Learning Chinese is a good idea

Learn Chinese: 5 special features + 7 options

learn Chinese

Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages ​​in the world. There are around 1.3 billion native speakers worldwide, roughly one fifth of humanity. These are good reasons to learn the language. We give tips for the first steps.

Chinese in the world: Mandarin

Chinese in the world

The Chinese language is mainly spoken in China and Taiwan. Do you hear the term "Chinese" is that Standard Chinese is the standard language which is based on Mandarin. There are nine other Chinese languages, which in turn have many individual dialects. Within Mandarin, communication between the different dialects is not always possible. Speakers of the north-eastern dialect and the southern dialect have great problems communicating. By the way, Mandarin is a dialect from Beijing.

The Chinese letters plays a special role. It unites the speakers of the very different language variants into a cultural community. The characters of the different dialects are the same, only their pronunciation is different. However, some dialects also have a different grammar than standard Chinese.

In Singapore, Chinese is one too Official language, There are Chinese minorities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, so the language is widespread there too.

Chinese struggles with the prejudice that the language is too difficult to learn. Part of it is true: learning the characters is by no means easy And the pronunciation is also very difficult at the beginning. But once you have mastered the basics, you have survived the worst. Pronunciation and characters are complicated, but things get easier afterwards.

Chinese language peculiarities

Mandarin, the standard Chinese, is considered to be one of the most difficult languages ​​in the world. If you want to learn Chinese, you have to pay attention to different things, because the language has some peculiarities. The hardest part of learning Chinese is the multitude of characters. If you know the basics, learning will become easier over time. Here's what you should know about the specifics of the Chinese language:

Chinese letters

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If you want to learn Chinese, you need patience and self-discipline. Because the language is not easy. This is particularly due to the Chinese Charactersthat have nothing to do with the Latin letters.

In the Chinese language has every smallest language unit has its own characteras long as it has a constant meaning or grammatical function. There are around 100,000 characters in Chinese. however, a large part of it has not been used since the typeface reform in the 1950s. If you want to read a newspaper, you have to know around 2,000 characters. 3,000 characters are sufficient to understand up to 95 percent of all texts.

Chinese pronunciation

Chinese pronunciation

The characters are the basis of the Chinese language, without which you cannot delve into the deeper grammar. Another challenge at the beginning is the pronunciation. Chinese is a syllable language, there is scarce 400 syllables. Pronunciation is difficult at first, but you will still learn to speak faster than to write. Tips for learning can be found here.

Each syllable has many different characters. By monosyllabic and two-syllable words there are different ones Word combinations. For example, if you combine the characters for “electricity” with that for “brain”, the new word “computer” is created. If you combine “electricity” with “seeing”, the new word is “television”.

A syllable can open four different ways to be pronounced. Because there is four different tones:

1. The first note is the pitch consistently high. It sounds like you're singing the note rather than speaking. To mark the tone as such, a bar is drawn above the vowel.

2. The pitch rises on the second note from the lower to the middle to a high pitch. It sounds like asking a question in German and raising your voice at the end of the sentence. You can recognize the second tone by the fact that there is an acute accent on the vowel, an accent that describes a straight line from bottom left to top right.

3. On the third note, the pitch is at the beginning medium level, then falls down and rises again to medium level. You can recognize this tone by the fact that the vowel has an upside-down roof.

4. On the last tone the pitch falls down rapidly. You pronounce the syllable briefly and clearly. Similar to giving someone an order. The tone is represented by the accent “Gravis”, which looks like the accent on tone two, only mirrored.

There is also a fifth tone, which is more like neutral tone is counted. It is only pronounced briefly and easily. Sometimes the neutral tone is indicated by a zero, but usually there is no reference to the vowel.



In order to better grasp and structure the pronunciation, the “pinyin system” was introduced after the writing reform. It is in latin alphabet composed. Each character is assigned a pinyin, i.e. a syllable and a tone. The myth of how the Chinese communicate online is thus also solved: You type in a pinyin, the corresponding character can then be selected.

Pinyin is a Chinese sound system based on the Latin alphabet. The introduction of pinyin has made language learning a lot easier for non-native speakers. Pinyin has the same purpose as the international one phonetic symbolsused to represent the pronunciation of English words in dictionaries.

Pinyin was only developed in the People's Republic of China in the middle of the 20th century. It is now considered to be international standard and is used all over the world.

Chinese vocabulary

The Characters you have to learn how to use vocabulary. This is by far the greatest effort when learning Chinese. In any case, you need good time management for this.

The Chinese Number system is somewhat similar to French. The numbers from one to ten are fixed. If you want to say 15, that translates to ten plus five. At 30 you say three times ten and at 95, for example, nine times ten plus five. This rule also applies to the higher numbers. This may sound complicated at first, but you will get used to it quickly.

Chinese grammar

Compared to the characters is the Chinese grammar very easy. There are only a few grammatical exceptions. Verbs are not conjugated either by person or by tense. Adjectives and nouns are not declined. There are also no articles, genders, cases or Plural formsthat you have to learn. In order to make it clear that something happened in the past, there is a corresponding functional word after the verb, from which it can be seen what time it is.

