“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela

There are over 800 million native speakers of Chinese. Learning to speak Chinese is, therefore, an excellent way to learn more about the world, new cultures, and improve your job prospects. Of course, there isn't a single Chinese language but rather a multitude of them that are spoken around the world - this includes Malaysia!

For the purpose of simplicity, in this article, when we talk about Chinese culture, the Chinese language, and learn Mandarin for beginners, we are referring to learning Mandarin Chinese. While it is the most commonly spoken language in the People's Republic of China, Mandarin is also the official Chinese language used in Malaysia.

So do you still need to pass exams in Chinese?

Here’s what you’ll need to know about preparing for any Chinese exam when you learn Mandarin Chinese.

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What is Malaysia in Mandarin and more

If you don’t know it already, the Malaysian Chinese folk and other Chinese people alike refer to Malaysia as 马来西亚 (or “ma lai xi ya” in Pinyin). We can’t be sure who decided on the Mandarin Chinese name for the country, but saying it a few times does make one realise that it sounds awfully similar to its Malay version!

How many people in Malaysia speak Mandarin? 

About 25% of the total Malaysian population is Chinese. While this fact is true, it’s not only the Chinese who are widely speaking Mandarin. It’s no secret that people outside of Chinese-speaking families and those who do not come from Chinese backgrounds are also speaking the language.

This could be because Mandarin is the main medium of instruction in Chinese schools. Since Bahasa Melayu and English are two official languages taught to students, being able to also converse in Mandarin would make one trilingual!

Not all Malaysian Chinese folk speak Mandarin. 

It would be careless to assume that all those who are Chinese in Malaysia use Mandarin in their everyday lives. In fact, some Chinese Malaysians do not speak the Mandarin language at all! These folks rely on other branches of the Chinese language for daily conversations.

Malaysia in Mandarin family
Although there are many Chinese folks in Malaysia, not all members of the Chinese community speak Mandarin! Most elderly folks speak in other Chinese dialects. However, Mandarin Chinese is growing in popularity. (Source: packist.com)

If you are Malaysian Chinese, it is likely that your ancestors came from the southern provinces of the People’s Republic of China.  

Various southern Chinese varieties are therefore omnipresent in Malaysia. The most common ones include Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Hainan and Foochow. Hokkien, for instance, is extensively used in Penang and Kedah.

It is usually the senior population who stays grounded in these Chinese dialects and not the official Mandarin Chinese used in the country. Don’t be surprised if your local Chinese ‘uncle’ speaks in Hakka instead of replying to you in Mandarin!

However, the Mandarin language in Malaysia is growing. 

Although Mandarin may not have as rich a history as its Southern Chinese varieties, the younger generation is choosing to learn Mandarin for beginners and even take HSK Mandarin so that they don’t get left behind, where knowing how to speak Mandarin is crucial at this time and age.

Is It Worth Trying to Learn Chinese?

Chinese is actually a simple language. 

Some people say that Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. But if you look closely, there are no complicated constructs that will get you racking your brain!

There are no tenses when it comes to the Chinese language. 

Worried about how to explain events in the past, present, and future tenses? Chinese omits all of that, even in terms of conjugation, nouns, pronouns, and the plural forms of things.

Let’s say you wanted to tell someone that there were apples on the table. All you have to do is say “桌子上有苹果”. The form of 苹果, which represents apple, stays the same regardless of whether there are one or many apples!

Chinese does come with its own special rules for reading, writing, speaking, and the like. From a grammatical perspective though, Chinese really is one of the easiest languages to learn - you can say goodbye to the complexities present in languages like English.

What other benefits are there when you take Mandarin language classes

If you’re considering Mandarin language classes, you can reap several benefits such as:

An incredible culture

Best way to engage in one of the world’s oldest cultures? Learning Mandarin, even if it is for an HSK test, will open your senses to the full experience of the vibrant culture that is Chinese.

If you’re a fan of ancient history or a wonderer of how life was like for people back in the day, then knowing how to use Mandarin can help you gain a richer understanding of life. A great deal of Chinese poetry and literature also highlights such a history, which you can learn about if you study HSK Malaysia.

