80 best Tips to learn Chinese in Beijing

How many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, you may think that speaking Chinese as a second language?

Learn Chinese if you live in Beijing … You should be able to think about it

The Internet is still buzzing after Mark Zuckerberg unveiled its latest product: its own Mandarin skills.

The majority of the online community was impressed by his dedication – he studied every day, as you should too – and with the courage to stand up in front of a crowd and spend 30 minutes to communicate in a language that it speaks imperfectly.

Public speaking impress Chinese

Public speaking is deeply frightening to many. In fact, it is at the top of the list of most survey responses regarding our greatest fears. It is also something that the Facebook CEO was not particularly good at the beginning of his career. But public speaking in a second language, the one you are not fluent? This is the stuff of nightmares.

Expat life in Beijing

Melanie, I began weekly Mandarin lessons. All other children in the class had been exposed to the language of infanthood, and just two hours a week of Mandarin teaching English in my other life was ineffective. Despite my best intentions, I eventually fell in the fifth year.

I will now try to build a life in China, and over the years have tried almost everything to become fluent in the language, including private tutors, self-learning with ribbons, college classes, and language buddies. Twenty years after I first set foot in my childhood Mandarin class, I’m finally on my way to master the language.

Here are the main lessons I learned along the way. If you avoid my mistakes, and focus on measures that really makes a difference, we hope that your trip to Mandarin fluency will not be quite as difficult or convoluted than mine.

Why Mark Zuckerberg really learn Mandarin ?

Why did he do that? We know it has been studied Chinese for a while, but why someone so powerful1 put themselves in a vulnerable position to criticism, even attack? For that matter, why study Chinese in the first place?

Why incredibly rich leader, very busy in one of the most successful companies in the world devote hours of their time on a daily basis for language learning?

In his Q & A session, Mark Zuckerberg gave three reasons: His wife is Chinese, he is interested in Chinese culture and he likes a challenge.

While the Facebook CEO certainly would not be the first North American or European Model learn Chinese to impress a girl and win her family, it is likely that Mark has more than one reason to take up Mandarin, and to press on with his studies long after the grandmother of his wife gave him his blessing.

Chinese Learn


Learn Chinese : the Challenge !

The third reason Zuckerberg gave to learn Mandarin seemed a little artificial, too. Because he loves a challenge? Come on. There are a lot of challenges there. Learning Arabic was a challenge, as juggling, cooking and beautiful blown coding in C ++. Scratch that last. Zuckerberg surely knows C ++, but it was after a challenge for the sake of the challenge, he could learn to code in Malbolge or something as esoteric.

The point is, a CEO with the kind of demands on his time that Zuckerberg should have, would wisely choose to pursue activities that offer the greatest return on investment – and the battery Mandarin quite well in this regard.

It is no secret that Facebook wants China in a bad way. The market is just too big and too mature to be ignored, regardless of the obstacles the company faces. It is for this reason that the second Zuckerberg’s answer to “Why are you studying Chinese?” Question is, I believe, the most revealing. In a discreet response calculated to please his audience, he said he is very interested in Chinese culture, and that China is a great nation. it goes without saying that language comprehension is the key to understanding the culture. what Zuckerberg unspoken, but understood, is that understanding of culture is essential to understanding a market.

Chinese yards are flooded want ads looking for native Mandarin speaking PDA CEOs of a wide range of businesses. Mark Zuckerberg could easily hire a team of interpreters and consultants on the practice of Chinese business, or it could follow the path of many other business leaders and lean heavily on native expertise of his wife. Instead, he chose to invest his time and energy in learning the language, culture and the market because he believes that will pay off in the long run.

Why should you consider to study Mandarin for business

Whether you are the CEO of a company or on the front lines of customer service, if your industry does business with China, learning the language and culture is an important investment of your time. Go beyond the cursive nǐ hǎo 你好 (hello) and 干杯 gān Béï (cheers!), And to accept a business card with both hands.

Take small steps really converse with your Chinese business partners in their language, even if the conversations are short and you need to switch to English for more complex questions. The gesture, I assure you, will not go unnoticed. Instead it stand out.

Chinese companies, for the most part are well versed in the art of doing business with the West. If you have been to China on business, you have probably experienced first hand how many companies bend over backwards to foreign partners feel welcomed.

Business and Guanxi !

They hire English-speaking sales staff, we look at the airport or train station train late model luxury vehicles, wine and dine and 干杯 gān Béï (toast) us one inch of our lives. They overlook the most unknowing cultural faux pas we make as strangers and adapt their customer service strategies to meet our needs than Westerners. And most business people accept the status quo as the way things should be.

