Chinese first steps

A lot of people who publish language learning materials on the internet make the mistake of knowing something about that language beforehand. I want to grab them by the lapels and shake some sense into them. This is the internet. You don’t need to know anything about anything to put yourself about as some kind of authority.

Not so here on This Be The Blog where I published my authoritative six language phrasebook last month, mostly ignorant of and unconcerned with the languages I chose to translate into.

Nevertheless, by way of afterthought, it now occurs to me to go back and learn a little bit of these languages for the sake of completeness.

I’m starting with simplified Chinese, the most prevalent language in mainland China. My goal is to be able to write and say the hundred words that I’ve chosen for my phrasebook. However, I can’t just start learning the words as there is a lot of background before you get to that point – tones, sounds we don’t have in English, a little bit of history and overview, etc.

The best free online course I’ve found is this one on Coursera. The tests don’t work on my phone, which is frustrating. But, on the other hand, it goes really fast if you don’t do the tests. I’m keeping an eye out for any of the hundred words in my phrasebook but it’s anyways a good basic primer to get started with Chinese.

And then I’m just turning the pages in my phrasebook – copying the Chinese characters and the pinyin and listening to the audio files on Google Translate. I’m also trying to come up with the IPA translation of each word through various online converters and Wikipedia pages.

A couple other good resources I’ve found are Hacking Chinese and Fast Chinese.