Learning Chinese - Introduction

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Learning IntroductionIntroductionPīnyīn

Chapter Archive

Origin Oracle bone script
Method Pictographic
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg
Chinese characteristics
Character format Simplified and Traditional
Type Hànzì Character
Pīnyīn Definition

zhōng
  • middle
  • intermediary
  • within
Stroke information
Strokes 4
Animation of 中 stroke order

Image of 中 stroke order

Welcome to Learning Chinese! It looks like you're interested in digging into this deep language. If you are still not sure whether you should learn Chinese, that a look at the Learning introduction. This introduction is to explain what some of the more technical aspects you will encounter through this course, rather than the language itself.

Starting from British English

This site assumes you are good at using English. We are British so we use British English. We will try to avoid solely British terms but if can't avoid it we will try to point out the non-British terms. But if we don't, please point it out.

Learning speed

This course will not point out how many pages you get through in a day. Learning speed is different for different people. The only real thing to mention is to learn everything on a page thoroughly before you go to the next one. Otherwise, you might risk going too far and forgetting items on previous pages.

Simplified versus traditional hànzì

Simplified Chinese is the official system of writing hànzì in mainland China and Singapore. These characters are easier to write than traditional Chinese, which is used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan (and tends to be used in oversea Chinese communities). This course will teach simplified Chinese as this is the most common written form of Chinese. Traditional characters will not be covered by this course, if mentioned if will only be briefly. The site does have articles of traditional characters though that will detailed.

Comparisons with traditional Chinese

The only differences between simplified and traditional characters are how some are written. Simplified characters are easier to write but don't make much sense etymologically in comparison to their traditional counterparts. These are not needed in the learning process but will be pointed out in collapsible boxes like the below.

Mandarin versus Cantonese Chinese

Mandarin is the main branch of Chinese, though actually only around 70%. There are lot of other dialects of Chinese, many are mutually intelligible, which means that speakers of these dialects can understand each other without studying the other dialect. However, rather oddly, some dialects are not mutually intelligible, the most well known one being Cantonese. Cantonese is used in the area surrounding Guangzhou, which includes Hong Kong and Macau. Aside from using the same, though traditional characters, Cantonese should be treated as a different language to Mandarin when learning it. Cantonese pronunciations and grammar, and thus sentence structure, are different. Also Cantonese spoken word does not always match the written word, making Cantonese even more complex. This site will not cover non-Mandarin dialects unless it is of interest, such as etymologically.

Comparisons with Japanese

This course will assume you do not know any Japanese, which is instead taught via Learning Japanese. However, there are some similarities and differences between Chinese and Japanese that are interesting to point out. As they could potentially be distracting, since it is not necessary to know these to learn Chinese, they will be in collapsible boxes like the below for you to expand if you wish. They can be helpful if you already know Japanese or are learning Japanese at the same time (in which case I admire your dedication).

Other interesting information

Similarly, other interesting information that is not needed in the learning process will be in collapsible boxes like the below.

Character information boxes

On the right, you can see a character box that gives a summary of the character ''. These will be displayed for terms throughout the course, showing the definition and linking to the term's main page. Since this course is for learning Chinese, the Japanese section will be hidden by default but you can reveal the Japanese section by clicking the '[show]' button.

Alright, that's enough technicalities. Let's learn some Chinese.

Learning IntroductionIntroductionPīnyīn

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Learning Chinese
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