Introduction to Mandarin

Hello and Welcome to my introductory lesson in learning to speak mandarin. I can't read mandarin whatsoever, but they do have a handy translation for those of us who use the Latin Alphabet - Pinyin. They will write things like 谢谢 as "xiè xie," meaning "Thank you."
These have nothing to do with Mandarin

Let's crack into it!

The pronunciation of each vowel is fairly consistent. Though they use all the same vowels, they are not pronounced the same as in english. Combinations can be especially difficult at times. The best way to learn it is to watch this childrens video on the pronunciation. Ok, maybe it's not the best way, but it will drill it in. Over, and over, and over.

For taking notes, it's useful to know how to write pinyin on Mac or on PC. Once you have your keyboard changed, it's just a matter of remembering how to add the proper accents and making sure you have the correct ones.

Also Irrelevant to Mandarin.
It's in Japan, actually.
For most (if not every) word, there are 4 intonations that are consistently referred to by their tongue/pronunciation number, and will change the word dramatically. The intonations, in their proper order, is as follows:

  • Explanation - example word - example word translation
  1. Flat - - "Mother"
  2. Upward - má - Flax/Hemp, the fabric
  3. Down, then up - - Horse
  4. Down - - "to swear," the verb

My friends will teach me words (Mostly Shimou), and I'll have to ask her "Which tongue?" or "Which intonation?" to which she will respond "third" or "fourth" or whatever it is. That's how consistent this is; I would suggest learning the proper ordering. Think of it like you're driving over a mountain range, coming from plains. Flat, up the mountain, oh shit, a sharp valley! oh thank god, we survived and are heading down from these accursed mountains.

Shimou, my primary teacher, with Ella
 is the word for "I" or "me" and changes based on the context. One thing you'll learn about mandarin is that the context of the word will force the word to conform to it. This makes speaking damn easy, but understanding more difficult when someone is speaking to you. To help you remember Wǒ, think of the Mya's song My Love is like Woah. Who provides your love? You, or from your perspective, Me. Love/Happiness comes from within.

To make some things plural, you can add -men onto the word. Men is plural in english, so just remember that part and imagine throwing a lot of adult males at yourself. If you are an adult male, just picture tons of yourself wrestling. Now, to say We or Us you can use I and make it plural. Wǒmen. Yes, it looks like the english word women, but it is pronounced differently.* If you continue to think of plural adult females, watch this.**

Ňi is You. The phrase Nǐ hǎo is two words mashed together: "You," followed by "good." For some reason this means "hello." Those are two very useful words in mandarin, so simply knowing the word "hello" will help you. How do we say "you" as in a group? That's right, you add men to the situation. Just throw a bunch of -men at you. Nǐmen is what you get.

Homemade Chinese Food
 is him, her, and it. This can be goddamn confusing. "Xǐhuān"[she-huan] is the verb "to like." Knowing that, let's take "Tā xǐhuān tā." He likes her? She likes it? It likes her? It's up to context to decide. Notice that the verb didn't change at all from the infinitive. This is the absolute beauty of mandarin - no conjugation! I found knowing a bit of french makes me confused with the word "tā." How do we make it from "him, her, or it" and make it into them? You got it: introduce the men to the situation. Tāmen.


Hopefully my stupid images that help me remember stuff will also help you. In mandarin, it seems like when you want to make things related to people plural, just throw -men at it. I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but so far it seems to get the point across well enough.


Four Intonations, or Tongues:
  1. Mā - Flat
  2. Má - Up
  3. Mǎ - Down-Up
  4. Mà - Down

  • - I, me
  • - You
  • - Him, Her, It
  • Wǒmen - Us, We
  • Nǐmen - You, plural
  • Tāmen - Them, they

Editing Music: Lady Jesus by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour


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