Fact: Chinese is the language spoken by 1.3 billion people.
Fact: ‘There are 40 million people studying Chinese outside China, and the Ministry of Education says that number will surpass 100 million by the end of 2010’ – according to Xinhua, the official Chinese News agency (the equivalence of BBC in the UK).
Fact: China is a growing economic power and will have more influence in world affairs in many years to come.
Based on the above three facts, being able to speak Chinese is a clear advantage.
Mandarin is the official language in China - also known as ‘Putonghua’ which means Common Language. There are hundreds of dialects in China. One of the most important ones is Cantonese which is spoken in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. At one time, Cantonese was more important than Mandarin. But most people nowadays when they learn Chinese, they will be learning Mandarin.
Chinese is totally different from any of the Western languages like English and French. There is no spelling in Chinese. Grammar is completely different. This is why most Westerners will find it difficult to learn Chinese. It doesn’t have to be if you choose the right approach.
There are different ways you can learn Chinese.
The most practical and efficient way will be to learn to speak the language and not struggle to learn to read and write. You learn to speak Chinese in words and short phrases which I refer to as Building Blocks (like Lego). These Building Blocks are short, easy to remember and are grouped together in a meaningful and logical way. Once you have learned them, you can express yourself freely by making up phrases and sentences. Within a year, you will be able to speak Chinese confidently and also be able to recognise some Chinese characters. No exams, no homework, and most important, it’s fun. This is how you will be learning Chinese with me.
To some people, the simplest and quickest way to learn to speak Chinese is to pick up some Chinese Tuition tapes or CDs (or online) and learn it by yourself. This is purely conversational – you simply memorize phrases and sentences and you use them accordingly. Quick, yes, but because you have no understanding of the individual words, you will forget them very quickly. What’s more, you won’t know how to use them in the slightest of change of situation. Remember, you will not be speaking Chinese if you are learning it this way.
For those of you who are ambitious all-or-nothing type, you will need to take a diploma or degree course. This is the best way to learn Chinese (or any language) if you have the time, the determination and the patience to do it. When you complete the course, you should be able to read and write Chinese but you could still be speaking textbook Chinese, as the emphasis of courses of this sort will always be on reading and writing. To be able to speak fluently, you need to practise with native Chinese speaking people, or better still, to live in China for a few years.
Billy Chan was born and bred in Hong Kong and is Chinese in origin. He is a graduate of Sussex University. He has lived in France for 5 years before settling down in the UK. Billy Chan has always been passionate about languages. He speaks fluently Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, English and French.
He is keen to share his knowledge with people who want to learn Chinese. He understands the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. His expertise is to use this knowledge and understanding in his teaching. If you like, he is teaching you Eastern cultures in a Western style – the way you would understand. He knows what to expect of you, what you would find difficult and he knows how to help you through the obstacles. He has come up with the Building Block Approach for easy learning.