Characters are combined to form words while most of the characters themselves can be considered as single character words. Memorize simple vocabulary. No matter what language they’re learning, the more words they have at your disposal, the sooner they will become fluent. Therefore, the next thing to do is to memorize some useful Chinese vocabulary. Pinyin uses the Roman alphabet, the pronunciation of its letters is often not intuitive to English speakers, which is why it must be studied carefully before it can be used.
In Chinese, there are a lot of two-character words & four-character idioms. Chinese characters have a lot of homophones. Pinyin allows students of Mandarin to focus on their pronunciation, while also enabling them to read & write, without needing to learn complex Chinese characters. Easy enough? If not, don’t fret. It’s definitely recommended to hear the tones demonstrated by a native speaker, since it’s hard to get an idea of what they sound like purely through text. Try downloading Chinese podcasts to listen to while exercising or doing housework. Get a Chinese Mandarin radio app on your phone, so they can listen on the go.
It is not uncommon that when they type in the pinyin of one character, they end up with a list of dozens or even hundreds of characters for they to choose from. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Learning a language is a gradual process – they have to keep at it. Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn, so take your time. Therefore, when they say a one-character word, people might wonder which character they are talking about. That is probably why we have so a lot of two-character words in Chinese. Sometimes, though a character is complete in meaning by itself, we still add another character to make it a two-character word. Consider taking a trip to PRC. Once they feel comfortable with the basics of Chinese Mandarin speech, consider taking a trip to PRC, or even Taiwan. What better way to immerse yourself in the Mandarin language than a journey to its native land! An example will be 桌子(a desk or table, pronounced as zhuo). The 桌 by itself is already conveying the same meaning as 桌子. A meaningless 子 is added to make it sounds differently from other characters with the same pronunciation as 桌. A lot of two character words are formed similarly. The four-character idioms or set phrases usually allude to some historical events or legends & are rich in cultural contents & historical moral values.
Look out for language courses advertised at local colleges, schools or community centers. Listen to Chinese music & radio. Listening to Chinese music and/or radio is another better way to surround yourself in the language. Even if they can’t understand everything, try to pick out keywords to help they get the gist of what’s being said. If they’re nervous about signing up for a class by yourself, drag a friend along. They’ll have more fun & someone to practice with between classes! The fourth tone is a lowering tone. The pitch goes rapidly from high to low, as if giving a command e.g. stop! Or as if they’re reading a book & have come across something new & interesting & are saying “huh”. The fourth tone is indicated using the symbol “mà”.
Watch Chinese films & cartoons. Get your hands on some Chinese DVDs (with subtitles) or watch Chinese cartoons online. This is an easy, entertaining way to get a feel for the sound & structure of the Chinese Mandarin language. If they’re feeling particularly proactive, try pausing the video after a simple sentence & repeat what has just been said. This will lend your Chinese accent an air of authenticity! Learn how to use Pinyin. Pinyin is a system used for writing Chinese Mandarin using the Roman alphabet. Hanyu pinyin is the most common form of such Romanization, & is used in a lot of textbooks & teaching materials. However, despite the differences, Chinese does use the same word order as English mostly, i.e. subject – verb – object, making it easier to translate word for word. For example, the English phrase “he likes cats” is translated directly as “tā (he) xǐ huan (likes) māo (cats). If they can’t find any Chinese films to buy, try renting them from a movie rental store, which often have foreign language sections. Alternatively, see if your local library has any Chinese films or ask if they would be able to source some for they.