How To Learn Mandarin Chinese An Introduction

What up guys! Based on popular demand I’m going to start doing weekly (or so) Chinese lessons. I’m going to do things a little different from what I see around the internet when it comes to Chinese learning. Instead of trying to teach you Chinese, I’m going to teach you HOW TO LEARN Chinese. A subtle but very important difference. Let me start with my history of language learning, instruction and study of Chinese.

My Language Learning/Instructing Background

The reason I’m going to give you this background if for a few reasons. Most importantly it’s to let you know I’m somewhat of an “expert” when it comes to language learning and acquisition. I also want to show you that learning a language is an ongoing project that will require a lot of work. You might hear stories of people who have learned such-and-such a language in 6 months but I guarantee you that they either have a crappy grasp of the language, they worked REALLY hard OR they have a system they used which they learned form learning another language.

Hola! Coma Estas? Me LLamo Casey.
Before we even get into Chinese I want to talk about my experience with Spanish. My first experience with a foreign language was in grade school. I went to a Spanish immersion school, so I had all of my subjects in Spanish. This is important because I believe it trained my brain to think and communicate in a language other than my “mother tongue.” This made my process for learning Chinese easier and perhaps different than what you may encounter if it’s the first language your attempting to learn. That’s not a problem. I’m going to be teaching you HOW to learn, not how I learned. 😉 The problem with most classes and systems is that they only address one learning style, I’ll be showing you how to find yours. OK… Back on topic…

Nǐ Hǎo!
I had my first Chinese class back in 1998. My first semester of college. I LOVED it. It actually ended up being the only class I got any credit in that first semester and the only class that I went to the second semester (I don’t recommend taking this approach to college 😉 ). This is where I learned the basics of pronunciation and how to read pinyin. Pronunciation and pinyin is the MOST important things to master in the beginning of your quest to mastering Chinese. In college, besides learning pinyin and pronunciation, I learned some basic vocabulary and grammar. Not NEARLY enough to be useful in a real Chinese speaking situation which I learned really soon…

A Journey to the East
In 2002 I traveled to Taiwan and quickly found out how useless my years of study were. 😛 So I embarked on some EPIC studying. It was also in Taiwan that I started teaching English and began learning the complexities of teaching a foreign language (now my language was foreign!) I was on a mission to figure out the most efficient way to learn Chinese and I believe I found it (for me anyway). It was in a program called [Supermemo]. I won’t go too far into the details, but Supermemo is a flashcard management program that allows you to memorize a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. So I spent 4-6 hours a day creating databases and memorizing flashcards for like 8 months… Epic. 🙂

After that I spent about a year taking classes at various Universities and language schools. Classes suck (to me anyway). They’re good for keeping you on point about studying, and it’s nice having other people studying with you but… classes suck. If you want to know the schools I went to, here they are in order:

  1. Shida
  2. GuoyuRibao
  3. TLI

After all of my EPIC studying and classes I ended up teaching at a school where my coworkers had pretty terrible English. I (thought I had) pretty terrible Chinese so I had them use their English. I would often times mess with the kids using my terrible Chinese and one of the coworkers caught me and was like “Hey! You speak Chinese!” from that point on, everyone spoke to me in Chinese. It was hard catching everything at first, but then… It got easier and easier. And then… I was a badass! 8)

What Does The Scouter Say About His Power Level?
Now that my speaking was pretty good, I needed to improve my reading. Reading is pretty tricky in Chinese because it’s hard to find stuff that’s at your level. Even kids stuff can be really hard. When I first arrived in Taiwan (2002), I bought the first book to Dragon Ball and I was like “Yeah. I’m gonna read this!” It was SOOOO hard. After epic studying, classes and being forced to speak, I decided to try Dragon Ball again (2006). It was still pretty hard, but not nearly as hard as it was before. SO I decided to muscle through it (since I mostly knew the story) and… I did it. I read the whole Dragon Ball saga in Chinese. Now I felt even more badass.

Where I Am Now
I moved back to the US in 2007 and… I haven’t really done any studying and only a little bit a teaching BUT because of how well I absorbed the language while I was studying, I’m still able to hold a conversation and read basic stuff. I think I’m going to pick up some books and find some things to listen to on YouTube to keep things fresh for when I return to Asia. 🙂


I’m going to give you guys some basic homework to do every week. This week’s homework is pretty simple. Just let me know in the comments here (or on the video):

Why do you want to learn Chinese?

I wanted to learn Chinese because I was going to move to China and be a Shaolin monk. 🙂

What is your experience with Chinese language (any classes you’ve taken, etc.)?

You just read mine.

How much time a week (or day) can you dedicate to practice?

Everyone wants to learn Chinese, but how much are you willing to put into it? You’re not going to learn JACK SHIT watching my video once a week (or any videos once a week). You’re going to have to do a lot of self-study and practice outside of the videos (I can help you figure out what the best way to spend your time is).

Comment below and see you next week.

Zàijiàn (Bye!)

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12 Responses to How To Learn Mandarin Chinese An Introduction

  1. sandy says:

    Oh..I live where there are many chinese and I thought it would be good just to learn basics as a show that language can be an unifying force. I go to stores and I can’t even say hello, thank you , can you help me etc. It’s shameful.

    But if it is real difficult; then let me be a judge of that for me. Perhaps I would learn only a “little” bit. Such is life.

    But if you do enjoy teaching then I’d like to see what you suggest. But if you decide I don’t want to invest the time with folks who aren’t serious. Then, I understand that too.

