Mandarin Chinese is becoming an increasingly popular language to learn
Disclaimer: Chinese Mandarin is two hours in the weekly schedule. We follow the HSK curriculum for teaching. Some topics will not be taught if you arrive at the Temple briefly and join Chinese Mandarin classes. The official HSK curriculum starts in April. You can opt for tuitions one-to-one if you want to learn particular topics. If you wish to receive a particular certification, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss this option.
Chinese Mandarin Basics
The Chinese you will learn at the Temple are the official language of China, which is also called Mandarin Chinese. It differs from Cantonese, which is mainly spoken in Guangdong province and Hong Kong.
The Chinese Mandarin lessons include the most important Chinese Mandarin words and phrases. We will make your learning Chinese Mandarin as easy as possible and give you a lot of resources about Chinese Mandarin. Phonetic scripts and tones, called Pīnyīn, are used in dictionaries and textbooks to guide learners in learning the pronunciation of the characters. Compared to other Languages, Chinese Mandarin grammar is very simple on a fundamental level. Each word typically stays the same; thus, there are no conjugations, plural forms, genders, or articles.
One of the most difficult elements for the learner of Chinese Mandarin is the correct pronunciation of the four phonemic tones: the first tone (ˉ), the second tone (′), the third tone (ˇ), and the fourth tone (‵). The concept of tones does not exist in many European Languages, including English. The best way to practice the tones is to listen carefully and repeat the words and sentences.
Nouns are simple in the Chinese language. They do not have articles or genders, and there is no distinction between singular and plural. As for countable nouns, to express or to emphasise plural or numeral, various measure words, such as 辆 (liàng/measure word for vehicle), 个 (gè/measure word for general use), and 艘 (sōu/ measure word for ship), need to be added in front of a noun: numeral + measure word + noun.
Example: 女人 (nǚ rén) can be understood as ‘a/one woman’ or ‘women (female)’. ‘A woman’ is equal to ‘one woman’: 一个女人; ‘three women’ is 三个女人. 个 (gè) is a measure word for general use.
Verbs are straightforward in Chinese. They do not change with person, tense, or number, and there are no participles. Chinese words (whether nouns or verbs) never change their form.
Questions in Chinese Mandarin
There are a few different ways to ask questions in the Chinese language.
You can use the general question words 吗 (ma) in a question expecting a yes or no answer. This question word is just added at the end of the sentence.
Example: 你好吗? (nǐ hǎo ma?) Are you well? /How are you?
You can also make questions by using specific question words like what 什么 (shén me), where 哪里 (nǎ lǐ), who 谁 (shuí) or why 为什么 (wèi shén me). These question words are positioned where the answer word/words are to be placed in the sentence.
Example: 那个女人在做什么? (nà gè nǚ rén zài zuò shén me?) What is the woman doing?
To answer this question, we need to remove the question word, which is 做什么 and replace it with the answer: 那个女人在烹饪 (nà gè nǚ rén zài pēng rèn/That woman is cooking). As you noticed, the order of the rest of the words in the sentence remains the same.
Just put the word (不/bù/ no, not) before verbs /adjectives to give a sentence a negative meaning. When (bù) is followed by a last tone word, e.g. 是 (shì/ yes), (bù) needs to be changed to the second tone—(bú).不是 is read as ‘bùshì / ‘be not’ instead of ‘bùshì’.
Example: 这个电话不是红色的, 它是黑色的 (zhè gè diàn huà bú shì hóng sè de, tā shì hēi sè de). This telephone is not red, it’s black.
Asking for Something or Making a Request
A word is used to make a polite request: 请 (qǐng), which starts the sentence and corresponds to the English ‘please’. 把 [adverb] sentence is quite complicated. You need to remember 请把汤匙给我! (qǐng bǎ tāng chí gěi wǒ!/Please pass me the spoon!) is the same with 请给我汤匙! (qǐng gěi wǒ tāng chí!/ Please pass me the spoon!).
‘Because’ sentences are easy. ‘Because’ means 因为… 所以… (yīn wéi… suǒ yǐ… ). In Chinese, 因为 (yīn wéi) is to give the reason for the occurrence of something, and 所以 (suǒ yǐ) is to lead the result of the event or a conclusion of a state. Sometimes, either 因为 (yīn wéi) or 所以 (suǒ yǐ) can be omitted in a sentence.
Chinese Mandarin has over 50,000 characters in existence. The official literacy rate is about 2,000 characters, and to read a newspaper requires 2-3,000. HSK Level 5 requires test takers to recognise 2,500 characters. Learning such a challenging language with more than 50,000 characters might seem impossible, but people are using just a fraction. Many characters are used to form different words. Chinese characters each have an individual meaning and are often combined to form new words. Related words often contain the same character, helping learners identify possible meanings.
As an example, we will consider the word aeroplane (flying machine 飞(fēi)机(jī)). It is composed of two characters: to fly (飞(fēi)) and machine (机(jī)). This same character for ‘machine’ appears in words like ‘mobile phone’ (手(shǒu)机(jī)), ‘washing machine’(洗(xǐ)衣(yī)机(jī)) and ‘computer’ (计(jì)算(suàn)机(jī)). It demonstrates how Chinese characters combine to make vocabulary easier to learn and remember. After acquiring a few essential words, guessing unknown ones becomes far more accessible and rapidly picks up new vocabulary. So Chinese Mandarin is not so hard after all!
Written with Qi by Shifu Shi Yanjun
Shaolin Warrior Monks Head Coach