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Do NOT feel pressured to learn to read or speak Chinese before you teach!

The Chinese people will simply appreciate the fact that you are showing respect for their culture by using the essential words/phrases listed here. You will have very little difficulty getting around China and making friends with your students by speaking only English. Any study of the Chinese language should occur strictly for your own interest and enjoyment.

There are different dialects of Mandarin.

Mandarin, called "Putonghua" on mainland China, is the primary language spoken in China. If you intend to repeatedly return to a specific area, it may be wise to focus on learning the dialect of that area first. Otherwise, it would be most useful to learn the dialect of Mandarin spoken in Shanghai. (The sound clips and pronunciation tips found on TCR's web site are all in the dialect common to Shanghai.)

The Chinese language uses characters.

"Pinyin" was developed to phonectically represent these characters. Many of the Chinese people you will encounter on your travels will be able to recognize either Chinese characters or Pinyin. It is interesting to note that Pinyin is used by the Chinese to type on computers. The computers in China are able to take the Pinyin letters and convert them into characters. This avoids the need for a keyboard containing all of the possible characters in the Chinese language.

Essential Words:
English Pinyin Pronunciation Help

How much / how many






Thank you




Ni hao



Zai jian

(Dzai gee-en)

Chinese is a "tonal language" that is very much like singing.

You will find that it is helpful and necessary to be aware of the four tones in the Chinese language. Using the wrong tone can completely alter the meaning of the word you are trying to communicate. With that said, the Chinese are very forgiving of these types of mistakes as you struggle to speak to them. Do not be afraid to give it a try.

Four Tones:
English Pinyin Pronunciation Help Example


(relatively high)



(middle of register to top)


(middle of register to bottom and then to top)


(top of register to bottom)



ChinesePod.com is
an amazing website that provides free MP3 lessons.

Learners of all levels
will find this site to
be extremely
helpful and fun!


Chinese-Tools.com is another useful and interesting site for learning Chinese.

Chinese Idioms:


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