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Chinese - Speak it like a native

or ask a native to speak it?

Image: Chinese numbers

It only takes a few minutes for first time visitors to China to realise that most of their pre-conceptions about China were wrong, that "surprisingly" everything is in Chinese and that the vast majority of people do not speak English.

A short while later they get an even bigger surprise when they discover that the way the Chinese display numbers with their fingers is different too! Most find that the numbers one – five are understandable but six to ten are completely incomprehensible. All numbers are expressed using only one hand. Six, for example, is expressed by displaying the thumb and little finger. It is normally at this stage that they thank their lucky stars that have hired an interpreter (from China Expert naturally !) and that they decide to learn Chinese from one of the many language schools and private tutors.

Be warned, however - It is not easy to learn Chinese and, frankly, impossible to learn without expert tuition. Fortunately, there are a large number of Chinese language schools and private tutors available.

Language schools and private tutors

Please feel free to follow the links to various Chinese Language Schools. They are listed in alphabetical order. Most of them offer a choice of private lessons or group classes and are very flexible regarding the times of the lessons.

Some very basic info about Chinese

There is no such language as oral Chinese. Chinese is a collective word for a number of languages spoken by the Chinese people. Sometimes the differences are small (similar to the difference between English and American), sometimes the differences are wider (similar to the difference between English and Spanish) and sometimes the difference is huge (similar to the difference between English and Arabic or Hebrew). All of them though are tonal languages. That is to say that if you use the wrong tone you might get a completely different meaning!!! The times though are changing and today Mandarin Chinese is taught in all the schools and is used as the language for the National (not necessarily Regional) Radio and Television stations. (N.B. Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones plus a neutral tone). Despite the fact that there can be such big differences between the spoken Chinese languages all mainland Chinese use the same form of writing (Simplified Chinese). Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan still use the traditional form.

Written Chinese is not based on an alphabet but on characters that were originally pictograms. In some instances one character (called Hanzi) represents a word and sometimes more than one character is required. The Chinese characters can be transliterated via the use of Pinyin. Pinyin is the method used to express the characters with European letters and shows the correct tone for the pronunciation. The best way to explain this is to use a very simple example.

The Mandarin for ” Hello” would be expressed in Pinyin as “ni (3) hao (3)”. “Ni (3)” as in the English word “knee” and “hao (3)” as in the English word “how”. The numbers in the brackets represent the required tone. Pinyin was not invented in order to make life simple for foreigners, but as a tool for the Chinese to use, originally, typewriters and now computers.

Image: Links

Links to Chinese Language Schools in Beijing:

The Bridge School
- A Chinese language training school for foreigners.

Culture Yard is a foreign-run language school and cultural centre in the heart of Beijing. It's professional native speaking teachers, unique course structures and community atmosphere make it a very interactive learning environment. Culture Yard offers intensive and part-time Chinese study courses for all levels. From survival Chinese to advanced Chinese discussion classes, there is a group class for everyone.

FRONTIERS - Makes Chinese Study Easier. The Frontiers School was established in 2003 and has taught students from over 50 nationalities. Frontiers is dedicated to providing high quality mandarin language courses. In addition to private students, Frontiers has provided courses to more than 40 major international organizations including embassies, consultancy firms, hotels, as well as multinational telecommunication and manufacturing companies. Frontiers is conveniently located in Dongzhimen and, in addition to studying at the school, Frontiers is happy to send teachers to one's office or home.

LiveTheLanguage - Located in the heart of Beijing, Live the Language Mandarin School believes that Chinese study should not just be limited to the classroom. LiveTheLanguage feel that when you study in China you are also able to immerse yourself in Chinese culture, giving you a deeper understanding of the Chinese language.

Moving Mandarin - Their goal is to Make Quality Chinese Education Accessible to ALL. They are staffed 24/7 to connect with students around the world and to provide immediate academic and technical assistance.

My Chinese Study is one of the top private Chinese language schools in Beijing China, providing Mandarin classes and cultural activities to students worldwide. Whether you simply want to learn Chinese, join a summer course, get tips about how to write Chinese characters, or want to study and immerse yourself in the culture with our unique tours, MY Chinese Study has just what you are looking for.

New Concept Mandarin - located at San Yuan Qiao. They have branches in a number of cities in China and have an impressive track record. However, they are one of the more expensive Chinese language schools. They will argue that "you get what you pay for".

Tailor Made Chinese- Their mission is to provide each student with the most appropriate tools to learn Chinese.

Language Exchange Network - Your free resource for foreign language conversation partners

Listen to the sound of China with arguably the most famous of Chinese songs.

The Moon Represents My Heart - Teresa Teng (Deng Li Jun).

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