Learn Mandarin in 10 days
Sound impossible? Well, probably because it is. But suppose for a minute, imagine if you only had 10 days to learn Mandarin – how would you do it? How would you start learning Mandarin? How would you prioritize what to learn first?
Today we’ll lay out the steps to learn Mandarin. We’ll start condensing it down into 10 days, but know the same steps and principles can be spread out over a much longer period of time for maximum results.
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Day 1: Master Chinese Pronunciation
The quickest way to learn how to pronounce Chinese words is with a system called “Pinyin” (aka the Chinese alphabet) that puts Chinese into English (as close as it can). This system is pretty close to accurate. As you can imagine, though, not all Chinese sounds can be duplicatde through the English alphabet.
Day 2: Master Chinese Tones
Now that you’ve got your pronunciation down, it’s time to learn that Chinese is a tonal language. That means you’ll need to move your voice up and down as you’re saying different combinations of these letters. Pinyin is the study of both the pronunciation and tones together. There’s a secret fifth tone that is actually neutral or “no tone.”
Spend time working on every syllable with all 3 tones. Only then, will you be comfortable speaking the Chinese language?
Day 3: Full Pinyin Full Mastery
TutorMandarin recommends a full 6 lessons Pinyin course to get all these pronunciations and tones down. Lessons at TutorMandarin are 50 minutes and this course should only take you 6 hours of class time.
Our classes are taught with real online Chinese tutors, interactive PDfs, and a super cool virtual classroom. Check out a youtube video of an example and sign up to try with a free trial class for yourself.
Since each Pinyin lesson is one hour, you can spend your a whole day working on Pinyin. Since pronunciation is the first step and so important to a good Chinese foundation, we recommending learning pinyin with a real Chinese tutor. Here’s an example of what those classes look like (there are 4 full pinyin lessons posted on youtube at the moment!).
Day 4: Learn the 100 Most Common Chinese Characters
Ok, now before you can put together a sentence, you need to learn some basic nouns, verbs, and other things. However, studies have shown you can get pretty far with just 100 characters. So, there’s no easy way around this — you just need to memorize them. Luckily, you know the pronunciation and the tones so now you can just start going through the list.
Here’s the full list of the top 100 most common Chinese words with all the info you need: Chinese, Pinyin, English and 2 example sentences for each. This is great if you want to make your own flashcard deck (Anki) or just check them off through a spreadsheet. All sentences are originally created by Tutormandarin and are not licensed for any commercial use — but feel free to enjoy them personally.
Our curriculums are all designed around HSK standards, so these are all the same words that make up our Beginner 1 course. The course breaks them into 45 well-organized lessons based on interesting and practical themes.
At this point, you’ll be learning the words with the pinyin. We haven’t gotten into Chinese characters yet. If you only have 10 days to learn Chinese, usually the best you can hope for is to speak it at a basic level. Learning to write all the characters takes quite a while.
Day 5: Start Learning Grammar with Lessons
Next, it’s time to learn about sentence construction and basic Chinese grammar. Now, thank god Chinese grammar isn’t particularly hard — there are no genders for verbs, there’s not much emphasis on past/present, and, in general, sentence structure typically mimics English. How do you say “She is very beautiful” in Chinese? Welp, it’s just She Very Beautiful. Don’t even need a verb!
At TutorMandarin we build our everything into our Chinese lessons – Warm Up, Vocabulary, Exercise, Grammar, Conversation, Exercise, Discussion, and Homework. Since lessons are all built around a theme, this is the ideal way to learn level-appropriate vocab and grammar while learning about an interesting culture topic that ties everything together. This is the best way to start learning and reading and learning.
Day 6-10: Study Chinese Lessons or Chinese Words
Option 1: Learn as many lessons as possible
Now you’ve got a pretty good foundation so you can choose how to use your remaining time. Our beginner 1 course has 45 lessons to learn the first words and grammar. If you study 9 hours a day, you can complete all 45 lessons in the remaining five days! That would be impressive! Granted, your retention wouldn’t necessarily be that great. Also, we do not recommend this way of learning and memorizing things quickly.
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Option 2: Learn as many words as possible
On the other hand, if you know 1000 Chinese character then you can actually read up to 90% of a Chinese newspaper and maybe can say you “learned Mandarin.” If this is your goal, you can 4 days with our vocab table/flashcard/anki deck and see how close you get to the 1000 character milestone. Then you can say with some degree of technical correctness that you have learned **90% of Chinese**.
The full list of 1000 most common Chinese words.
Some Perspective on how to learn Mandarin in 10 days
But to be honest, our pinyin course is 6 full lessons (50 minutes) by themselves to get started and then you can move on to our Beginner 1 course (45 full lessons). Realistically if you study twice a week, you can complete a course in 6 months, which is the equivalent to completing one of six levels of Chinese (there are official 6 levels according to the HSK or “Chinese Proficiency Test.”). However, if you study 3-4 times a week and you’ll be done one level in only 3-4 months. Heck, you could easily finish 2 levels of Chinese in one year if you’re dedicated enough!
Start today with a free Chinese class. You can do it!