Getting started with Chinese 1
Getting started with Chinese 1

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Getting started with Chinese 1

8 Build a language notebook

At the end of each week we will suggest activities you may do to consolidate what you have been learning, before you progress to the next week. Remember the advice from the start of this week that you will build your language skills little by little. It’s very important for you to keep returning to vocabulary and structures you have been learning, as well as adding new ones.

Without checking back, can you remember a formal and an informal way to say ‘hello’?

What is the difference between the singular pronoun and nín?

You may have answered these questions with ease, but how quickly will you remember the answers in two- or three-weeks’ time? Now is the time to get organised and start formalising the way you develop your language skills.

This is something which is entirely personal to you. You may find that the way you go about it changes; don’t worry if that happens. The important thing is that you find a way to note down new vocabulary and expressions but also tips about pronunciation, grammar, culture and communication in general that will support you as you start to learn Chinese.

How will you do this? Whether you keep your notes on paper or electronically, it’s important to get organised, so here is an idea that may help, based on your Week 1 studies:

Activity 7

Table 1 Language notebook

Key phrases in Pinyin
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Pronunciation (including tones)
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Words: 0
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What would you write into each box above, if anything? Would you add more boxes?


This is a suggestion as to how you may have filled in the boxes.

Table 2 Example of a completed language notebook for Week 1

Key phrases in Pinyin nǐ hǎo, nín hǎo, xièxie, bú xiè, zàijiàn
Pronunciation (including tones)

a, o, e, i, u, ü

mā, má, mǎ, mà, ma

j, z, x


Using nín hǎo when greeting someone who is senior (age or position) or who you meet for the first time.

Chinese people will shake hands instead of hugging or kissing each other when greeting to each other.


nǐ hǎo for informal greeting, nín hǎo for formal greeting

Pinyin is the most accepted system used for transcribing Mandarin Chinese into the Latin alphabet. In Mandarin Chinese, there are four tones (five if the neutral tone is included). Same syllables with different tones often have different meanings and with different character forms.

Tone changes:

  • two 3rd tone syllables together, the first syllable’s 3rd tone will be pronounced as 2nd tone. E.g. nǐ hǎo →  hǎo
  • when (4th tone in isolation) is followed by another 4th tone syllable, it changes to the 2nd tone bú. E.g. bù xiè  →  xiè

You may have filled the boxes in differently, or you may have a different idea about how to build on what you are learning. Your learning journey is personal, so you need to keep notes in a way that is appropriate to you.

Take some time now to establish your own language notebook.


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