What happens when we, as Western professionals doing business in China and with the Chinese, get out of this line of thought and to make genuine efforts to understand the language, culture and environment of business of our Chinese counterparts? Almost without exception, they are incredibly grateful for these efforts.


Watch the video of Zuckerberg session of Q & A again and pay particular attention to the audience. Despite the wide publicity that Zuckerberg has studied Chinese for some time, no one should even say a phrase in Mandarin, let alone converse in the language for over 30 minutes. The audience was delighted.

While your own attempts to practice and converse in Mandarin can not be greeted with gasps and applause, your Chinese colleagues and business partners are sure to notice and appreciate your efforts to bridge the cultural gap and communication .

So if you are convinced that learning Chinese is a valuable use of your time, what should you do? Here are some ideas:

Learn simplified Chinese

1. Decide whether you will learn traditional or simplified Chinese characters.
There are two different systems of writing Mandarin – traditional and simplified. Simplified characters were created by decreasing the number of strokes needed to write the character by changing its shape. For example, comparing traditional and simplified characters for fei (fly):


Today, traditional Chinese characters are mainly used in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. simplified characters were introduced in China in the 1950s and 60 to increase the literacy rate, and are the official system of writing in Mainland China, and Singapore. This is also the form of writing taught in Mandarin classes worldwide.

Learn traditional or Simplified Chinese ?

People wonder if it is better to learn the traditional Chinese writing more complicated but beautiful, or follow the simplified version widely used. I think it is a personal choice and depends on where you want to live and why you are learning Mandarin. Want to live in Mainland China? Doing business in Shanghai? Learn the culture and Chinese history? Teach Taiwan?

It is possible to learn both, but as a beginner, you should stick with a system to avoid confusion. I started with teachers who have used the manuals with traditional characters in Hong Kong, but I had to learn from a simplified Beijing program at the university. It sometimes felt like I was learning to write a new language. Personally, I wish that I had always learned the simplified script, because my goal was to live and work in mainland China.


2. Invest time and money in an intensive Mandarin you have a solid foundation.
This is applicable to most languages, but intensive learning early is especially important for a language like Mandarin, which is quite alien to English.

I did not learn Mandarin as a child because two hours per week are not enough to build the foundation. For the Chinese, the basics are crucial: you have to learn the four tones (often indistinguishable Anglophone), master the required Pinyin letters logographic pronounce, and enter other fundamental principles such as stroke order to form the characters.

It takes hours of writing, listening, and speaking to master these basics. An Italian-British friend of mine studied once a week at a Confucius Institute in London for eight months without results. After only a month of intense course at Mandarin House in Shanghai – six hours a day, five days a week – she was writing and speaking like a Chinese five years, which is a step should not be taken lightly. She then moved to a less intensive daily program but attributes his “boot camp Chinese” to give it an excellent base for work. Even individual tutoring may not be effective if it is not a daily ritual.

Language buddies ecome with non-English speakers learning Chinese.

Image: IvanWalsh.com
People learning Chinese that are non-native English speakers are great partners Language:

1. They are students like you, then you may feel less embarrassed to make mistakes with them.
2. You are less likely to fall back on English to communicate.

permutation English to Chinese as part of a language exchange with local people is fine – but with my Japanese and Korean classmates, Chinese is often our only common language, so we talk all the time. There is no need to structure our sessions. We hang out after class when the product is fresh in our minds, and use all the words and idioms that we have just learned. I do not worry too much right or wrong, but only focus on the opening of my mouth and try to use the language as much as possible, without English to fall back on.

Surf the Chinese Internet.

Avoiding social networks in English for their Chinese equivalents gives you a good reason to use Chinese characters on a daily basis, as well as the opportunity to network with a large Chinese Internet community. Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China for now, but you can use their local equivalents, Renren and Weibo.

I used to be wildly frustrated when learning Chinese characters because I saw it as too much work for too little immediate rewards. But I remember the day my iPod Touch has arrived at my door after I had ordered online after spending the previous day hard to read the terms and conditions of China. When the right product arrives at your home, it is tangible proof that you can use your Chinese skills!

I always find Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay, difficult to navigate because of the crowded and overwhelming network interface products, but I can now use Amazon.cn without problems, as the layout is similar to the version in English.

4. Follow a Chinese TV show you like, or listen to Chinese music !

Chinese consume pop culture is an enjoyable way to build your vocabulary just by sitting on your tush, and a great chance to test your listening comprehension and away from the classroom curriculum.

