Frequently asked questions

Is it a good idea to learn Mandarin?

We believe in learning languages only if you will actually use them in everyday life. If you live in Singapore, or anywhere in Asia, you will find plenty of opportunities to speak Mandarin. 

While business and education in Singapore are mostly conducted in English, Mandarin is used for more personal occasions. Colleagues and friends will no longer feel the need to speak English just because you’re around.

Why should I learn Mandarin Chinese?

The reasons our students have chosen to learn Mandarin vary from person to person. Some common reasons include:
– A relationship with a Mandarin-speaking person
-To integrate more in life in Singapore (colleagues and friends)
-Pure interest in a unique language with a rich history
-To open up career and business opportunities in China

Why learn Mandarin for business?

China is currently the world’s second largest economy, and set to become the largest economy in the world in this decade. As China grows, it’s becoming increasingly outward looking. 

So if you’re in business, you’re going to be meeting the Chinese ever more frequently.

While many Chinese business people speak excellent English, very often, some key people are not comfortable speaking English. If you’re able to express yourself confidently in business Chinese, it will open many doors during your career.

Can I learn Business Mandarin?

Yes, you can! But do note that our business Mandarin classes are designed for learners who have already attained a basic understanding of Mandarin. You’ll first need to master the fundamentals of the Chinese language (how to say hello), before mastering complex business vocabulary, e.g. about franchise operations.

If you’re new to Mandarin, join our conversational mandarin course first. 
If you’re Singapore educated, you’ll likely have the starting knowledge to join our business Mandarin class right away. Contact us if you’re in doubt.

I would like to know more about Business Mandarin

Our Business Mandarin course is simply about getting more comfortable expressing yourself in spoken and written Mandarin Chinese in business contexts. Find out more on this page.

What is the best language to learn?

There is no easy answer to this question. It depends on which language you will likely be using most. Mandarin Chinese may be a language for you to learn if you:
– Have a Mandarin speaking partner or relatives
– (Intend to) live in Singapore, China, Taiwan or Southeast Asia
– Have opportunities to connect with China professionally
– Have a strong interest in Chinese language and culture

Should I learn French or Mandarin?

Both French and Mandarin Chinese are highly influential. Which one to learn is a highly personal choice. There is no wrong or right, only wrong or right for you. Ask yourself which language will be the best fit for you, based on:
– Where you live, and which of the two you are most likely to use around you.
– Which countries you aspire to travel or relocate to in the future
– Which language interests you most, personally
– Which sector you’ll likely end up working in: French is very dominant in diplomacy, arts and the culinary world, whereas Chinese can be expected to gain ground in finance, tech, real estate and any economic sector Chinese are active in.

Should I learn Chinese or Mandarin?

The words “Chinese” and “Mandarin” or often used interchangeably: when people say they  “speak Chinese”, they would usually mean they speak Mandarin.

Technically speaking, “Chinese” is an umbrella term for all Chinese languages. Besides Mandarin, that would include many dialects such as Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew.

Mandarin (or “putonghua” in Mandarin) is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and is also taught at schools in Singapore. Taiwan speaks Mandarin, although they write it differently, with traditional characters.

The next most used “Chinese” language (often called dialect) is Cantonese. It is spoken in Hong Kong, the south of China as well as in Southeast Asia. Many Cantonese speakers also speak Mandarin, although not in Hong Kong.

Is it better to learn Mandarin or Spanish?

Both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese are highly influential. Which one to learn is a highly personal choice. There is no wrong or right, only wrong or right for you. Ask yourself which language will be the best fit for you, based on:
– Where you live, and which of the two you are most likely to use around you.
– Which countries you aspire to travel or relocate to in the future
– Mandarin: Asia
– Spanish: Europe, North and South America
– Which language and interest you most, personally

Should I learn traditional Mandarin or simplified Mandarin?

Simplified Mandarin is increasingly establishing itself as the standard. It’s taught in schools in China and Singapore. Hong Kong and Taiwan use, and will likely continue to use traditional characters.

Unless you’re planning to live in Taiwan or Hong Kong, it’s probably your best bet to start learning simplified Mandarin characters. It should be said that there is a lot of overlap between the two writing systems, and as you improve your understanding of simplified Chinese characters, you’ll find it relatively easy to also master traditional Mandarin characters.

Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?

Mandarin (or “putonghua” in Mandarin) is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and is also taught at schools in Singapore. Taiwan speaks Mandarin, although they write it differently, with traditional characters.

The next most used “Chinese” language (often called dialect) is Cantonese. It is spoken in Hong Kong, the south of China as well as in Southeast Asia. Many Cantonese speakers also speak Mandarin, although not in Hong Kong.

So generally speaking, it’s best to learn Mandarin. Unless you plan on living in Hong Kong.

Can you understand Cantonese if you speak Mandarin?

No. Although Cantonese and Mandarin are family, you won’t be able to understand spoken Cantonese when you speak Mandarin.

You will be able to at least get the gist of written Cantonese if you can read Mandarin, and it’s easier for Mandarin speakers to learn Cantonese. But serious learning effort is involved.

