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  Using the Audio Gallery Chinese Program


On Using the
Audio Gallery Program

If you are just starting to learn Chinese, you should practice the first few words you learn repeatedly, to help you get used to the tones. The tone is an integral part of each Chinese word. It is not enough to have the proper pronunciation; to prevent misunderstanding, you must also have the correct tone. Here are just a few examples of words which are pronounced alike except for the tone:



sì jī
sì jì


four chickens
four seasons

The florist would likely give you a baffled look if you tell him you want to sell a painting, rather than to buy a flower; likewise, you won't be taken seriously if you say, that of the four chickens, you like summer the best.

The tones may seem difficult at first, but a good grounding in them is essential for a solid foundation in spoken Chinese. In Audio Gallery, the tones have been exaggerated in places, to help you learn faster. It is better to overemphasize the tones, at first, than later to try to insert them into words you have already learned without learning the tone.

You should learn the tones first, and then the correct pronunciation of the words. Once you are comfortable with the tones, it is easier to learn how to speak the words. As you learn each new word, associate a tone with it.

While it is true that many Chinese run roughshod over the tones in everyday speech, and that a large part of the meaning of one's speech is conveyed through context, rather than through correct tone usage, still, those who do say the correct tones are looked at with more respect, as scholars even, than those who do not use correct tones. You will achieve only an uncertain level of understanding if you don't use the correct tones.

You may wish to go to the "Tones Practice" part of Audio Gallery before you start on the Chapters. This gives you several clear-cut examples of and contrasts between tones.

You can recognize the tones from the diacritical marks on the Pinyin spelling of the word:



Learn how to speak the four tones, how to say "I", "you", "he", "she", and a few basic expressions (see "Good Morning") such as "How are you?" and "Goodbye", before starting on the numbered Chapters. Also, you may wish to learn to count, (see "One, Two, Three"), before starting, as numbers are a very important part of any language, and you will encounter them throughout the lessons.

Chinese grammar presents far fewer problems for English-speakers, than English grammar does for foreigners new to English. For instance, there are no plural forms of nouns to learn - the character is written the same whether singular or plural. One does not have to learn lists of verb conjugations - the character is drawn the same, whether used in the singular or plural, in the present, past, past perfect or future tense.

The Chinese themselves have never formulated a set of rules regarding the interrelationships among words. The same character can be used as a preposition, an adjective, an adverb, a verb or a noun.

Even without a lot of grammar to learn, the learning curve may seem steep at first - there is a lot of material in the first Chapter, more than it may seem there is. It isn't simply a case of learning a list of vocabulary words, as in other languages. Each word has one of four tones associated with it, and you must learn the tone also, to be able to speak understandably. So one might say there is really four times as much to learn as first appears.

It is much easier to learn to speak Chinese, and then to write the characters, than the reverse. A word, in English, or a Chinese character, has little meaning unless one is able to pronounce it, and to recognize characters on sight without knowing their pronunciation would involve a great deal of difficult memorization.

Indeed, in the Chinese educational system, a child is taught first to correctly speak, then learns a shorthand method of writing (zhuyinfuhao), before tackling the writing of the characters themselves.

To summarize, we suggest that you learn first the sounds of Chinese, so you can communicate easily, then how to write the characters.

  過得愉快 Guòde yúkuài! Good luck!