Getting started with Chinese 1
Getting started with Chinese 1

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Getting started with Chinese 1


Have you always wanted to learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese and been fascinated by the Chinese characters? Perhaps you have plans to visit the Great Wall of China, teach English in China or work for companies that have business links with Chinese-speaking countries. Or perhaps you are simply fascinated by the sound, the script and its ancient civilisation. There are so many reasons for learning Chinese, so many motivations and rewards, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start.

This course offers you an excellent start to achieving a basic understanding of the structure of the Chinese language and the ability to communicate in Mandarin Chinese. Starting with simple greetings and saying your name, you will progress towards understanding more complex language in a variety of different scenarios. The course includes interactive activities, explanations, exercises and tips about language learning. It is a good idea to keep notes either on paper or electronically so that you can keep track of your progress.

Before you start, just a few words about the Chinese language. It is spoken by the Han Chinese, and hence called 汉语 hàn yŭ (literally Han language). The Han Chinese constitute 94 percent of China’s population. Chinese is also spoken in Taiwan, Singapore and by many overseas Chinese communities in other areas of the world. Chinese is widely regarded as a group of related languages. This is because the Chinese language is divided into seven major dialects (with many sub-dialects): Cantonese, Gan, Hakka, Mandarin, Min, Wu, and Xiang. In this course, you are going to learn the official dialect, Mandarin Chinese (also known as 中文 Zhōngwén).

Another important thing to do before you start is to take some time to decide how you will allocate your time to your studies. Learning Chinese, like learning any language, is a gradual process; it’s often described as a ‘marathon, not a sprint.’ Little and often is the best approach, so if at all possible, spread your 3–4 hours over the week, rather than devoting one whole afternoon or evening. This will give you plenty of opportunities to revisit vocabulary and language structures, to revise quickly what you did last time and above all, to practise and consolidate. This is the best way to learn vocabulary and perfect your pronunciation and tones.

It’s also a very good idea to involve your family and friends; let them know you have decided to start learning Chinese and they can help you when you practise what you have been learning, or leave you in peace when you need to study.

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • say hello and goodbye and thank people in Mandarin Chinese
  • respond to greeting and thanks
  • use personal pronouns including the politeness pronoun nín
  • count from 0 to 99
  • recognise some Pinyin spelling conventions.

Now that you are fully prepared, 开始吧 kāshĭ ba (let’s start) on Week 1.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: lxc001_wk1_intro_aud001.mp3
Skip transcript


kāshĭ ba

End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371