How to Learn Chinese – 10 Things I Wish I knew from Day 1…

This article looks at 10 Things I Wish I knew from Day 1 about How to Learn Chinese!

Chinese is no more difficult than any other foreign language. It is, however, more time consuming – see this article for my thoughts on this.

The “difficult” part of Chinese is that unlike with other languages all of the tricky parts appear on the first day, all at the same time! Namely these difficult parts are : pronunciation, the tones and Chinese characters.

I hope that these tips can help you get over the hump and starting to enjoy Chinese quickly!

Talk from Day 1

Get speaking as soon as possible. Go and say 你好 today. Make mistakes, get corrections and learn. No native speakers nearby, no excuses with the internet!

Work out Why you are Learning Chinese

Starting to learn Chinese without a good reason to do so likely lead to failure. Take 5-10 minutes right now to work out why you want to learn Chinese. Write it down. Refine the reason to make it definite and attainable and then make sure you see your reason on a daily basis to help give you momentum.

Pronunciation and Pinyin

Before tackling Chinese characters make sure you have a firm grip on pinyin pronunciation and the tones. Trying to juggle pronunciation, tones AND characters all at the same time is a nightmare. Make your first few weeks go a little smoother by nailing each skill individually and then combining them.

Tackling the Tones

Why tones are vital. Knowing about tone equivalencies in English. How to deal with that slippery third tone. Using tone pair drills to master the tones.

Getting your phone/computer set up for Chinese

Here’s a basic article covering what you need to know to get your devices set up for Chinese. If this doesn’t cover your particular device a quick google using “devicename chinese keyboard” will do the trick.

Pattern based grammar

Chinese grammar is highly “pattern-based”. Learn these patterns and you’ll be able to communicate much faster than if you try to bolt together your own sentences.


How all Chinese characters are composed of the same ~200 “pieces”.

Phonetic-Semantic characters

How to guess at the meaning AND the pronunciation of a character without knowing it. Black magic!

How to learn characters (a Systematic Method)

When you are ready to plunge into learning the characters you’ll want to check out this comprehensive system.

Chinese is not that hard (and even a little fun!)