Best Way to Learn Chinese
Undoubtedly, the best way to learn Chinese is to focus on the essentials—tones and PinYin (aka the Chinese alphabet)! In learning these two fundamentals, please recognize their importance! If you do not learn to speak the tones correctly, no one will be able to understand what you’re saying even IF your PinYin sounds are perfect!
The Best Way to Learn Chinese is with Tones
Recognize that there are four tones, each with their own “melody.” See How to Learn Chinese Language for a visual representation of each of the tones. From these four tones (and a neutral tone that’s like speaking English), listeners are better able to distinguish one character from another–even though there may be SEVERAL characters with the same sound AND tone! (This makes things a little crazy at first, but you’ll get this down in no time).
By practicing the tones daily, you will become more familiar with them! Eventually, you will even be able to HEAR the difference in the tones as someone else is speaking them!
The Best Way to Learn Chinese is with PinYin
Since the tones will take a little while to get accustomed to, you should concurrently begin learning the PinYin system! (This is not actually an alphabet, but instead a Romanization system that allows English speakers the building blocks that will help us make sense of what we’re hearing).
PinYin, basically, has two sets of sounds that will help you learn Chinese easily! These initials and finals are much like our consonants and vowels. The initials are named as such because they come at the beginning of the word (and sometimes the end) and act much like our consonants. The finals are like our vowels and can come in various combinations in order to create new sounds.
Once you’ve learned the initials and finals, you can pretty much read any text that includes PinYin with the characters. So, now you can venture off to learn on your own as long as you have the tones down with the PinYin! (For better practice, see the PinYin Song).
The Best Way to Learn Chinese is to Keep Listening
Listening to the beauty of the language will amaze and frighten you! Learning Mandarin Chinese is a fine art that will most smoothly be learned from the great artists. The more you listen, become familiar with, and begin to mimic Chinese speakers, the better off you will be!
Surrounding yourself with the right materials will help your Chinese grow by leaps and bounds! Just consider for a moment that before you ever spoke one word of English, you had already probably been listening to it for months and maybe even years! So, in comparison, we are way behind in the listening department and in order to become fluent in Chinese will need to soak in hours of listening. (See Creating the Right Environment for additional ideas for getting in your hours of listeining).
Be patient with yourself. You can do this! In fact, I’m certain that you’re on your way to becoming an exceptional speaker because you took the time to find the very best way to learn Chinese!