Learning Chinese writing with Chinese characters and Chinese words, called Pinyin, is very challenging. Chinese characters are referred to as symbols, where one symbol can represent a single word or an idea, or even a sentence or phrase. Chinese character writings are said to be the oldest recorded language in the world, dating back to 1500BC. There are different dialects of Chinese, but the most common type is Mandarin. If you set a schedule of studying Chinese script and character writing for at least one hour a day for three days a week, within six months you should have a basic grasp of Mandarin Chinese writing and be able to write Chinese words.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Study books (recommended)
- Recipe or index cards
- Mandarin Pinyin Chinese-English dictionary
- CD player, if purchasing a book with a translation CD included
- Headphones (recommended)
Purchase Mandarin Chinese self-study books. See the Resources section for a representative starting list. Purchase a Mandarin Chinese-English dictionary of your choosing for the level that looks comfortable for you to use.
Study by reading and listening to the CDs in each of the study books and completing the assignments for each by trying to set goals that you are able to meet and achieve. In each book, if you set a goal of one chapter of each book during each one-hour study session, and are able to actually meet those goals, you will be doing well. If not, try the first three pages of each book, including the activities, and listening to the translation CD for each one-hour study period.
Look up the Chinese character symbols in the Chinese-English dictionary that you purchased so that you become familiar with the meanings of each Chinese symbol, and start to understand the tones and inflections possible for each Chinese character. Make additional notes on the recipe cards for new meanings and character tones while you learn.
Make flash cards of basic Chinese characters and numbers that you learn from each study guide and book so that you can practice memorising the characters that you have learnt. Schedule one hour a day for three days a week to practice the flash cards for the words that you have learnt. Repeat writing the Chinese characters you have learnt over and over again in the notebook for each new set of Chinese characters that you learn.
Look online for local community groups or clubs that are interested in meeting to study Chinese if you live in or near a larger city. Schedule a time each week to meet with the group so that you can practice speaking Chinese.
Stick with your schedule. Continuously repeat the flash cards, rewrite the writing steps, meeting with your study group or club, and speaking Chinese aloud while with groups of friends or even while alone. The more you are able to practice and repeat what you have learnt, the faster you will learn and the more information you will retain.
Tips and warnings
- There are over 40,000 different Chinese characters, not counting special characters.
- Mandarin Chinese is spoken monosyllabically, but with Pinyin, there are up to four different tone possibilities for each Chinese character, which changes the meaning of each character. There are five tonal possibilities if the neutral or monosyllabic tone is included.
- It takes knowing about 2,000 Chinese characters to be able to read a small portion of a Chinese newspaper.
- Learning Chinese is complicated.
- In order to learn to write Chinese words, you will need to learn some Chinese speaking and pronunciation, along with word meanings and tones.
- Do not spend money to learn how to write Chinese words if you are not serious about it, because it is challenging and does require serious dedication and commitment of both time and energy.
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