I'm interested in learning Mandarin bit by bit via listening to music, having conversations with friends who are native to that language, movies and so on.

For some background I have many ethnic Chinese friends with whom I talk on daily basis. I try to read into their conversation and ask about meaning of some words from them later on using them in my mixed English+Chinese speech which sounds funny!

I am also a fan of Zhou Chieh Lun (Jay Chou) and some other singers. Plus, I have been following many Malaysian Chinese YouTubers because of my personal interest who sometimes make videos in Mandarin/Canton.

But I don't have anyone with me interested in learning with whom I can easily discuss without annoying them. I miss that catalyst part in learning Mandarin. I tried using YouTube but it was not that effective.

Is there anything I am doing wrong in my approach to learning Mandarin? I haven't started thinking about writing style though.

2 Answers 2


From my personal experience of learning English, if you want to learn how to speak it before learning how to read and write it, it's basically like building a house without any foundations, you will find it harder to learn in the long run, my opinion is to learn how to read, write and speak the language at the same time. I will just go through how you learn to speak, since you haven't start thinking about writing.


It is always very tempting to learn to speak the language first, but sometimes you will find that what you think you mean doesn't appear to be what it actually means, plus the same sentence doesn't have the same meaning in different situations. This is why you need a good foundation, by that i mean learn the culture, learn what the words means, learn the different scenarios it is used in and then speak it.

Follow books on how to read and write the words but don't count on memorizing the words when you want to speak the language, it doesn't help at all. What i suggest is to listen to TV programs, listen to musics, listen to everything in Chinese and even if you don't understand it, your brain will start to adopt to the pronunciations and your brain will also starts to remember when to use them, you will also learn the culture, and also what i think is very important is getting updated on the pop culture, it is way more enjoyable if you know what's new in the current Chinese society, you feel like you are apart of the culture instead of just a learner. What i enjoyed most is watching stand-up comedy when learning English, you get a lot of culture information from it, similar to a stand-up comedy in China is called 相声. I've watched actual stand-up comedy in China, but it is not the same, the comedians themselves kinda hold back a little bit and the Chinese culture is different, like talking about sex and relationships is normal in Western stand-up comedy, if it's funny, it's funny, but in China? NO, NO, NO, not yet at least, it's not like they are forbidden to talk about it, but because it's awkward. I'm a little bit going off topic, but this is exactly what i mean by learn the culture before you speak it.

So you've learned a little bit about China now what? Practice, Practice, Practice 重要的事情说三遍(Repeat 3 times for important things, another funny phrase in China), talk to people, don't be afraid, don't just say 你好嘛(How are you?), try to have a decent conversation, if you don't understand, ask, people will explain, if you are stuck, ask how to say it properly. Yea, everyone knows practice makes you better, but this is really the key, no shortcuts, no set of learning procedures, if you don't practice how to speak, nothing else really matter.


Live in China and use it every day may be the best and quickest way.

Like learning everything, start from the beginning, learn some basic words, pronunciation, and grammar, then gradually increase the level, like Oxford Reading Tree for primary school pupils.

Watching TV, movie, listening music, reading a novel, all can be helpful.

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