Perhaps you would like to try different Chinese food varieties but never knew what food to try outside of the usual Hainanese chicken rice. Even if it is for a Chinese exam, you can learn about all the types of Chinese food, from the Zongzi popularised during the Dragon Boat Festival, to the necessary Tang Yuan of the Lantern Festival!

Learn Chinese culture in Malaysia
If you are a fan of Chinese culture, you will definitely enjoy learning Chinese! You can even gain other benefits such as a smarter brain and better career opportunities. (Source: unsplash.com)

A smarter brain

While we said earlier that Chinese itself is a simple language, it doesn’t mean your brain isn’t going to get a good workout in. Studies show that people who learn Chinese are keeping their minds sharp!

Where does this happen? It has been suggested to be in the temporal lobes or the parts of the brain used for learning and understanding language. Evidence has found that while English speakers use only the left temporal lobe, people who speak Mandarin use both their temporal lobes to understand the language!

One of the reasons linked to this special trait is in the distinctive features of the Chinese language - its tone, sound and script - especially when compared with English. As evident in the Pinyin, speakers of Mandarin Chinese use intonations to distinguish between the various meanings of characters.

Better career opportunities

Just like how employers like to hire people who have better people skills than others, being able to speak more than one language is a huge plus for getting into a career you plan to pursue.

If you can converse in Mandarin, you will immediately appeal to international businesses, too. With the People’s Republic of China being one of the massive economic powerhouses, any international business would favour potential employees who can easily deal with and set agreements for Chinese clients.

You can learn Chinese and work with ease in other Chinese-speaking countries such as Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. There is no need to worry about language barriers in these foreign countries if you can use Chinese at the workplace. This is your chance to enrich your work experience in a new country.

Picking up a new language can be a tough journey, and this applies to not only Chinese but all languages. With that in mind, you too can brave through the journey and succeed in your Chinese proficiency test!

How to Get Ready for the Chinese HSK 1 Exam?

Learning a foreign language can help boost your career as well as open your mind to new experiences, new cultures, and a new way of thinking. Be it Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian, or Japanese, all languages are useful.

Studying for the HSK Exam
Do you know how to prepare for the HSK? You'll need to familiarise yourself with commonly used Chinese characters and other important vocabulary components. (Source: studycli.org)

To gauge your level in a foreign language, there are exams you can take to prove your linguistic abilities. Those learning English tend to do the TOEIC or TOEFL exams whereas if you’re learning Chinese, you have to do the HSK. The HSK is divided into six levels and can show future employers just how good you are at Chinese.

The HSK 1 is the lowest level of this test. To pass the exam, you’ll need to know 150 commonly used characters and basic grammar patterns in Chinese. You’ll need to recognise them and translate them. Pinyin is also used in the first two levels of the test, unlike in HSK 4 and HSK 5 which already requires you to be familiar with various Chinese characters.

The reading and listening parts of the HSK 1 last about 35 minutes in total. This gives you just enough time but not much more. You either know the answer or you don’t. This means that you don’t have time to waste and will have to make time to revise.

What are the best ways to pass the HSK 1?

Firstly, you need to familiarise yourself with Chinese vocabulary. You can easily find the vocabulary lists you need to know online. There are websites available with practice exercises for translating the characters for the exam.

Make the most of all these free online resources. You can access them whenever you want and without spending any duit. This is a good option for those who don’t have a lot of free time or don’t have enough time to attend lessons.

However, Chinese lessons can be really useful when preparing these types of tests. The HSK exam lines up with the levels of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages): A1, A2, B1, etc. This means it’s much easier to find which lessons are appropriate for the exam you’re studying for.

You can also learn Chinese with private tutorials. Students and tutors can agree on what the student wants to learn and the tutor will put together a programme that works for the student. You can also ask for advice and feedback from your private tutor.

You can learn how to relax, focus, and take the appropriate steps to pass your Chinese test.

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How to Learn Chinese with MOOC?

MOOCs have been around for a few years now.