    So do what works for you. But if I can just learn some basics from someone who, like me, believes that the way many schools teach is not the way. I too have been rebellious of “normal educational styles”. And its refreshing to hear a similar voice for a change.

  2. Ray says:

    Hey! I began learning Chinese, about 6 months ago and haven’t learned much at all. I admit to being a little lazy because I had help from a translator. I have spent a few months in China and plan on going back for a year, maybe 2, maybe 5? What tips can you give me and whats the best way to begin learning Chinese?

  3. Brian says:

    Why do you want to learn Chinese?

    A friend took me to a local Chinese restaurant a few years back, I had no idea it existed even though I drove by it all the time. It became sort of a staple, pick up some food, then go hang out and play video games/philosophize about things. Nowadays, I go every couple of weeks, it’s owned by a family and their food is amazing. I would love to walk in one day and competently order a meal in Chinese. Beyond that, it would just be really awesome because then every time I came in I’d know a little more…That’s the immediate goal at least :D.

    What is your experience with Chinese language (any classes you’ve taken, etc.)?

    Well, my first girlfriend was Chinese lol.

    How much time a week (or day) can you dedicate to practice?

    I can COMMIT to at least 30 minutes a day of focused, un-interrupted learning. I’m pretty sure though as I pick up the “basics”, a lot of random practice will be taking place throughout the day in addition to the 30 minutes. “Thinking” in Chinese, teaching my friends/family…ect..

  4. Dare says:

    Hey Casey, i actually think you’re a pretty cool guy like ive been watching your youtube videos for a few years now and have been reading your blog for about 2 weeks lol but i wanted to ask if every now and then you can do some videos teaching basic mma? I think the whole Chinese learning thing is pretty cool and not to ruin your whole thing but i doubt many people are gonna be able to commit the time necessary to actual learn a decent amount of the language. Like i would like to learn Chinese too but i really know the amount of time and energy i would need to put into just wouldn’t be there, for me at least. so yea i would DEFINITELY be super pumped about some mma videos lol

    • miltownkid says:

      I’m actually setting up the last of my websites this week. The name is going to be Black Horse Taichi, but I’ll teach my limited knowledge of MMA there as well. 🙂 The focus on the site is going to be Taichi Push hands, but I’ll cover all aspects of martial arts. It’ll be up before my video is up next week.

  5. Kevin says:

    Why do you want to learn Chinese?

    Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated by Chinese culture. As I learned more, I only wanted to dig deeper. I never took a foreign language in School but always wanted to learn one.

    What is your experience with Chinese language (any classes you’ve taken, etc.)?

    I study a Chinese to English dictionary, so I can read a little bit, but can’t speak at all yet.

    How much time a week (or day) can you dedicate to practice?

    Up to 2 hours per day, but Im lazy though I just need motivation

  6. Arianto says:

    Why do you want to learn Chinese?

    I liked the chinese culture. It has a wonderful language. And after a few years I would like to live in Taiwan for a while.

    What is your experience with Chinese language (any classes you’ve taken, etc.)?

    I’ve taken a short course on my school. It was a introduction for a few weeks. Nowadays I watch Taiwanese drama’s and learned a few things (:

    How much time a week (or day) can you dedicate to practice?

    About 30~75 min a day.

  7. Jamie says:

    Nǐ Hǎo Casey,

    Why do you want to learn Chinese?

    I have been fascinated by the culture, the food, the people ever since I first visited Hong Kong and Singapore. Even the movies, (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Kung fu Hustle, however westernised they are hehe) I like to think i’m quite good at languages, having previously done French and German.
    To go and live in Singapore is a real dream of mine. My main goal is to be fluent, i know this will take alot of time.

    What is your experience with Chinese language (any classes you’ve taken, etc.)?
    I have bought the Program, Fluenz Mandarin and am Currently working through that, hopefully that will give me the basis on which to grow my knowledge of the language. (I can already order food from a restaurant, get a taxi, etc.)
    One of the negatives about this program though is that it works only in the romanized pinyin, and no in the chinese characters, and that is something i would love to be able to read/write further ahead in the future.

    How much time a week (or day) can you dedicate to practice?
    School begins for me in about a months time, until then i can spend as long as i want per day, after that i will be able to commit about 1-2hours, and possibly more on weekends.

    Xié xie

  8. Donald says:

    Weekly lessons? Big disappointment.

  9. msdwightfry says:

    I know it’s been over a year since the first video but I figured I would answer anyway; Let you know you may have another student for now. I’ve never been very good at being taught something, but being shown to teach myself is how I graduated from high school without teachers and with honors. If I hadn’t of taught myself and had attended class I wouldn’t have graduated.
    To answer your questions…. I’ve always wanted to learn another language. There is a few reasons why Chinese seemed like a good fit. The beauty of the characters and mysterious sound has always had my attention. I learn more efficiently when I work from the ground up. Considering I have no experience with the language, it made it all that more a good fit. The widespread and increasing population that will be using it in the near future furthered its appeal after the fact. I can’t say I can have ____ amount of time invested per day. I can say that when I can be productive with my brain and further my knowledge, I take full advantage of that time.
    I do want to give you an extremely appreciative thank you for the very helpful links you provided. Unlike the other video’s I watched that did nothing more than waste my time; Trying to teach phrases I’ve already forgotten, your video gave me a solid starting point. Thank you!!!!!!

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