectives he would not otherwise have been exposed to.

If this blog has sparked your interest in wanting to know more about Mandarin and Chinese culture, make sure to follow us on Linkedin where we post a Mandarin Word of The Week, and other fun facts about Chinese history, cuisine, and culture!

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