The Layman’s Guide to Learning Mandarin Chinese, Part 1

你好, I am excited to announce that in 2018 I will be studying Chinese Mandarin. To help keep me motivated I’ll be taken part in the Language Learners Amplified Program (#LLAP)  which is a 3-month motivational program aimed at a more holistic approach to achieving your goals. In my first week of the program, I have decided to go back to the very beginning (as I have studied Mandarin in the past) and work on my ‘tones’.

Introducing the Tones

Chinese Mandarin is a tonal language, therefore, it is really important to get the tones correct right from the start! A word such as ‘ma‘ can have many different meanings depending on the tone used, for example…

First Tone – mā (ma1)

Meaning mother. This first tone is high and flat. To help memorize it think of a doctor telling you to say “Aaah” When he looks down your throat!

Second Tone – má (ma2) 

Meaning hemp. The second tone is rising. It is similar to when we ask a question.

Third Tone – mǎ (ma3)

Meaning horse. The third tone is low. It is referred to as the “falling-rising” tone or the “dipping” tone. The tone needs to start very low then rise up. One way that helps me to remember the sound of this tone is to imagine a bouncy ball. Throw it down and catch it on the way up.

Fourth Tone – mà (ma4)

Meaning scold. The fourth tone is falling. Think of it as an angry-sounding tone or a tone of statement for example “No!”. This tone also tends to be shorter in duration than the other three tones.

Neutral Tone – ma

Just keep it short and light. Don’t emphasize it. Ma is often used as a question marker.

A Holistic Approach to Learning Chinese

The Language Learners Amplified Program (#LLAP) aims to help language learners become more motivated, focused and productive via a more holistic approach to learning. This approach includes simply mindfulness techniques, positive thinking strategies and community support that will amplify language learning.

My Goals Language for January 2018

Chinese Mandarin 

  • Daily Duolingo + Memrise + Utalk – I am super excited that Duolingo has now added Chinese! Finally, YAY!
  • I have created a Duolingo Chinese Club to help motivate and keep me accountable (Code: HTVGHC).
  • Chinese Grammar
  • Post my starting point video for #LLAP.
  • Chineasy + Flashcards.
  • Read Peter and the Wolf in Chinese.
  • Listen to some Chinese Audio Books
  • Watch Chinese Version of YouTube  – Although I may have just found a whole new site to procrastinate with cat videos… at least it will be in Chinese!


  • Utalk + Flash Acamedy App + Duolingo. I am in competition with my daughter on Duolingo and she is currently winning!
  • Post journal photograph for the weekly themes on #LLAP
  • Listen to all my favorite Christmas carols in Spanish.


  • December was a busy period and I wasn’t able to complete my German course on Udemy, but I intend to finish this and then turn my full attention to Chinese Mandarin and Spanish for the next 3 months.

Python & JavaScript 

  • It’s okay I am not a Slytherin, for any Harry Potter fans out there. I am talking computer coding. I found a couple of sites that offer loads of free resources to get to grips with the basics.


I think it is really important to use all of your senses when learning a new language and fully immersing in the culture. That said I would only recommend using a few different resources at a time otherwise you may overwhelm yourself.  If you are new to language learning I would also suggest picking a language and sticking to it before introducing other languages.


If you have any tips for learning Mandarin or resource recommendations please let me know in the comments section below.


#CleartheList is a goal setting network of dedicated language learners. I have to say I really enjoy reading the other blogs and I am inspired deeply by the dedication of the #CleartheList community. I would like to say a big thank you to the hosts Lindsay (Lindsay Does Languages), Kris Broholm (Actual Fluency), Angel Pretot (French Lover), and Shannon Kennedy (Eurolinguiste). The aim of Clear the List is to set and share your language learning goals for any given month and then obviously try your best to achieve them by the end of it!


Set your language learning goals as a part of the Clear the List Link Up hosted by Shannon Kennedy of Eurolinguiste and Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages

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3 thoughts on “The Layman’s Guide to Learning Mandarin Chinese, Part 1

  1. Happy new year and happy learning with Mandarin!
    Do you plan to work with a tutor? I have heard the tones are “hard” to mastered, but you’ll see if you need help by yourself 🙂
    Curious to see what you will do for your website with your new computer skills!

    Liked by 1 person

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