Should I learn Mandarin or Cantonese for business?

If you plan on doing business mostly in Hong Kong, learn Cantonese. People in Hong Kong do not understand Mandarin, unless they’ve moved in from Mainland China.

In all other cases, it’s recommended for you to learn Mandarin.

How hard is it to learn Cantonese from Mandarin?

The grammatical structure and the writing system of Mandarin and Cantonese have a lot in common. So if you speak Mandarin, it’s going to be easier to learn Cantonese, than if you need to start from scratch. But it will still require serious, dedicated effort.

How to learn Cantonese when you already know Mandarin?

Join a Cantonese class or find a Mandarin-speaking Cantonese tutor. As you may see from our name, we at Yi Mandarin do not teach Cantonese. On occasion, other language schools do offer such courses in Singapore.

How long does it take to learn Mandarin?

This depends on a few factors.

1. How well do you want to learn Mandarin?
If you know little to no Mandarin and join our conversational mandarin course, you will initially progress very quickly. You will join a weekly 2-hour lesson, for 10 weeks per level. After 6 levels, so a bit over a year, you’ll have completed the conversational Mandarin curriculum, and be able to hold your own in a simple, non-expert conversation. 

But you won’t be able to read and write yet. That takes more time.

2. How much time do you have available to learn Mandarin?
Can you only afford to join a class one evening per week, or do you have time to put more learning hours in a week, perhaps supplementing your weekly classes with private lessons? In that case, you can speak conversational Mandarin faster.

How can I learn Chinese in 5 minutes?

While it’s an attractive idea, there is no ‘magic shortcut’ to learn Chinese in 5 minutes. In 5 minutes, you could try to learn a few words and find out if learning Chinese is for you.

If you have an hour to spare, join our free trial class. You’ll learn a bit of Chinese and can find out whether learning it is for you.

How to learn Mandarin in a week?

You can’t master a complete language in a week, but if time is of the essence, we recommend engaging a private Mandarin teacher. Our private teachers can help to make sure your lessons are 100% focused on what you want to learn, and you don’t need to repeat anything you already know.

Contact us with your requirements and we’ll be happy to arrange a suitable private teacher for you.

How to learn Mandarin in one month?

You can’t master a Mandarin in a month, but if time is of the essence, we recommend engaging a private Mandarin teacher. 

Having a dedicated teacher can help to ensure you’re 100% focused on what you want to learn, move as fast as your brains can handle and get the support you need when you get stuck.

Contact us with your requirements and we’ll be happy to arrange a suitable private teacher for you.

Can I learn Chinese in 3 months?

You can learn a fair bit of Mandarin in 3 months. Our conversational mandarin course starts with the most common topics that you’ll encounter in everyday life in Singapore. Each block lasts 10 weeks – slightly shorter than 3 months.

How to learn mandarin in 6 months?

You can become conversational in Mandarin in 6 months. So you’ll be able to have conversations about not-too complex topics. Our conversational mandarin course, with weekly lessons, is designed to cover the most spoken-about topics first, so that you can build confidence and start to have small conversations in Mandarin outside of the classroom.

How far you progress in 6 months will depend largely on how much effort you put into learning Mandarin outside of the classroom as well, e.g. by trying out what you learned in class with family, friends, colleagues, shopkeepers and taxi drivers.

How to learn mandarin fast?

Learning a character-based language like Mandarin Chinese can seem daunting, but we believe it’s possible to learn Mandarin just as fast as any other language. 

At Yi Mandarin, the principles we adhere to to speed up your learning include:

Focus on speaking first. Don’t get bogged down in the theory, but start with the area where you can make progress first: having simple conversations. This builds momentum while you’re still fresh and motivated. 
Everyday topics. Too often, Mandarin teaching methods focus on arcane topics, having to do with e.g. traditions in a certain city in China. That may be fine if you’re a history buff, but it won’t help you if you’re living in Singapore and trying to connect with everyday life. That’s why our courses focus on the most relevant conversation topics first.
Small class size. Learning is an active process. By limiting our class size (live online or in-person) to 8. It gives every learner the chance to speak more, and progress faster.
Fun. The more time you spend interacting with the language, the faster you’ll learn Mandarin. And the simple fact is that it’s more easy to spend time doing something that is fun.

How long to learn Mandarin fluently?

How long it takes until you’re fluent in Mandarin depends on a number of factors, such as the intensity of your studying, your aptitude for learning languages, and how you define “fluent”. Are you looking to have a well flowing conversation, or do you want to be indistinguishable from a Beijingner?

As a general rule of thumb, though, it will take at least 2 years of fairly intense study and exercise to approach fluency in spoken Mandarin; with that, Mandarin Chinese is not harder or easier to learn than any other language.

Learning to read and write Chinese characters, though, will take much longer.

How to learn to speak mandarin fast?

In short, by speaking. Nothing helps you to learn speaking Mandarin faster than trying to form the sentences in your head, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again. That’s why all our Mandarin courses happen in small groups – to lower the barrier for you to speak.

