Learning Mandarin is easier than you might think. Here are 7 tips for learning the language fast.

Raffles Place park, image credit: Stefano Campolo

1. Embrace the Simplicity of Mandarin

If you’re used to Western languages, learning Mandarin many seem quite a challenge. But it’s entirely achievable! Mandarin grammar is simple, mirroring English’s subject + verb + object structure. Words don’t have genders or plurals, unlike in Spanish, French, or Italian. Once you get over the initial “strangeness”, you’ll find that mastering Mandarin isn’t scary, it’s just different!

2. Choose Mandarin Over Other Chinese Dialects

When first starting on their learning journey, our students sometimes wonder whether to learn Mandarin or Cantonese. Our advice is to learn Mandarin – it’s the most commonly spoken version of Chinese,  the official language for politics, education, and media in China, Singapore and Taiwan and also spoken in Malaysia.

Cantonese speakers are mostly found in the south of China and Hong Kong, and some Singaporeans speak Cantonese at home – but they tend to also speak Mandarin.

Maxwell Food Centre, near Singapore’s Chinatown. An easy way to get started speaking is to order a dish in a food court in Mandarin. You can prepare your phrase in advance, and the response is also fairly predictable. Image credit: David Berkowitz

3. Get a Head Start with Spoken Mandarin

The key to learning Mandarin effectively is to start with the spoken language. The written form of Mandarin uses many different pictographs, which can be a bit daunting to memorise at first – which can be frustrating. Spoken Mandarin is easier to pick up quickly up to a level where you can have simple conversations with taxi drivers and at food stalls.

By speaking with people, you’ll have the chance to get out of “hard work” mode and have some fun with the language. Super important to keep up motivation.

4. Try Simplified Characters When You Start Writing

When you’re ready to dip your toes into the world of written Mandarin, start with “simplified” characters. These characters take fewer strokes to write. Plus, simplified characters are the official script in Mainland China and Singapore. (Taiwan and Hong Kong use “traditional” script). So, when you’re starting, go for simplified characters – it’ll be a simpler journey!

If you hope to be able to read and write in traditional script one day, don’t worry. Once you get familiar with one script, it’s fairly easy to pick up the other – many characters are exactly the same, or recognisably similar.

The view from a Singapore taxi

5. Take Your Lessons Seriously

If you’re going to learn Mandarin quickly, you need to commit to this goal. That means taking your lessons seriously. You should spend a good chunk of time practicing and studying on your own.

Attending Mandarin lessons in a classroom setting, if you can, will give you a great boost. Learning with others can be a lot of fun!

6. Practice Regularly

Practice is key in learning a new language. Make Mandarin a part of your daily routine. This could mean spending 15 minutes each day reviewing new words or practicing sentences. Even better: Speak Mandarin with colleagues and friends. Even if you’re just getting started, many people will love you for the effort.

Practicing regularly will help you remember what you’ve learned and make Mandarin a natural part of your life.

7. Keep Going and Don’t Give Up

Lastly, remember that learning a language is a journey – it takes time and patience. There might be times when it feels too hard, but don’t give up! Remember why you wanted to learn Mandarin in the first place and let that motivate you. Keep going, and you’ll find yourself understanding and speaking Mandarin faster than you think!

Related Posts

Why learn Chinese?

Why learn Chinese?

The benefits of learning Mandarin extend far beyond only advantages for the career. Here are several non-economic reasons to learn Chinese.

read more

Are you new in Singapore?

Yi Mandarin is a Mandarin school located in Singapore. We offer online Mandarin classes via zoom and in-person classes at our centre. If you are travelling to Singapore or are already in Singapore, be sure to visit us and ask us for a souvenir.