Finding the Corner Pieces: Resources to Start Learning Mandarin as an Absolute Beginner
Today’s digital age is the best time to learn Mandarin Chinese because of the numerous online tools available. The Chinese language learning blog Hacking Chinese has catalogued over a thousand relevant resources. On Hacking Chinese’s 50th podcast episode Julien Leyre discusses his doctoral thesis on modern Chinese language learning tools, his efforts to categorize them, and how they can work together. One identified problem with all these resources is that new Mandarin Chinese language learners do not know where to start.
I am not a fluent Mandarin speaker, a linguist, or a language learning expert, but I have spent a few years trying out different Mandarin learning tools through my own self directed study. Some have become part of my daily language learning, while I’ve tossed others in the bin. In an effort to share the results of my own struggles and experiments, below is a short list of resources along with any identified pros and cons. If you want a comprehensive list of resources, I suggest checking out Hacking Chinese, but if you want a place to start, look below.
[For truly new learners of Mandarin, I want to define two terms before the lists. First, Pinyin is the romanization of Chinese characters. It takes the sounds of thousands of Chinese characters and presents those sounds in approximations in the Latin alphabet. Second, the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is an official People’s Republic of China (PRC) Chinese language proficiency test for non-native speakers. The test has various levels, which can be used to determine one’s proficiency in the language. Now, onto the resources.]
This (surprisingly long) list is only a small fraction of the options Mandarin learners now have at their fingertips. This list is not a roadmap to Mandarin language proficiency, but hopefully it gave you the materials to build the road. Your first step is to try a few and make choices on how you can efficiently spend your time while ensuring the content is entertaining enough to keep you engaged. Learning Chinese is a worthwhile, challenging endeavor, but with technology, is now easier than ever. 加油!