Learning Mandarin in Shanghai
Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 11 of 44 › view all entries
July 10th, 2006 – by: Connie
I was lucky enough to have an old family friend from home living in Shanghai. But he wasn't actually in the city while I was there. He was a university student and since it was summer, he decided to spend his time off in Hong Kong leaving his apartment vacant.
Awesome for me!
So now that I had a free place to stay for the next 6 weeks, I figured I had to milk it! I signed up for a 6 week beginner Mandarin course.
For anyone thinking of learning this language, I highly recommend it. Patience is needed and a sense of humour - at yourself! Having grown up around family members speaking Cantonese, it was easier for me to hear and mimic the different tones in Mandarin granting me a bit of an edge compared to my classmates. There are four tones plus a fifth neutral tone. Tones are very key to learning Mandarin because the way you say a word actually dictates what it means. If you were to say "he" it could mean "to drink" or it could mean "river" depending on the tone you use.
Some people find this confusing, but English is also very confusing too. Example: say the words 'said', 'side', 'sad', 'sod', and 'seed' out loud. They sound almost the same but with subtle differences in pronunciation. Or look at the sentence "I once read that if you read a lot it improves your vocabulary' or 'I object to that object on that table'. What the crap?!?! And let's not forget our favourites: there, their and they're.
To people who speak English natively, these subtle difference in pronunciation are very loud and clear. But to a person not used to using those words, they sound the same. Mandarin is like that, but with its tones. My favourite is the Mandarin word 'mai'. Depending on the tone, this word can mean 'to sell' or 'to buy'. That's one you really don't want to mess up!
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