What you need to watch or listen to depends on your preferences and language level. I am a kid at heart and a big comic book fan, so I got hooked on xǐ Yang Yang Hui Tai Láng ( “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf”), an outrageously popular TV series of Chinese animation. It is intensely cute and easy for anyone with a basic knowledge of Mandarin to follow.

I suggest focusing on one individual or mini-series show to start. I find that I get emotionally involved with the screenplay, giving me added incentive to keep watching, and it helps my listening skills to focus on the accents of only a handful of people. One of my favorite dramas was a Taiwanese series in 2005 called “the prince turns into a frog.” With each passing episode, I grew more and more familiar with the voice of the characters, and it became easier to understand their dialogue.

5. Practice speaking in front of a mirror !

My last class of Chinese, I found that many students were quiet nervous about talking because they thought they were weird when they spoke. And it is true, something happens to my mouth when I speak Chinese – it moves so crazy it when I speak English. Sometimes if I realize that I am fluent without a book or a script, I start to overthink my words and movements of my mouth, and I begin to weaken.

It is equally important to be physically confident about Chinese language as it is to have a good vocabulary, pronunciation and tones. Speaking before a mirror and see how your mouth form Chinese words can help. Observe yourself talk, relax your facial muscles, and practice being angry and sad and happy in Chinese. When you realize that you do not look like a fool, control will start to come naturally.

Take the HSK, a standardized Mandarin exam for non-native speakers.
The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) is a qualifying exam administered Mandarin in China and abroad. There are six possible levels of achievement, the most basic test about 150 words, and test the more advanced your knowledge up to 2000 words.

The Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK) (Chinese: 汉语水平考试), translated as the Chinese Proficiency Testor the Chinese Standard Exam, is China’s only standardized test of Standard Chinese language proficiency for non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese.

Some people take the HSK for Chinese university admission, others because they expect a short-term scholarship of language. For those of us with plans only vague what to do with our Mandarin skills, I suggest as a final goal. It is often easier to push you if you are working toward something concrete.

The exam tests your skills of listening, reading, comprehension, and composition. The cost depends on your level. The voice portion of the exam is separate. For more details, visit the Web site.

8. live in China some time, but do not immerse yourself into expat circles !

I live in Shanghai, and many foreigners tell me this is not the best place to learn Mandarin. “Get out of the big city and move in a more rural location and really Chinese,” they argue. But I disagree that camping in a small town is necessarily the best way to learn Chinese. You may be in a big city and speak Mandarin everyday, or go to a rural town and search for five other English-speaking foreigners there.

Last year, I lived in the Yangpu district of Shanghai, near the “alien infested French Concession,” as my friend joked. Yet, I am surrounded by English speakers, and my Chinese is not improved. This year I’m actually live in the “overseas French Concession infested,” but I feel more immersed in the language. I speak Chinese to my Japanese and Korean classmates, my owner, my elderly neighbors, to my favorite restaurant owners, to Chinese friends. I live in one of the more foreign-friendly parts of China, but I’m better than ever

Close the book, turn on the tape: Suppose you are a business or a legal professional. Just like you not waste time working on projects that will not get you no closer to achieving your goals – and only it means more time in the office – why would you waste time learning Mandarin for “bad” when you could be learning the “right” or faster, better, more efficiently?

I am comfortable with the word “Dui” =right because I started learning Mandarin the “Good” way and not had little to show for it, despite a major investment of time and effort. If you’re anything like I was then – trying to learn from a textbook and spend hours writing and memorizing the characters – the best advice I can give is to close the book and put the pen. Your main goal as a beginner or intermediate learners should be to improve your ability to speak and listening, two things that are not fulfilled in speaking and listening, do not spend time reading and writing. Take a Chinese language CD or subscribe to an online service like Chinesepod.com offering thousands of great dialogues for all levels of learners. Download lessons to your iPod and listen as much as possible – at home, in the car, at lunch – and you will find that you will quickly get used not only to the Chinese way of sounds, but you have memorized entire sections dialogue and phrases simply because you have heard them so many times.

2. Forget sense: This suggestion, while difficult to make, makes a huge difference when it comes to learning Chinese.


Once you have listened passively Chinese dialogue a dozen times or more, begin to pause the recording, and repeat after the speaker. Do this enough times until you get comfortable saying the dialogue you, even if you have little or no idea what you’re saying – just focus on distinguishing sounds and the rhythms of speech rather than real meaning. When you look at the English translation and pinyin equivalent of dialogue, your ear will stop and you will not actually learn anything because you think you already know it (of course, you know that they say – you read the translation) instead, the struggle with dialogue – repeat difficult phrases until they start rolling on your tongue. Only then should you look for translation: When you are able to properly and confidently repeat the dialogue.

