My First Mandarin Lesson

After my first lesson this week, I now consider Mandarin a very musical language. Anyone who can speak Mandarin must be an excellent musician .

I attended my first one-to-one lesson with a lovely PhD student at Hull University. The reason for these lessons is not only to try and get another language underneath my belt, but also to set myself a challenge. And this, along with my weekly French conversation classes, keeps me occupied in the week during my unemployment period.

What a challenging two hours this lesson was and it has to be said, it was like a singing lesson! I was making a number of different noises, constantly being corrected and could not tell the difference between the noise I was making and the noise my lovely tutor was making.

I am learning the Pinyin version of this complicated language, which is the Romanic way of writing the words and sounds. This seemed a little more reasonable to me than learning some of the 80,000 Chinese characters. During this lesson, I learnt the six vowels: a, o, e, i, u, ü (they sound very different to the way us Native English would naturally say them). There are four tones to this language, and by placing one of four different symbols above the letters, the sound of the vowel can completely change in, hence it feeling like a music lesson.

From learning these 24 different sounds, with the help of dictation exercises, I was able to quickly learn a small range of vocabulary:

Fish -> yú
House  -> wū
Clothes -> yī
Chair -> yǐ
Hungry -> è
Goose -> é
Rain -> yǔ
Five -> wǔ
Aunt -> ā yí
Crocodile -> è yú
Raincoat -> yǔ yī
Bathrobe -> yù yī

A little random perhaps, though I actually found this to be an effective way of becoming familiar with the sounds, despite it being perhaps a different way of learning more familiar languages such as French or Spanish where we might learn to say ‘Hello’ first.

My tutor ordered a number of Chinese language books directly from China as she believes the language books in England are less authentic, though I was also advised to purchase “Collins Easy Learning Mandarin Dictionary”, “Chinese English Bilingual Dictionary” and “Collins Chinese Language and Culture”. I will keep updating my progress.


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