Kickstart your Mandarin

Learning any new language can be a challenge and learning a more difficult language can be daunting and so a lot of people will back away from something like Mandarin.

I have tried many ways to build on my knowledge and at the beginning of this journey I started where everyone else starts with Mandarin, at the tones and the sounds;

Chinese Pinyin Tones

However, I was keen to get going with some simple phrases so I could move around Beijing and enjoy my initial time here. The one technique that I caught on to quickly was the ‘phonetics’ approach. This was basically learning how to say certain things on how it read or sounded like in Chinese. An example of this is;

The word “coffee”

Which when spoken sounds like “ka fey”

or when written in Pinyin it is written like “kā fēi”

A note on Pinyin:

Pinyin is the official system in mainland China for transcribing Standard Chinese using the Latin alphabet and within that using tone marks to support the pronunciation of the words.


The sentence “I would like”, when spoken sounds like woa siang yao

or when written in Pinyin it is written like wŏ xiăng yào

And putting all that together you get;

“I would like a coffee” which sounds like this:woa siang yao ka fey”

Try that… say it out loud. Say it a few times and you will hear how it sounds. Speak it like it is written down.

And that’s it. You can now say you would like a coffee in Chinese. This is a quick way to get you up and running with some Chinese before you start to learn, tones, sounds and the grammar which in many cases is reversed but don’t worry too much about that now.

On the next learning blog update I will continue with this learning approach for quick and dirty Mandarin.


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