What to Anticipate in a Mandarin Language Class

Learners are often intimidated by Chinese, especially the spoken language. But once you master the sounds, it’s quite easy! What’s more challenging are the Chinese characters. They have a different structure and construction method than most European languages, so that reading can be daunting at first. However, with proper practice, you can build your reading skills.


If you are like most people who are learning Mandarin, writing is a very important part of the language. Mandarin classes provide fun, creative ways to practice writing Chinese characters. It is essential for mastering the language as it activates neural activity in your brain’s working, thinking and spatial memory. Writing in Chinese involves forming symbols with your fingers and hand rather than using an alphabet like in English. It is an excellent approach to honing fine motor skills and developing finger muscles. Chinese characters are pictographic, so each character is represented by a picture, making it easier to remember. Mandarin is tonal so the same word can have five meanings based on its tone. For example, “ma” means mother in the first tone, numb in the second, horse in the third, and to scold in the fourth. There are many reasons to learn Chinese, including its position as the world’s second-largest economy, its increasing presence in the global marketplace and its prominence in international business. Additionally, Mandarin is one of the most widely spoken dialects in the world, and China has many trade agreements with the United States.


A word can mean different things in Mandarin depending on how it is spoken because it is a tonal language. For example, the word ma () can mean “mother” in the first tone,’ numb’ in the second and “to scold” in the third. As a result, students must practice hearing the tones of the words they’re learning rather than just trying to produce them. Mandarin Chinese also uses symbols instead of the alphabet, making it a more visual language than English, which relies on a written script. Research suggests that learning to write Chinese can improve children’s fine motor skills and spatial recognition, even if they have yet to reach fluency in the spoken language. Learning Chinese with China’s rise to become a worldwide giant has never been more crucial. Equipping yourself with the language will allow you to connect with the people and businesses of this booming market. It will also open doors for you to experience China on your terms rather than being shunted around on package tours with a group of other tourists.


If you’re learning Mandarin, your class will start by introducing the language’s sounds and tones. The tones can make or break a word in Chinese and change its meaning. You can practice the techniques by listening to native speakers and repeating them. Eventually, you’ll get “infected” with the rhythm of the language and will begin to incorporate the tones into your speech naturally. Your teacher will also likely cover the basics of Chinese grammar. You’ll learn about the subjects, verbs, and adjectives that make up a sentence in Chinese and how they relate. It will allow you to construct simple sentences in Chinese and begin building your vocabulary. You’ll also cover basic Chinese pronunciation and work on the pinyin system (Romanized script) for writing Chinese. It’s important to practice consistently, whether with an app or through self-study. Dedicating a few minutes each day to reviewing your Chinese words and phrases will help you build up your knowledge over time. The more consistent you are with your learning, the faster you’ll see progress.


You’ll listen extensively during a Mandarin language class, especially at the beginning. While some schools push students to speak from the outset, you must get comprehensible input first. It is especially true because Chinese is so different from English and can be a real struggle initially. Listening to recordings made specifically for learners will only get you so far – real spoken Chinese is very different from most study materials’ scripted, slow, and perfectly “standard” pronunciation. It’s best to stick with short clips that come with a transcript so you can check your understanding. It’s also important to keep in mind that listening is more of a marathon than a sprint – you don’t need to be able to understand everything. Still, practicing the basics would help until they become instinctual and automatic. It will free up brain space so you can work on more difficult aspects of the language. 


More than one billion people worldwide speak Mandarin as their first language. It allows you to communicate with a significant portion of the global population and explore a millennia-old culture. As East Asia’s most important trade partner, China is a growing economic power, and many business employers are looking for multilingual employees. In addition, the country’s vast diaspora can offer an accessible pool of people to practice with and build relationships. Learning to speak Chinese can be challenging, but a good way to start is by listening to native speakers and familiarizing yourself with the tones. Unlike the alphabetic words in English, Chinese symbols are pictographic and can change meaning depending on their style (e.g., “ma” and “maa”).

In addition to being a difficult language to learn for non-native speakers, Chinese is also one of the most complicated languages to write. It takes about 50 weeks for an average learner with good aptitude to reach level two in Spanish or French, but it can take 230 weeks to achieve the same level in Chinese.

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