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Learning Mandarin: How to get started with Chinese

Learning Chinese is trendy. Mandarin, the official standard language of the People's Republic of China, is particularly popular and can be a real asset on a resume in business. Tourists and culture fans are also learning standard Chinese more and more often in order to delve deeper into the most populous country on earth. As complex as learning Mandarin may seem, the fundamental difference to our language has a great advantage: Success is possible even without the much-invoked feeling for language, since everyone has to start from scratch anyway.

Mandarin in facts and figures

  • Language family: Sinotibetic, Sinitic
  • Active speakers: approx. 1.1 billion
  • Native speakers: 897 million
  • Official language: People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Singapore
  • Other countries with a large number of active speakers: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand
  • Similar languages: Wu, Yue, Min, Cantonese

Special features of the Chinese language

In contrast to languages ​​such as German or English, there are no similarities between written and spoken language in Mandarin. If you want to speak and write Mandarin, you really have to learn two languages: The around 50,000 characters and Pinyin, the spoken language.

Fortunately, that's enough 3,000 Chinese characters to read newspapers and most books with ease. Each sign has its own meaning and usually corresponds to a syllable. For example, the Chinese character for word is 字, which is pronounced with the syllable zì.汉字 is translated as "Chinese characters", it is pronounced with the two-syllable expression hàn zì. Over time, new words were created through the combination of several characters: "Steam car" means a car and means "large" and "human" together adult.

who Speak mandarin want, must be his four different accents learn. Depending on the pitch of the voice, the word “ma” can mean mother (mā), hemp (má), horse (mǎ) or scold (mà). The emphasis is either constantly high, rising, falling-rising or falling. To avoid misunderstandings, beginners should learn whole sentences. From the context, even without perfect emphasis, it quickly becomes clear what is meant.

Sinisms in the German language

A Sinism describes a Chinese word or phrase that - just like an Anglicism from English - has found its way into the German vocabulary. This includes, among other things Yin and yang, in Chinese originally the name for the north or south slope of a mountain. tofu comes from 豆腐 (dòufu) and means bean curd and itself tea is a loan word from the Middle Kingdom: 茶 is actually chá pronounced. The German word is based on the Xiamen dialect, where there is te is pronounced. Compared to loan words from other languages, however, the number of sinisms is manageable.

Learn Chinese: the most important vocabulary to get started

Whether menus or train stations, if you don't just want to communicate with your hands and feet in China, you should practice some Mandarin vocabulary before you travel. For everyone, here are the first few Mandarin words to learn:

Hello
Characters:
你好 | Pinyin: ni hao

Please thank
Characters:
请 / 谢谢 | Pinyin: qing / xie xie

Not wanting (especially important for pushy street vendors)
Characters:
不要 | Pinyin: bu yao

sorry
Characters:
对不起 | Pinyin: dui bu qi

Does anyone here speak German?
Characters:
有人 说 德语 吗 | Pinyin: you ren shuo de yu ma?

I do not understand that.
Characters:
我 听 不懂 | Pinyin: where ting bu dong

I need a doctor.
Characters:
我 需要 医生 | Pinyin: where xu yao yi sheng

The Bill please.
Characters:
请 买单 | Pinyin: qing mai dan

How much is it?
Characters:
多少 钱 | Pinyin: duo shao qian

ShaoLan explains even more characters and how they can be memorized in her videos

It's not just the language that's fundamentally different from ours. The type of communication in China is also different than in Germany.