Frequently Asked Questions About Learning Chinese – FAQ
Do you have questions about learning Chinese? Well, we’re here to answer them!
Even advanced learners of Chinese have questions about learning, so we’ve put together a collection of frequently asked questions about learning Chinese that some of our users have asked us.
This is a growing list, so if you have a question about learning Chinese that isn’t here please leave us a question below and we’ll try and answer it for you!
You can click on the links below to go directly to your question!
- Why do people learn Chinese?
- What is Mandarin Chinese?
- What’s a Chinese character?
- What’s the difference between simplified and traditional characters?
- I want to study Chinese! Where do I start?
- I can’t tell the difference between the tones! Please help!
- I can already read pinyin, do I really need to learn to read characters?
- How can I learn Chinese quickly?
- How Can I Remember Characters?
- What is HSK?
- Can you teach me Chinese?
- How do I get a Chinese Keyboard?
- I’ve been told I should get a Chinese name, how can I do that?
- I’ve been studying Chinese for a while now but I really want to take it to the next level. Do you have any suggestions on how to push my Chinese language skills?
- I’m a visual learner, do you have any videos to help me with my Chinese?
- What is Mandarin Chinese?
Why do people learn Chinese?
More and more people are beginning to study Chinese; for business, for family or even just for fun. It’s a challenging language that people have shied away from, but there are so many resources and tools out there that now making studying Chinese much easier and accessible.
If you’re considering learning Chinese, here are 8 Reasons Why You Should Learn Chinese.
What is Mandarin Chinese?
Mandarin is the official language of China and spoken by over 730 million people world wide. You can find out more about Mandarin Chinese and how it differs from Cantonese here.
What’s a Chinese character?
Chinese characters, also known as 汉字 (hàn zì) make up the written language of Chinese and is one of the oldest writing systems in the world. The are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, although it is possible to be somewhat literate with between 3 and 4 thousand. A character is made up of radicals, sometimes up to 14! What’s a radical?
What’s the difference between simplified and traditional characters?
Visually, simplified and traditional characters can often look quite different, although sometime there is a similar structure. Traditional characters are those characters used before the simplification of characters to improve literacy in the 1940s. You can read more about traditional and simplified characters here.
I want to study Chinese! Where do I start?
A lot of people often ask us: “what do I need to do to start learning Chinese?” We’ve worked out some areas of study that we think are essential for Chinese learners to focus on in order to learn the language.
We have a beautiful infographic ‘Learning Chinese is Possible’ that features 7 Steps to Tackle the Challenge of Learning Chinese.
You can also visit Start Here, which will point you to specific areas of our site. For example, if you want to know about Chinese culture, there’s a list of links that will teach you about Chinese medicine, art and football to name a few!
You may also be interested in viewing our list of Chinese Learning Keywords and Terms that every learner of Chinese should know!
If you want to know if you need any tools to start learning Chinese take a look at some essential tools for studying Chinese here.
I can’t tell the difference between the tones! Please help!
First off, don’t panic! Although it can be argued that context of a conversation will always save you when it comes to tones (or lack there of), but it will be an uphill struggle when a few years down the line you wish you’d focused more on pronunciation and tones.
With practice you will begin to tell the difference between the tones – watch TV shows, including Reality TV shows listen to podcasts or mp3s and of course, conversing with Chinese speakers.
You can also test your tones using the Chinese Tone Trainer. Just click on the speaker, listen to the tone and click 1 of the 5 tones. The trainer keeps a score for you and also allows you to click the pinyin to find out more about the meaning!
I can already read pinyin, do I really need to learn to read characters?
We would say “yes of course!” Although lots of people who find themselves in China for work often just learn to speak, many of them often regret not learning to read and write sooner. It’s much more difficult to step back and learn characters than learning them simultaneously. You will be able to speak well enough, but learning characters can actually help your spoken Chinese!
If you’re still not convinced about learning to read and write characters you can read some of the following articles to help you make up your mind:
How can I learn Chinese quickly?
