I’m a real languages fan and the latest language project I’m focusing on is to learn Chinese. Up to now I’m really enjoying the knowledge and last year I even went to China to test out my skills – as it is additionally vital to learn the culture with the language! For those thinking about learning Chinese, listed below are a couple of important things I wish I knew when I started.
Learn Chinese – But Which Dialect?
Whilst I specifically learn Mandarin, the standard dialect of Chinese that a lot of people speak, different regions have different dialects. The differences between some are actually not too large (e.g. Beijing Chinese and Singapore Chinese) but others are almost a totally different language altogether (e.g. Mandarin and Cantonese). learn Chinese in 5 minutes are only spoken, and use mainstream Chinese characters for writing with. It’s best to target your dialect to where you think you’ll visit. For Hong Kong and Macau you’ll probably want to learn Cantonese rather than Mandarin. Whilst a lot of people in these regions learn basic Chinese Mandarin, viewers you can communicate much more effectively in the real local language. If you would like to learn Chinese for the fun of it, learn Mandarin for sure.
Do I must learn characters?
No! The wonder of learning Chinese nowadays may be the presence of Hanyu Pinyin, or Pinyin for short. If you would like to learn spoken Chinese, there’s still some writing involved, nevertheless, you will not be writing characters. Hanyu Pinyin is the international standard for romanisation of Chinese characters. Pinyin was invented to help foreigners learn Chinese and occasionally school children learn it as well – however most Chinese won’t understand you if you try to write Pinyin – they associate characters with the sounds that we would associate to the romanised Pinyin. For instance:
The simplified Chinese character for I (as in me) is (if you cannot see this character you might need to install a language pack).
The Pinyin for the type is ‘Wo3’. Written (instead of typed) Pinyin differs – the written Wo3 has a small ‘u’ on top of the O, indicating how exactly to say the word to distinguish it from other ‘Wo’s.
In the event that you simply wrote ‘Wo’ most Chinese wouldn’t normally understand you. If you said ‘Wo’ they would.
You can find two different character systems, aren’t there?
Yes, there’s Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is much easier to learn than Traditional Chinese (less complicated characters, etc.). Traditional Chinese is currently only found in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The Chinese government redeveloped the type system in the 20th century to create simplified Chinese, that is now the standard in most parts of China and in a few international Chinese communities. Depending on where you plan on travelling, you should target the character system you learn if you decide to learn written Chinese.