Learn to Speak and Read Mandarin Chinese

Resources for Students

Interested in learning Mandarin Chinese? You’re not alone. Mandarin is one of the most popular languages for business, travel, and pleasure.

Many people think that learning Mandarin Chinese is difficult. There is no doubt that learning to write Mandarin Chinese characters presents a formidable challenge that can take years to master. Learning to speak Mandarin Chinese, however, is fairly simple because there are none of the verb conjugations that are found in many Western languages.

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the pitch of a syllable can change its meaning. There are four tones in spoken Mandarin: high; rising; falling and rising; and falling.

These kinds of tones are also used in English for emphasis or inflection, but Mandarin tones are entirely different. The tones are the most challenging part of spoken Mandarin, but once the concept has been absorbed, Mandarin vocabulary and grammar is surprisingly easy.

Learning Mandarin Tones

We have several articles and exercises to help you master the four Mandarin tones. You should practice your tones every day until you can pronounce them and recognize them easily.

Take advantage of the sound files that are included in these tone lessons by repeating them until you can accurately produce the four tones.


Most people hold back learning Chinese characters until they have at least a basic understanding of the spoken langauge.

Fortunately, there is an alternative way of reading and writing Mandarin that is based on the Western (Roman) alphabet – Romanization.

Romanization transposes the sounds of spoken Chinese into the Roman alphabet so that learners can read and write the language. There are several systems of Romanization, but the most popular is Pinyin.

All of the lessons on this website use Pinyin, and it is also used in the majority of textbooks and other learning materials. Being able to read and write Pinyin is essential for studying Mandarin Chinese.

Here are some Pinyin resources:

Mandarin Grammar

There are a few stumbling blocks when it comes to Mandarin grammar. Sentence construction is often quite different from Western languages, so you must learn to think in Mandarin rather than trying to translate from one language to another.

Take heart, though. In many ways, Mandarin grammar is very easy. There are no verb conjugations, and you never have to worry about subject / object agreements.

Here are some articles and lessons on Mandarin grammar:

Expanding Your Vocabulary

Once you’ve got the basics of tones and pronunciation, you can begin to concentrate on expanding your vocabulary. Here are some vocabulary-building resources:

Test Your Knowledge

We have several audio quizzes which can help you in your study of Mandarin by testing your listening comprehension.

  • Tone Quiz
  • Numbers from One to Ten
  • Mandarin Dates
  • What time is it?
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Su, Qiu Gui. "Learn to Speak and Read Mandarin Chinese." ThoughtCo, Jun. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/learn-to-speak-and-read-mandarin-2279534. Su, Qiu Gui. (2017, June 19). Learn to Speak and Read Mandarin Chinese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-to-speak-and-read-mandarin-2279534 Su, Qiu Gui. "Learn to Speak and Read Mandarin Chinese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-to-speak-and-read-mandarin-2279534 (accessed November 18, 2017).