Mastering a Second Language: Chinese

This blog post is brought to you by Biblio Lotus team member Sharon. It is the first in a series from the team. Be on the lookout for future posts about learning Korean and Japanese!


Learn Chinese! 

你好 (Hello),                       

The Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with at least six thousand years of history. Chinese character inscriptions have been found in turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1123 BC) proving the written language has existed for more than 3,000 years! The Chinese written language uses single distinctive symbols, or characters, to represent each word of the vocabulary.

There are also two main languages—Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is the official language of China and it is spoken in most large cities in China; Mandarin is also widely spoken in Singapore and Taiwan. Cantonese is largely spoken in Hong Kong, as well as in Macau and Guangdong provinces.

Don’t be daunted by learning this ancient language! Every language has its own distinctive patterns and many people can master a second language. My suggestion is try to have fun in the beginning, learn through dialogs, singing, and read simple stories.

Tones are very important part of Chinese language, as different tones will have totally different meanings. There are primarily 4 tones in Mandarin Chinese. For example, the word Ma:

  • First tone: ma1 or 
  • Second tone: ma2 or 
  • Third tone: ma3 or mǎ
  • Fourth tone: ma4 or 

Tones are used to determine which Mandarin Chinese word is being implied. For example, mǎ (horse) is very different from  (mother).Thus it is really important to practice both the pronunciation of the word and its tone. The wrong tones can change the meaning of your sentences.

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