Many people today would like to learn Mandarin Chinese and for many reasons. So, what is the best way to learn Mandarin Chinese? I’ve also heard the question, “Is it possible to learn Mandarin Chinese free online?”
Of course, some will ask: Why is Mandarin such an important language to learn today? To begin, there are more native speakers of Mandarin than any other language in the world. It’s currently the third most spoken language in the United States, after English and Spanish.
Mandarin is the primary language spoken in China, but it’s not the only Chinese language. Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and the Guangdong province, as well as by many Chinese speakers in the U.S, Canada, U.K, and Australia.
China’s economy is growing very fast, and China is investing heavily in the United States. Whether your primary intended use is for business, diplomacy, academic interest, or other reasons, Mandarin is a very significant language to speak.
One roadblock for learning Mandarin is that to read and write in traditional Mandarin characters requires knowing over 3000 characters. However, you need not write Chinese to converse or even to travel in China. Moreover, many younger Chinese today do not themselves know this many characters. Given the prevalence of computers, it has become more and more common to transliterate Mandarin into the Roman alphabet.
What is the best way to learn? Well, there are several principals which are important:
- To begin, your ear will need training to hear differences of tone as well as pronunciation.
- It will be equally important to listen (very carefully) and repeat, thereby learning to reproduce subtle differences in tone and inflection.
- Spaced repetition is essential for learning vocabulary efficiently.
- Chunking, being able to use and adapt frequently used phrases, is another key technique.
- I would also look for a focus on conversation, rather than literacy.
- I would prefer a method which makes ongoing adjustments to its instruction based on my responses – depending on my own particular strengths and weaknesses.
All this being said, the best way to learn is also one which keeps your interest long enough for you to gain proficiency.
Some of the most commonly available courses in Mandarin include: Rosetta Stone Mandarin, Rocket Mandarin (free trial), Pimsleur, Living Language, E-teacher, Berlitz, Complete Mandarin Chinese: A Teach Yourself Guide, Assimil, and Fluenz Mandarin, as well as Earworms Chinese – Mandarin, Italki, and Before You Know It. See my review of Rocket Languages, as well as brief descriptions of other language learning methods. I am currently in the process of reviewing and evaluating these various programs. So, come back soon for additional help.
As always, I appreciate your comments and will do my best to reply in a timely manner.