Where to begin learning Mandarin?

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Re: Where to begin learning Mandarin?

Postby David1917 » Fri May 31, 2019 4:45 pm

Honestly, I think the first 2 units of Rosetta Stone Mandarin are the best foundation out there. It's likely you have free access to it through your university. If not, you can buy online access for a couple months.

Here's why:

1 - The first 8 sub-sections on "Reading" focus exclusively on minimal pairs using pinyin
2 - The first 8 sub-sections on "Pronunciation" focus on pronouncing one word at a time using characters (as long as you have your previous lesson set to characters, which you should). These have a great benefit of hearing words in isolation, but then strung together in a short phrase that might involve sandhi, without the obtuse textbook explanations.
3 - Every speaking exercise allows you to a) slow down the native audio even further and b) record yourself imitating the speech to compare/contrast side by side.
4 - You get some basic introductory words/sentences, all of which form the foundation for the exercises listed above. So, you're not drilling utterly abstract minimal pairs, etc.
5 - "Alphabet" screen, which can be accessed from anywhere in the course, contains every syllable in every tone so you can compare and contrast yourself. If the reading/pronunciation exercises haven't done enough to help you distinguish ch and q or c and z, you can listen to them back and forth literally forever.

Once you have a grasp of the pronunciation, definitely get McNaughton's Reading & Writing Chinese to supplement whatever course you decide to begin with.

Edit: If you decide to kickstart, I would strongly suggest trying to get a little further and test into the 2nd semester course. If you do all this work and then have to sit around listening to other people butcher tones for a couple weeks, it would really suck.
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Re: Where to begin learning Mandarin?

Postby Dylan95 » Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:00 pm

Purangi wrote:Tones are quite tricky, but far from impossible to master. You need to learn to hear them and then produce them. This is best done in a face-to-face session with a native Mandarin speaking tutor. Using tapes, Skype sessions, etc. won't nearly be as efficient.

So I think the best way to really kick start Mandarin would be to hire a tutor and to work only on pinyin and tones for the first 4-5 hours. Forget about characters, vocab and grammar for now - you'll have plenty of time for that later. Instead, make sure you master every single pinyin syllable with the five tones. Start with monosyllabic words, than move on to two-syllable and three-syllable combinations. Have your tutor give you a ton of pinyin + tones dictations. This is critical and it will be the foundation upon which you will build everything else.

Ideally, the tutor should come from the place where you will be using your Mandarin, i.e. North China, South China, Taiwan, Sichuan, etc.

Good luck!

Hi Purangi, do you think it would be a complete waste of time using a tutor via italki to learn how to use tones properly at the beginning? I agree that it's much more efficient in person, but the problem is that in the next month I'll be in 4 different cities, so face-to-face sessions aren't really on the cards right now.
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Re: Where to begin learning Mandarin?

Postby AndyMeg » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:02 pm

I only studied Mandarin for a few months around the end of last year and the beginning of this year (though I'll probably go back to it in the near future) and I mainly focused on the written part (understanding subtitles), so I can't recommend anything related to the sound system or the pronunciation, but if you are interested in grammar, The Chinese Grammar Wiki has great explanations (and they also sell two books so that you can have all the info available offline). ;)
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