10 Things You Need to Know About Chinese Characters

1) There are perhaps 50,000 Chinese characters in existence; but most of them are so rare you never see them. 3000 characters should pretty much cover you for modern Chinese. 2) It is not accurate to talk about drawing Chinese characters, or to think of them as pictures. They are written, stroke by stroke. There are a few different types of strokes which are used and the order of the strokes is quite important. We’ll look at the different strokes in just a second. 3) Every Chinese Continue Reading

Is it possible for an English speaker to speak Chinese fluently?

Mandarin Chinese and the other dialects of Chinese are very different linguistically from English, which makes them challenging for English speaking learners. However, it is completely possible for a learner to get to a level of high fluency or near native fluency in Chinese, regardless of what age you start learning. In some of my other videos on my Youtube channel you can see me talking in Mandarin. I have been speaking the language for 7 years and I would describe myself as Continue Reading

How to Learn Chinese Fast – My Best Way to Learn Mandarin

Here is my new resource for everybody: how to learn Chinese fast. In the video I  talk about three things. 1)       What resources do you need to study Chinese? 2)       How should you start to learn? 3)       How can you progress?   What resources do you need? A lot of people want to learn Chinese fast, but they pay too much attention to what books, CDs or software they start with, when the most important thing is always getting started. Still, my advice would be try to Continue Reading

Which is easier to learn, Chinese or Japanese?

People often compare Chinese to Japanese because they are both East Asian languages and both languages include Chinese characters. It is debatable which is easier or more difficult to learn. The big challenges with Chinese are pronunciation: Mandarin has four tones and Cantonese has six tone contours, and Chinese characters, you have to learn a lot of individual characters and their pronunciations are often not closely related to how they look. You just have to learn Continue Reading

How to create a Chinese name for your brand

Ever since China opened up its economy, more and more Western companies have been flooding into the country. Branding in Chinese is an essential element of any Western company’s China strategy, and a big part of this is the decision about what name to use in China. As you can imagine, this can be a crucial. One of the major things I have been involved in over the past few years is helping companies to brand themselves in Chinese, and I can share a few tips with you. The problem is that you Continue Reading

How many tones are there in Mandarin / Cantonese?

One of the challenges for many people when they are learning Chinese is that it is a tonal language. This means that there are multiple ways of pronouncing each syllable that can change its meaning. The syllable can be pronounced in a high pitch, a low pitch or its pitch can go up or down. Mandarin Chinese has 4 different tones. The first tone is a high level tone, the second tone rises in pitch, the third tone falls in pitch and then rises again and the fourth tone falls in pitch. Continue Reading

Should you learn Mandarin or Cantonese?

The short answer is: if you are interested in mainland China or will be travelling anywhere in China or Taiwan, I would advise learning Mandarin Chinese. It is the official language, it is used in schools and on every TV and radio station, and practically everybody in China understands Mandarin. If you are interested in Hong Kong or will be travelling there, I would advise learning Cantonese, as a lot of people in Hong Kong struggle to speak Mandarin. There are many dialects of Chinese, Continue Reading

Does everybody in China speak Mandarin?

Standard Mandarin is taught in every school in China. Children have to speak Mandarin at school, wherever they are in the country, even if they speak a local dialect at home. Also, almost all the radio and TV in China is in standard Mandarin. What’s more, both teachers and radio/TV presenters have to pass special Mandarin tests and get a high qualification in them in order to do their job. Because Mandarin is now so commonplace in schools and the media, everybody you are likely to meet in Continue Reading

Which first? Simplified or traditional Chinese characters?

This is a question which I get asked a lot. Very strictly speaking, it is more logical to see how traditional Chinese characters have been simplified than to start with the simplified versions then go back to the original characters. If you have an academic interest in Chinese then this may be a good strategy. However, my advice is to stick with the type of characters that is more relevant to you and learn that set first. If your place of interest is Mainland China, focus on simplified Continue Reading

Effective foreign language study: Active learning – part 2

This guest post comes from a reader of this blog, Semaj Richardson, who contacted me to express his thoughts about effective foreign language study from his own experiences. Semaj also runs livefluently.com, a website about language learning strategies and personal development. The post below is fact a follow-up to an article I wrote some time ago called Making Your Foreign Language Study Effective: Active Not Passive Learning - you might want to check it out first for some background Continue Reading