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I'm going to start learning chinese. My current knowledge isn't much. Nihao = hello and I think I can recognize the "tong" character.

I thought I would first start with learning some characters. I'm thinking of writing down the characters on pieces of papers and on the other side write pinyin and the characters meaning, like a game.

But there are thousands of charcters and I don't know which one to use. Some characters are normal words while some are not, but the ones that are not "normal" maybe is used often to create new words, what do I know?

But could anyone help me find some usefulll characters? A link would be OK.


Btw: HanziExplorer didn't unzip well (doesn't work). And Chinese-tools doesn't eather.

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Well there are many ways, you can get them from a book, flashcards, or get character lists.

Since you prob. don't know the stroke orders, writing them yourself might be a mistake b/c you may build bad habbits. Besides writing takes a lot of time and in the time you learn to write 1 character you could learn to read ten.

The book approach:

the good: you will learn words then use them in context right away

the bad: you often learn unnecessary words or words of little use. The books often do not base their teaching based on highest statistical usage to least.

Character lists are avail. But then again, making flashcards is a pain.

So I think flashcards are the best for you. if you can pick up any book that explains the radicals/subcomponents (or buy wenlin (wenlin.com) software) that will enhance your learning.

The good news is someone already made flashcards (statistically ordered) for you.

Go to: http://www.mandarintools.com/flashcard.html You can also use the page below to find many dictionaries that will explain the characters in the flashcards you don’t understand (like what KIND of modal particle is it and what does it mean)

Also browse the rest of http://www.mandarintools.com/ you will find this may be a great starting portal of info. (follow their links too)

Good luck

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Hello, self-taught-mba

I found this page


which I thought i would share with you. I have on question though about that page.

The first column is the character (I guess it's simplified mandarin, correct?)

The second column is its meaning.

But what is the third column?

And what is the forth column? I'm suspecting that the forth column is how the character is pronounced, might this be correct?

Many thanks.

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First column: yes it is simplified characters

Second column: definition

third: ancient usage you can ignore this

fourth: pronunciation in pinyin

think you did not recognize that this was the pronunciation it is obvious that you are unfamiliar with the pinyin system. So you’re very first step should be to learn the pinyin system.

Otherwise, you will only be building bad habits that that you will have to retrain later.

A good book to get which has a very practical things including listing some of the basic structures and the most common verbs is the “lonely planet” Mandarin phrasebook. It is pretty cheap and will also come with a pinyin pronunciation guide. It should only be about seven dollars or so it can give you a good introduction, that is a little bit easier than a textbook.

Following web sites from Harvard and has pronunciation guide including sound files:


pay attention to the some of the initials because some of them are different from English. In fact a lot of it is different from English to encourage you to spend a lot of time on the site.

Learning pinyin will be a foundation that will I used to jump into learning vocabulary much easier later.

Additionally this directory (listed under the zhongwen and Mandarintools links) has a whole section about learning pronunciation: http://www.csulb.edu/~txie/online2.htm

Here is another good one with some sound files: http://www.chinawestexchange.com/Mandarin/Pinyin/

To reiterate, if you’re not familiar with the pinyin hold off on your flash cards, learn the pinyin first and you will save yourself having to retrain later

Good luck

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safaridonna --

I agree with self-taught-mba that you should get a good foundation with pinyin first.

Even in an intensive summer course (I took 20 years ago) with native speakers, with 3 hours of in class time, then probably 3 hours of language lab, the first week was almost all on pronounciation, in the context of very simple sentences like, "Is he tall? (Yes) he is very tall." "ta1 gao1 ma? ta1 hen3 gao1." in addition to making sounds from lists of pinyin words we did not necessarily know the meaning of. The point of the "lists" was to practice the sounds without worrying about learning vocabulary.

I think it is best to go very slow and careful with the pronunciation. Try to think about what your mouth is doing. I personlly found it helpful when told explicitly where to position the tongue, how it was to be shaped, etc. If possible check with a native speaker with a standard accent. There are aspects of standard Chinese pronounciation that (for adult native English speakers -- I don't know if that applies to you) just don't register in our brains at first. On the other hand, a lot of the sounds are very close to those in European languages, which I suppose is why there is any hope at all.

Of course everyone learns differently. Still, building a solid foundation on accurate pronounciation and mastery of pinyin can not but pay huge dividends in the future.

Good Luck.

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