How fast can you learn to speak Mandarin?

Contrary to what many people expect, it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to be able to have your first simple conversations in Mandarin. You can achieve that goal within 3-6 months when you join our conversational Mandarin class.

How to learn conversational mandarin?

In short, by bringing yourself into a position where you need to speak! Joining a Mandarin course helps by giving you context and a support system, but you’ll learn a lot faster if you try to initiate conversations in Mandarin outside of the classroom.

How to learn conversational mandarin in Singapore

By joining one of our courses, of course ;-). But besides that, Singapore also offers a great practice ground, with so many people who speak both English and Mandarin. Tell people around you that you’re learning Mandarin, and would like to try speaking it with them. It’s a great ice-breaker, and should things not work out, you can always fall back on English!

What is the best way to learn Mandarin?

There is no magic shortcut to master Mandarin (or any other language), but we believe in less grammar, more speaking. Try to integrate Mandarin in your life in any way you can. E.g. listen to Chinese recordings while you’re on the MRT, speak Mandarin with people who speak it.

Chinese classes can provide you with feedback, so that you don’t copy other peoples’ mistakes and have a place to go to ask questions and get encouragement.

How do beginners learn Chinese?

The hardest part for a beginner is just to get started. It helps to learn a class, even if just in the beginning. It gives you structure and momentum, and you’ll meet others like yourself.

How to learn Mandarin easily

While there is no ‘silver bullet’ or ‘magic shortcut’ to make it super-easy to learn Mandarin, it helps to get in the ‘doing’ mode as soon as possible. Start speaking, and soon you’ll find that you can express yourself better than you thought possible.

In our Mandarin courses, we apply this principle by removing as many obstacles as possible and get you to start speaking.

How to learn Mandarin characters quickly

By using them! 

There’s no way around it: learning to read and write Mandarin characters requires a serious time commitment. There are all kinds of methods to aid your memory, but the best way to learn Mandarin characters quickly is to start reading and writing them (at an appropriate level) and keep doing that consistently.

How to learn Mandarin in Singapore?

Join a Mandarin course. You’ll meet like-minded people, it’ll give you structure and you’ll have a place to turn with questions and to get support
Speak Mandarin in daily life as much as possible. Tell people around you that you’re learning Mandarin and encourage them to speak Chinese with you. Don’t have many mandarin speakers around you? Try and meet them
Have fun!  You don’t need to be super smart to be able to learn Mandarin in Singapore. But you need to persist. And it’s much easier to persist if you have fun in the process.

How to learn Mandarin fluently?

You learn Mandarin fluently mainly by speaking it a lot. But besides that, it’s important that you organise and take on board feedback. If you pronounce words incorrectly or put words in the wrong order, you want to make sure you get corrected as soon as possible.

So you need to have access to a teacher whose feedback you can take on board. One way to make sure you get feedback regularly is by joining a Chinese class.

How to learn Mandarin alphabet / Chinese characters?

Mandarin Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet in the sense that Western languages have. Where a limited number of characters represent all possible sounds. 

Instead, every syllable, or idea, has its own character. That means you need to memorise thousands of characters before Chinese written text starts to make sense to you.

But don’t let that scare you! When you read English, your brain also recognises syllables, sometimes entire words at once. It’s just that if you haven’t seen an English word before, you can still pronounce it.

The first characters are hard. But as you expand your “vocabulary”, you’ll find that characters have a lot of elements in common. The quickest way to progress in Chinese characters is to commit to learning a number of new characters every day. Don’t just learn how they are written, also learn the pronunciation and how they are used at the same time.

Our business Mandarin course provides the structure to help you do this.

How to learn Mandarin intermediate?

Like with any language, once you progress to the intermediate level, things get more tricky. You won’t experience the rapid progress of the initial stages any more, because there are so many more words and expressions to master.

It’s also tough to find a group of learners that’s at the same level as you. At Yi Mandarin, we teach Mandarin in small classes, and that helps to get the teaching more tuned to you. Don’t enroll in a class directly, contact us first so we can assess your level and find the best suited class for you.

How to learn Mandarin vocabulary?

Characters + pronunciation + meaning. If you’re intent on learning Chinese characters, learn them at the same time as the word’s pronunciation and meaning
Make a sentence. What’s the use of knowing a word if you can’t actively build a sentence with it. Try to make a Chinese sentence with every new word.
Test yourself. Cover the character, hanyu pinyin pronunciation and meaning, and see if you can recall them from the word’s translation. This is the most active test and helps anchor the word in your memory.
Repeat. Don’t spend hours on end trying to memorize Mandarin vocabulary. Set aside small blocks of focus time to test yourself and see if you still remember.
Spaced repetition. Aside from learning on paper, you can also make use of spaced repetition apps like Anki and Skritter.

How to learn standard Mandarin?

Join a Mandarin class, whether in-person or online. In China, standard Mandarin is also called “Pǔtōnghuà” and 99% of Chinese classes will be teaching standard Mandarin. 

Courses for Cantonese exist, but it will be clearly stated that these do not teach standard Mandarin.