Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course
Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course

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Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course

Beginners’ Chinese: a taster course


This free course, Beginners' Chinese: a taster course, is introductory material for absolute beginners in Chinese. This course concentrates on Mandarin Chinese as a tool for communication, but also provides some insights into Chinese society and culture. It contains a brief introduction to the Chinese language, its scripts and sounds, and how words are formed. The language activities and audio extracts presented here are not meant for a complete course, but are samples to give you a taste of what it is like to learn Chinese. You will hear short conversations where people greet each other and introduce themselves, and learn how to count from one to ten. You’ll learn different ways of saying your name and greeting people, as well as give your telephone number.

Before you continue with this course, make sure you have enabled the Chinese font on your computer. Video 1 gives step-by-step instructions on how to do this for both PC and Mac users.

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Transcript: Video 1

In this video, I'm going to show you how to enable Chinese characters on a Windows computer. First of all, you need to go to your start button and go to your settings. Once you're on your settings, you go to time and language. In time and language, you have a language section, then you will go down, scroll down to preferred languages, add a preferred language, and then type Chinese. It will come up as Chinese simplified or other types, traditional, and so on. But we're just going to do with the Chinese simplified, which is the standard.
We click on that, we click on Next, and it starts searching for the language features. Then, you will install it and it starts installing in your computer. It depends on how fast or how slow your system is. It will download it. And you can see how the colour is starting to show when the file is being downloaded. If you can see at the bottom of the screen also, you will see English, but once you click on that-- that has been installed now, so I can just close that window.
And at the bottom of my screen, I have a Word document open. I see English, if I click on that, it will give me the simplified Chinese that has been already downloaded. So I want to type in Chinese, I click on that and I go to my Word document, OK, and I would start typing. So if we want to type the word rén for person just write R-e-n, Ren and you will see the different Rens that come depending on what word you want. But we want person, so we click on number 1, or you just type number 1 in your computer, and that will turn into rén.
If you want to type number 1 is , you just type y-i, and the different characters will come up. And you note this is number 1, so you click on that, and that will be number one. Number 4, , you just type s-i, and the first one will be number 1, number 4, sorry. So you have to be careful of which word you want to choose.
Equally, if you want to type the current characters for Bĕijīng, which are two characters, you need to type them together. So the word appears together. If you type Bei first, then you will have to look for the right character for Bĕijīng. So Bei, and then jing, you will have to look for the right character, which is in order. But if you type Beijing together, that will come up as the word.
I'm going to show you how to set up the Chinese language on your MacBook. So first of all, you go into your system preferences and go to language. In language, you will have a list of the current languages you use, and if you want to add one more, click on the plus sign and pick the one you want, in this case, we want Chinese simplified. So we click on Add, and that will show you in the list. It asks you if you want to use it as your primary language but you say, no, use English, and close that.
Then when you have your Word document open, you go up to the little flag at the top of the screen. And if you click on that, it's showing the English language flag or the British flag. You want to change it to pinyin, to Chinese, click on that. You can also choose to hand-write it if you want, but you can use that to use pinyin. Then you go to your Word document and you type for example, nǐ hăo, and then you click on the number 1 that shows the right characters for hello, nǐ hăo.
End transcript: Video 1
Video 1
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Now watch Video 2 which explains how to type words in Chinese on a computer.

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Transcript: Video 2

In this section, I'm going to teach you how to type in Chinese. We use the system called pinyin. Pinyin, in this column. So to be able to find the right character, you need to type the word in pinyin. So for example, if we want to type the word , which is I or me, once you set up your language preference into Chinese, then you type the pinyin, w-o. And in here, you will have a selection of different characters that share the same sound but maybe-- what's obviously with different tones. So you will have a selection of characters you could choose from.
If you need an extra character, you will need to click on the arrow. And it will keep giving you all the extra characters that share the same sound. In this case, I want to pick the very first one so I go back, I click on that, or type number one. And that's the character that you have here. If we want to type number one, , just type y-i and the first one is not the one I'm looking for for number one but it's the second one. So I click on the second one.
Now if I want to type words that have two, three, or more characters, you need to type the pinyin together. So for example, in Bĕijīng, you have to type bei jing together and you will get the whole word. If you only type bei-- bei, you will get different bei. So then you will have to look for the right one. In this case is here, but it's easier to type up the whole word, Beijing. And you will be able to get the right one. OK. So this is the right one.
If you want to type, for example, the word for woman, nǚrén-- nǚrén. If you see the pronunciation of this , you will need to type up n-v instead of n-u. If you type n-u, you will not find the right character. So n-u-ren, if you see the one I typed up here, you will not find it. So you need to type n-v-ren and you will find nǚrén which is woman. And that is how you type the characters in Chinese.
Sometimes there are characters that you will need to scroll down a little bit to find them. For example, the word for pear is li. And it doesn't appear at the beginning of the list. So you will need to keep clicking on the arrow to be able to find the right character, if you know it already. So here it is li and that is the character for pear. So again, you need to know which character you are looking for, once you become more confident with learning the language.
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
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You may wish to download the Instructions on how to enable Chinese font and type characters [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   for your own reference.

Please note, to revert back to an English (or your primary language) keyboard on a Windows PC you will need to click on the Chinese character , which appears in the bottom right hand corner of your computer screen next to the date and time and where you will have originally switched from an English to Chinese keyboard. Once you have clicked on this character you will then be given the option to select the English keyboard. The same rules apply for reverting back to English on a Mac, however the character will be found in the top right hand corner or your computer screen, again in the position where you originally switched your keyboard to Chinese.

This OpenLearn course provides a taster for studying other Chinese short courses at The Open University’s Open Centre for Languages and Cultures and the 15-credit Learning to teach languages in primary schools (Beginners Mandarin Chinese).


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