Things you should know before you get started

  • you’ll most likely learn Mandarin, so practicing your skills with Overseas Chinese will often prove futile as they usually talk a Southern Chinese dialect
  • most textbooks teach you either traditional or simplified characters
  • some textbooks use simplified characters but show the traditional character in brackets, e.g. 丽(麗)


The tones of the Chinese language can pose a challenge. Taking the Chinese syllable “ma” as an example is the most common way of explaining how tones work:

妈 麻 马 骂 吗  (mā má mǎ mà ma)

Problem is that it will all sound the same to beginners because “ma” itself is not a familiar sound or word in their native tongues. It’s better to take a sentence in your own language and practice saying it in the different tones. This will let you focus on the tones because you already know what the sentence means.


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