I’m afraid there isn’t really a ‘quick’ way to learn Chinese. You need to work hard and enjoy learning!
However, here are some ways in which to learn Chinese faster:
2. Use different resources such as books, listen to Chinese music and videos. Watching TV Shows, especially Reality and Game shows use ‘normal’ everyday language which is easier to follow and to spot repeating sentence patterns.
3. Find a Chinese teacher or Chinese classes that you can go to. Practicing with a Chinese speaker is invaluable to learning Chinese properly!
How Can I Remember Characters?
Firstly, you might have already visited our online dictionary, but did you notice the ‘Learn More’ button on the left side? Each character has its own page and our Written Chinese users are beginning to leave us photos, pictures and also mnemonics (a story to help you remember the character) to help others remember characters.
If you have a look at the page for the 网 character you can see that users have already posted their ideas of how to remember the 网 character!
You can also see that there are the stroke animations for each character. Practicing writing the character will definitely help you remember it!
The next thing you can do is to have a look at our Character App. If you have an iOS or android device you can download the Chinese Character Flashcard App for free! You can learn a certain amount of characters and test yourself to see how many you know!
Finally, we also have Character Posters that you can put up in your study area at home, on your computer desktop, or even in your classroom! We’ve had a lot of good feedback about how useful it’s been for our users, so why not try it out yourself?
What is HSK?
HSK is a Chinese proficiency test for non-native speakers of Chinese. The exam is the equivalent of the English TOEFL exam. It is made up of written and oral Chinese and goes from level 1 (HSK 1) to level 6 (HSK 6), HSK 6 is the most difficult, but can be used as an official qualification. For example, if apply for a job that needs you to speak Chinese, they may ask you for HSK level 5 or above.
You can check out the 9 Tips For the HSK Exam page that gives you more information about applying for the HSK exam both in China and in your own country.
If you’re unsure about taking an HSK exam, you can read Preparing for an HSK Exam to let you know that it’s not that scary after all!
Can you teach me Chinese?
If you’re not lucky enough to live in China, were Chinese teachers are sitting next to you in the coffee shop (in exchange for English lessons of course!) and you haven’t found your nearest Chinese school yet, we might be able to help! Unfortunately, Written Chinese does not offer Chinese classes, but we do know lots of schools, online courses and tutoring platforms that can help you find a teacher.
How do I get a Chinese Keyboard?
A Chinese keyboard on your mobile device is essential for learning to read and write characters! You can follow the links below for instructions on how to add both a pinyin and handwriting keyboard to most mobile devices including android and iOS:
I’ve been told I should get a Chinese name, how can I do that?
It’s nice to have a personal Chinese name given by a friend who knows you well, but most often when a Chinese person gives a foreign person a Chinese name, they use transliteration. This means taking the first sound or syllable from your name(s) and finding an equivalent Chinese character. So for example, Hollie can be split into two syllables. The first syllable can take on the Chinese ‘hao’ or ‘huo’ and the second is ‘li’. This name can be translated in many different ways, for example ‘Ho’ can become ‘霍’ (huò) and ‘lie’ becomes ‘莉’ (lì). Many people also include their family name in their Chinese name, not just their given name.
To make life easier, we’ve created a Chinese Name Generator that does this for you! Just put in your family name and given name and we’ll email you your very own Chinese name!
I’ve been studying Chinese for a while now but I really want to take it to the next level. Do you have any suggestions on how to push my Chinese language skills?
Since you’ve already studied for a while maybe you could consider applying to take an HSK exam. HSK is a great way to test your Chinese level and will give you something new to strive towards. Plus, an HSK certification will look good on your resume! You can read more about taking an HSK exam here.
If you’re wanting a fun challenge, take a look at these 10 Reality TV Shows to practice your Chinese with. We think that the language used in reality TV (and game shows) is easier to follow because they are using everyday language (compared with period dramas for example). You might think they’re talking quickly at fast, but you’ll pick it up in no time!