How to Build a Strong Mandarin Chinese Foundation

Having first studied Chinese as a second language (both in a Stateside classroom setting and an immersion setting in China for 3 years) before teaching it to others, I believe I gained some important insight on what it takes to grasp this challenging yet highly rewarding language. I will try to keep my tips pithy.
  1. Master the pinyin chart before progressing any further. Why? I have seen students both in and outside Mandarin speaking areas acquire some incorrect pronunciation habits that were very difficult to correct later on. If we heard of an English teacher that did not correctly teach the alphabet to English beginners, we would naturally red flag that teacher's method. However, neglecting to fully master the foundational pinyin chart happens quite often with Chinese learners, and the results are discouraging for the learner and confusing for the listener. 
  2. Focus on all 4 language skills: reading, writing, listening, speaking. It may be tempting to initially ignore the characters but later on you will be glad you stuck with them in the beginning. For example, spoken Chinese often references the character structures when clarifying a word choice, etc.
  3. Use what you learned no matter how "beginner" that word or phrase may be! Fear of making a mistake keeps learners away from the very step that will take their language skills to the next level — using what they just learned. 
I welcome other learners of Chinese to share any tips and/or questions they may have!


Daniel S.

Experienced Chinese Teacher/ Enthusiastic History Tutor

50+ hours
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