Saturday, May 19, 2018

How to Learn Mandarin | Eps. Know Mandarin Well

I got a lot of question about this topic, how I learn mandarin, how to speak mandarin fluently and some similar question still about how I can speak mandarin. So, I decide to write it here, dedicate to those who still in struggle of learning mandarin whether you currently have course abroad or still stay in your own country and have mandarin course. Let's start!

First, let me introduce my background. I'm overseas Chinese born in Indonesia and live in Jakarta since I was born for 15 years old. Done my elementary & junior high in a school that has mandarin extracurricular twice a week (*I think, it quiet long time ago, I can't remember :P ). Then after graduate from junior high I go to Taiwan to continue my study.

And the story begin.

As I say before I have Mandarin extracurricular in elementary & junior high, but you only understand the basic one, numbering, basic conversation, and some vocabulary. 9 years and I feel like I will say I can't speak mandarin if people ask. Why? For me the stage when you say you can speak some language is mean it doesn't matter what people are talking about you'll understand, you can answer, and you know how write & read about it.

Before I go to Taiwan, I have intensive course every morning & afternoon, so I come twice to the course center. The mentor is Taiwanese and she can't speak Bahasa so I can learn faster that she will introduce some more difficult vocabulary with simple Mandarin also. How to learn fast is to force yourself and your mind adapt quickly with Mandarin. I have course for around 2 months and go to Taiwan.

You need to know about what you're going to learn. Traditional Mandarin or Simplified Mandarin?
There is 2 kind of Mandarin which separate by the difficulties of the character. Traditional Mandarin or 繁體中文 is the more difficult one due the stroke is more complex but it's the original version of Mandarin character and use in Taiwan currently. While, Simplified Mandarin or 簡體中文 is easier than the first one I mention, it was the simple version character that long time ago China government announce to let their resident easily learn to read & write, currently use in China, Singapore, Malaysia.

Simplified (left) radical is mouth & Traditional (right) radical is ear

Personally I suggest you to learn Traditional Mandarin, cause it's the original one, you can know lot of character meaning by its radical - 部首 while the radical in Simplified Mandarin already change from it's meaning to reduce the character stroke. If you know well Traditional Mandarin character, you can guess the simplified one easily and also learn quickly. I prefer to pain in the first and satisfy after it :)

I do fall in love in Mandarin since the first time I learn it, its such an amazing when every time you learn new character you can learn new things and it's so touching to know, for example :

Make me think about Jesus calms the storms story :)
Besides the character is different, how you will learn to spell it also different. In Traditional Mandarin you will learn how to spell the character by ㄅㄆㄇㄈ& in Simplified Mandarin using b p m f.

How about the pronunciation? Every country that speaks Mandarin have different pronunciation actually, in Taiwan it more light accent, China have kinds of accent in different province mostly "roll tongue" accent or we say 捲舌, also Singapore & Malaysia accent is closer to Hokkian accent.

Do mother language effect for my Mandarin accent? I guess yes but it's depend on how well you learn. For Chinese people that can speak dialect like Cantonese, Chao Zhou, Hokkian, Khe, or something else it's easier to learn but quiet hard to change the accent into Mandarin accent. But if you are a new comer to Mandarin it doesn't matter as long as you practice hard and listen local pronounce oftentimes.

Special case in Mandarin is there is tone for each character, so different tone is different meaning. It was the difficult one when you learn how to speak Mandarin fluently, there are 4 tone and 1 tone is for shorten spell. Between Traditional & Simplified Mandarin, the only different is in the first tone and short tone, while Traditional one don't have any symbol one 1st tone but Simplified have a flat line, and for short tone Traditional one have a circle upside and Simplified fine don't have.

The common mistake on pronunciation that newbie made is about z & zh, c & ch, there is so much pronounce that have h and no, the different is : for H one you roll your tongue and for no H your tongue meet to inner of your front teeth. (*Can you imagine it hahaha

So, are you ready to learn Mandarin?

Eps. Starter Kit is ready for you.