Learning Mandarin

Hi everyone. I am planning to move to China by the end of the year after getting a great job offer from a manufacturing company. I already know the basics of the Chinese language, as I have been studying for almost 3 months already. I mainly use Archchinese and Written Chinese for online dictionaries and I’ve made great progress using Hack Chinese for vocab and reading and writing Chinese characters.

I aim to make a genuine connection with the locals so could anyone suggest any more resources for learning Mandarin? Textbook suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Also, is there a minimum amount of time I need to spend in China to correctly and effectively understand the tones?

Thanks in advance!

Hi JSM 51!

Do you have a name ;-)

Hack Chinese? No, no, no, please do not stupidly learn Chinese characters by rote! Learn the history and meaning of them, for example in this small booklet: ISBN 0570037921

Then, when in Shanghai, join a Chinese language school – there are plenty of them. Practise the Chinese six (not four!) tones of Standard Chinese “Putonghua”.

Though every Chinese teacher will kill me now 8-) I say: To understand, or better: to hear the Chinese tones is not that important! Because you can guess the correct meaning from the context. My proof: In Chinese songs, the tones are also “overridden” by the melody. Yet, the meaning is perfectly clear for Chinese listeners.

Do NOT learn Chinese Pinyin! It is so useless. Learn the characters and their pronunciation. Not some crippled Romanisation invented for foreigners. If you want to type Chinese on the computer, buy a WuBi keyboard. Typing WuBi is much faster as well.

Learn sentences, not words or single characters. You may try “Chinese with Ease” published by the French publishing house “Assimil”.

And, before you leave for China, make sure you have made all the medical preparations as well. (Booster vaccinations etc.) I refer you to The SOS Card Project.

That's all for now!

(I **had** to answer you because you mentioned Hack Chinese. What the Heck...)

Best wishes from Austria,


In the beginning you should at least understand the difference of the tones and be able to pronounce them right. For this I would suggest finding a Chinese native speaker and practice with him or her. If you do not know somebody already, you could book some lessons on Preply for that. Try to find somebody from the northern part of China like Beijing, they speak more standard Putonghua.

When you progress in learning however allow yourself to not always have the tones perfect but continue to be aware of them. As already stated when speaking in complete sentences the meaning can be guessed and you will also get an intuitive understanding over time when listening much to native speakers. But speaking with correct tones to natives was in many cases a game changing experience for me...

I would suggest do not only focus on reading and writing but much much more on listening and speaking. Chinese people are very communicative and mostly open to foreigners (at least my experience) when I can not read something I ask somebody. Most Chinese I can now speak and understand I don't know the Chinese characters and only have little problems with that. But also here you should be able to read a basic set of characters. For listening comprehension I can recommend you Pimsleur Chinese audio books. It is a bit expensive but affordable with an Audible abo. I am using it extensively when traveling on the metro in Beijing.

In the end you have to find your own way of learning. Surround yourself as much as you can with Chinese people and the rest will find its way if you are willing to. Don't push yourself to much and have fun in the process.

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