Languages ​​like English or Spanish are very easy to learn at the beginning. Over time, however, it becomes more and more difficult as new times and rules as well as many exceptions are added. In Chinese it is exactly the opposite. In the beginning everything is very difficult because pronunciation and characters are new and have to be memorized. But once you know the basics, it is very easy. All you have to do is learn the particles. There are hardly any exceptions.

Chinese for Beginners: Ways to Learn

Learn Chinese on a language trip

Just like any other language, you can learn Chinese in a variety of ways. You have to decide for yourself which one is best for you. If you have to save money, you don't have as many options as someone gives a big one budget is available. It also depends on how much time you want to invest and whether you study in Germany or travel to China for it. You have the following options to learn Chinese:

Language trips

In Chinese in particular, it is important that you learn the pronunciation as early as possible. At a Language trip to China you not only get to know the language, but also the country. In addition, you can immediately apply your newly acquired knowledge and talk to the locals.

There are many ways to learn the language in China. A language trip usually lasts two to four weeks. During a language trip you will usually live with a host family. This is also a great way to get to know the culture and everyday life of the Chinese. At first it might be a culture shock for you, as the culture cannot be compared to German customs.

You can improve your language skills not only in the host family, but also in everyday life apply directly. For example, by visiting a museum, by placing orders in restaurants or bars and by contacting locals. The Chinese are very friendly and the host families take time on weekends to show their guests around.

Of course, language trips are very expensive. Compared to what you learn, this is usually a justified price. If you don't have that much money available, you can also use it as a AU Pair go to china. In return for costs and accommodation, you will live with a host family, take care of the childcare and usually receive pocket money. Otherwise you can use a Semester abroad graduate and earn a living through a scholarship. Another option is to do a voluntary service in China. In this way you experience people and culture up close.

Chinese course at universities and academies

Learn Chinese at universities

The classic way to learn Chinese usually leads through one Course in the language school. Chinese is also used by many Universities offered as a language course. Finding a language course is not a problem, especially at larger universities. These are sorted by level. If you want to take an advanced course, you have to Placement test complete. The language courses at universities are mainly attended by students who Sinology or Asian Studies to study. Students from outside the subject can also take a course. Inquire also whether you can have the course credited towards your studies.

Usually there is enough space for external participants. For reasons of cost, too, many people opt for a language course at the university. However, you have to be flexible in terms of time. Classes usually take place in the morning or early afternoon. At universities you also have to be precise Deadlines note. Find out in good time and register early enough. Otherwise you may have to wait a whole semester for a vacancy.

You can also learn Sinology and Asian Studies in the Distance learning to study. This gives you much more freedom in terms of space and time than face-to-face studies. Because you can learn at your own pace, you have a lot less stress. You only have to be present in person for a few exams.

In addition to the university, the Community College always a great way to learn a language. The courses usually take place in the evening. They are more expensive than at a university. You usually have to buy the learning materials yourself. At a VHS in a small town there are usually no Chinese courses offered, but in larger towns there are some options, even staggered according to level. Of course you can too Private lessons to take. But that is usually very expensive.

Learn Chinese online

Learn Chinese online

To learn Chinese there is unfortunately online only a few options. There are no offers from the large, well-known language teaching publishers. There are video courses, podcasts and eBooks on the basics of the Chinese language, but there is not much in-depth material included. You can order books from language teaching publishers or have programs installed for you to study. But these are not real online courses.

Can you imagine to learn Chinese in English, there are significantly more options. Also, make sure that your tutorial has plenty of audio examples and that your own pronunciation is checked as well.

Learn Chinese with an app

The range of apps for learning Chinese is unfortunately not available not that extensive, as with many other languages. The language learning app Babbel does not offer Chinese. Nevertheless, there are a few free offers that you can download to your smartphone or tablet if you don't want to spend any money at first. With an app you are very flexible when learning and can also practice on the go. Then you make effective use of the time waiting for your bus or a friend.

In any case, use an app that corrects your pronunciation based on a recording. If you get used to these incorrectly, you will have to start all over again with the study. Regardless of whether it is paid or not, most apps remind you via Notification on your smartphone to your next practice session. Plan every dayfive to ten minutes to practice one if you want to be successful quickly.

Learn Chinese for free

If you want to learn Chinese for free, it is not as easy as with other languages. There are free apps, but for many the language of learning is not German, but rather English. You can also search the Internet for explanations of pronunciation and grammar, but there are few opportunities to do speaking and listening exercises.

So if you just want to take a quick look, the online offer will help you. However, you cannot deepen your language skills. If you want to look up a vocabulary, free online dictionaries are ideal. There are a few introductory videos on YouTube, but they are don't go beyond the basics.

Learn Chinese with a tandem partner

Learn Chinese with a tandem partner

If you want to learn Chinese in your free time and have fun at the same time, a tandem partner is particularly suitable. To do this, you look for a Chinese one Native speakerwho lives near you and wants to improve their German. You will meet with him regularly and discuss various topics, in German and Chinese.

You decide together what to do at your meetings. For example, you can meet for coffee and cake, go hiking together or whatever else you feel like doing. You improve each other and learn from each other. You can use your newly acquired language skills immediately and get feedback right away. You will also learn something about the culture and customs in China.

Attend Chinese cultural events

Inquire about Chinese cultural events near you. These are mostly organized by Chinese cultural associations or institutes to support the cultural exchange to promote. You will also make contacts and get to know a lot of interesting people.


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