Enrolling in a Mandarin language class for the first time can be a daunting task.
Questions swirl through your mind, such as, “Will I be good at learning Chinese?” and “What if I make a fool of myself in front of my classmates?” You might be worried that the Mandarin language will be too difficult for you to master or that your teacher will be intimidating. I remember being very scared before my first Chinese class in Taiwan, back in 2001.
All of these fears are a perfectly natural part of beginning to study a foreign language. But if you are thinking of taking a Mandarin language class, fear not! Whether you are five years old, or fifty, you should have no trouble mastering basic Chinese and, amazingly, you will be speaking a few simple phrases in Chinese within just a few weeks.
Mandarin Language Classes: The Basics
So what should you expect from your Mandarin language class? Studying Chinese is no different from studying any other language, and if you have taken a foreign language class before, you will already be well prepared.
Your teacher, who could be Taiwanese, Chinese, Singaporean or even a Westerner who speaks Mandarin, will most likely begin by taking you through the basic tones and pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese.
You will encounter a lot of speaking exercises where you are taught to differentiate between the four tones, and you will spend several weeks mastering basic Pinyin, which is the Romanized form of Chinese.
Learning the Mandarin Chinese Characters
As your Mandarin language class progresses, your instructor will gradually begin including written characters into your regime. Most Mandarin courses introduce written characters fairly early on in the class schedule to allow the students to adjust to a new form of writing and to master the basic order in which the character’s lines are written. This is known as stroke order.
Learning Mandarin Chinese, one step at a time!
A good Mandarin language class will incorporate all four forms of language learning. They are: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Most likely, your first few Chinese classes will focus mostly on listening and speaking, and will gradually incorporate reading and writing as you go, since these are the most difficult of the four.
Practice between your Mandarin language classes
You can expect your teacher to call on you at random in class to go through pronunciation and listening exercises. He or she may include a series of drills, whereby you as the student are expected to provide either the Chinese or the English words on command.
Because of this, it is incredibly important to study hard and practice in between your Mandarin language classes, so that you are well prepared the first time the teacher calls your name!
Enjoy your Mandarin language class!
If you are feeling nervous about your first class, try to relax. This is a perfectly natural response to a new situation. In fact, you might even feel nervous for the first few class sessions, but as time goes on, you will become more competent with Chinese and find yourself enjoying the classes immensely!
And remember, Mandarin language classes are just one wonderful tool for learning Chinese. The best way to really become fluent, though, is to spend some time in a Mandarin-speaking country, or even enroll in a class there! Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung are 4 wonderful cities in Taiwan where you can enroll in Mandarin language programs.
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