Learning Mandarin Chinese: Day One

Yesterday, we released a post showing that we’d go through the Language Bug method from scratch to detail the effectiveness and pitfalls of the method, and give an overview of the results you can achieve in a specific amount of time. This is a post to detail the first day of studying a new language, in this case, we’re learning Mandarin Chinese.

The following are my notes, and are rather free-form. Apologies for them not reading like a polished article, but I prefer to spend more time learning and divulging the method as opposed to cleaning up my notes. In the future, I’ll probably come back and clean them up for posterity’s sake.

Learning Mandarin Chinese Day One

As per the LanguageBug method, today concentrated mainly on coming to terms with the sound of the language in terms of the phonological ‘letters.’ We use the IPA. This is great for a language like Mandarin, because of the complex writing system. Whilst there are thousands of different characters which could take a lifetime to master, there are only so many sounds. This is what alphabets in other languages are based on. Mandarin doesn’t have an alphabet, but we can use the same principles.It’s also handy for decoding pin-yin. Of course, we aren’t going to concentrate on pin-yin at any point in the course, because it’s a tool as opposed to an end goal. (I’ll hopefully talk about this in another entry.)

Whilst we’re coming to terms with the sounds of Mandarin, we can also start learning the characters as an unrelated project. We’ll use a mnemonic device, or story.
For instance, 人 is a great place to start. We’ll make up a story about 人 , which is pronounced rén and means ‘man’ or ‘person’.
The story can be stupid, and doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else, and doesn’t need to be permanent. It’s just for you to remember until it’s committed to your memory fully.
As an example then, before a person runs, (rén), they need to put their hands down at their sides and stretch their legs to either side of them. (人 )
As you can see, this example provides the meaning (person), the pronunciation(run), and the character itself as part of the story. Doing this, you can learn characters very quickly. Aim for at least 10 a day if you have an hour’s session.

My Progress with Learning Mandarin Chinese Today

Learning Mandarin Chinese Day One: Speaking and Listening:

Find out about the IPA for Mandarin. (I haven’t worried about tones at this point, because it’s a seperate topic. I am learning only the syllabic ‘letters’ at this point.) Here is a quick example of what I have put on to flashcards to drill:

Learning Mandarin Chinese Day One: An Example of the IPA in Mandarin

Learning Mandarin Chinese Day One: An Example of the IPA in Mandarin



I’ve done this for consonants, vowels and other assorted sounds.

This is the first part of a document I’ll build around the phonology of a language I’m learning. I’ll upload more photos as time goes on.
I also listened to Chinese I, Unit I of Pimsleur’s Mandarin Chinese course.

Learning Mandarin Chinese Day One: Reading and Writing:

I learned ten characters. I should really concentrate on the radicals (i.e. parts of characters,) and that will come later. For now, I just want to build a somewhat extensive list of memorised figures, even though I’ll make the process more efficient once I learn how the system works.

Day One of Learning Mandarin Chinese: In Conclusion and Stuff for Tomorrow:

I spent less than an hour of study time to learn the above. Intermittently, I’ll recap in my mind to no particular schedule. At this stage, that’s enough.

– Get a brief overview of tones. This isn’t going to be comprehensive at this point, just enough so I know that I’m not learning incorrectly. That way, I’ll not have to relearn things in the future.
– Recapping of every thing I learned today. Ten characters, one pimsleur session, all the IPA sounds of Mandarin. I hope to drill these things in so that I only have to recap each new piece of knowledge for two days. I will recap day one’s work on days two and three, and hopefully this will then be sufficient to have it committed to memory.

Language Bug