3. Be a kid again:

No Chinese child never, never stores the tone marks (these symbols on top of the letters). In fact, if you were to ask your average Chinese person, they have no idea what you’re talking about “what is your word?” – They instinctively know!

Chinese children learn by simply listening to words over and over again (as we learned English as babies) which is the process you are trying to imitate listening to dialogues on repetition. If you can listen to these recordings and pause and then imitate the sound and how it is said, you will develop a great ability to reproduce and form Chinese words on your own without the impetus of the band. In my view, foreign students fail to learn to speak Chinese correctly because they only focus on trying to memorize written tone marks on paper instead of just listening to how the Chinese should look for a native speaker and imitate.

4. Invest in 1-on-1 lessons:

Once you’ve spent a few weeks to learn Mandarin on your own, it’s time to commit to regular classes, 1-on-1 with a Chinese professional instructor. Let me say straight away that I founded and directed a Chinese language online school that does just that – offers customized online Mandarin courses. Let me also say, however, that there was not until I started to meet regularly with teachers who are now my staff that my Mandarin has really started to take off. In a frame 1-on-1, all the attention is on you – improve your grammar, pronunciation, and tone – and you are not distracted by the all-of-the-above poor classmates . Ideally, you are able to shape the program so that it reflects only the vocabulary that is relevant (and immediately applicable) to your profession and interests. More importantly, it is the most efficient use of time you have to study Chinese – your teacher can answer questions, correct your mistakes, and you know right away if what you say is what a actual Chinese person would say in any given situation. You can not comments like that of a manual!

Many people who have struggled to learn Mandarin will tell you it is too difficult to learn. My answer is that Mandarin is actually very learnable if you use the correct method to do this and can you bring great happiness – the intellectual challenge of learning something new, a sense of accomplishment and joy just formed new relationships and friendships with people from a different culture.

The easiest way and fastest to make a good first impression and impress your host is to learn a few simple Chinese words and expressions. Your host will be glad you made the effort to learn some Mandarin and it also shows that you are interested in China and its culture that you took the time to study the language.

2. Another useful piece of advice is to make sure you have plenty of business cards with you, the worst thing you can do is run out of cards.

In China, people tend to exchange cards early, just after the greetings, so be sure to be prepared and keep your cards in an easy to reach place like a jacket pocket. Make sure that, once you receive a card, you have a good look at the information on it and show that you are interested in the person. Do not put the card away immediately and permanently not put it in a back pocket where it will sit on!

3. Upon arrival at a restaurant for a meal still waiting to be seated.

Corner location can be very important to avoid offending anyone and embarrass you do not stay around, wait until the host or other customers indicate the most appropriate place to sit. The host is usually facing the door so they are the first person guests see when they arrive. He is also the host usually pays the bill.

4. Chinese business dinners revolve around food and your host may order several dishes.

Make sure you try a bit of each of them and if you need help with anything, just ask the other guests will probably be happy to help. Also make sure you do not eat too much too soon as the dishes usually come with a dropper and you do not want to get full before the last dish arrived. Another thing to remember is to always leave a little food on the plate if other guests will think you are still hungry.

5. If you are not a master of using chopsticks, you may want to find some time in advance to practice your technique to avoid embarrassing food experience around.

If you really can not manage with chopsticks do not be afraid to ask for a knife and fork, your host will understand you are not used to using chopsticks. Although it is probably best to make a show of trying to use chopsticks before opting to give a knife and fork.

6. Drink is also an important part of business dinners in China.

If you want to drink sure to make a toast. Toast should always go in the order of host first and then work through other clients in the hierarchy. Clink your glass lower your host glass edge to show respect. It is not obligatory to drink alcohol, but it is best if you try to join and have at least a couple of drinks.

7. Do not be surprised if no one seems willing to talk shop.

Chinese business dinners are more about building on and solidify relationships. However, companies can be briefly discussed at various points throughout the meal, although usually towards the end of a dinner rather than the beginning. One thing that is important to remember is to never talk business unless the host does.

8. Other topics of conversation that are best to avoid are anything that may be considered controversial, such discussions about Taiwan or Tibet.

relatively safe topics to talk about are the parts of Chinese culture that interest you most or places you visited or want to visit China. The greatest interest that you can show in China and its culture, the better you are perceived by your host and other guests.

This list is far from exhaustive and business dinner etiquette tends to vary from one city and a business inside of China. The most important piece of advice is to follow the lead of your host sets and observe what other customers are. This is the best way to learn etiquette for business lunches in China and to avoid possible missteps. Above all just try to relax, enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the experience; after all it’s not every day you will be prompted to a business dinner in China.


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