Learn Mandarin with a MOOC
Would you like to learn Chinese in a fun and interactive way? With a Chinese MOOC, all you need to do is take the time to focus on your course. You can even invite your friends to join you. (Source: unsplash.com)

What’s the point of them?

To make learning accessible to as many people as possible. With free classes available to everyone, MOOCs are a veritable goldmine of learning resources.

Every subject is taught. With maths, physics, chemistry, business, economics, and sociology courses, you can find whatever you’re looking for. You just need to sign up and follow the lessons week after week. Most courses last around six or seven weeks. There are teachers available to answer your questions and correct your work.

So how can you take a Chinese online class with a MOOC?

Chinese MOOCs follow a similar format to any other MOOC. The most popular MOOCs include Coursera, edX, Udacity, and FutureLearn. The lessons allow students to learn the basics of Chinese at their own pace.

Thanks to video lectures from Chinese speaking professors and interactive exercises, it’s easier to learn while enjoying yourself with distance learning. Since you learn at your own pace, it’s easier to stay motivated as you learn. In fact, many courses are still available to you after the course is completed. You can, therefore, download them and continue to benefit from the learning materials.

Furthermore, there are teachers available to answer your questions about Chinese pronunciation, grammar, and characters during the courses.

To get the most out of these courses, make sure you have enough time available to focus on your course. Don’t hesitate to use the forums to discuss the course with other students who are part of it. This will also help you feel less alone in your learning.

You could also ask your friends if they want to do the course with you. This is a great way to stay motivated because if anyone starts to feel demotivated, you can help pick each other up.

Now it’s up to you to become a master of Chinese characters, Chinese calligraphy and Pinyin!

How to Prepare for the Chinese A Level?

Before you bury your head in the books and start revising for your Chinese A Level, you’ll need to know what it entails.

How do you study for Chinese A Level?
If you dream of going to China to live or work, you should consider taking A Level Chinese. With this level of Chinese, you can study at a Chinese university. (Source: tookapic)

While not essential, an A Level in Chinese is very useful for those wanting to study Chinese at a university. With its increasing popularity throughout the country, more and more students in Malaysia are opting to study Chinese at the A Level.

How is the Chinese A Level different from any other Chinese exam

In terms of level, the Cambridge International AS Level and A Level Chinese follow on from the Cambridge IGCSE. When you finish your A Level in Chinese, you’ll have the equivalent of a B2 Level according to the CEFR.

With the Chinese A Level, students should be able to understand complex texts with abstract topics, interact with a degree of fluency, and produce clear and detailed text on a range of subjects.

The reading and writing component lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and includes two passages in Mandarin Chinese. Students have to answer comprehension questions on the texts. The whole test is in Chinese and the texts will have been written from the last 20 years.

As with all reading exams, make sure you carefully read the texts and the questions before you start answering anything.

The essay component lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and students have to choose one question out of the five set topics in the paper. Students will have to write between 250 and 400 Chinese characters for their answers.

In the texts component, which lasts 2 hours 30 minutes, students have to answer three questions in Mandarin Chinese from three different texts. There are two sections of questions and at least one text from each section must be chosen.

Always make sure that you are adequately prepared before sitting for any Chinese exam. As they say, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Make sure you regularly study the topics on the exams and regularly learn Chinese.

Don’t forget that there are private tutors who can help you with your studies, too.

Where to take Chinese class near me?

Where can you find the best private Chinese tutors in Malaysia? 

One of the biggest headaches when signing up with a tuition centre is to have registered for a class and paid upfront… and only realising later that you’re unhappy with the lessons.

Wouldn’t it be great to learn from a tutor who suits your learning style? 

You heard us right - you should, and do have the right to, be free to choose your own private Chinese tutor. This comes with getting to know your tutor - something Superprof specialises in. The Superprof Private Tutors page clearly lists out the profiles of each tutor so you can get to know them better.

There are over 200 private tutors in Malaysia who are teaching Chinese on Superprof. 

Get to know the Chinese tutors who are living nearby. Perhaps you would like to learn from a native Chinese speaker, or keep to a budget of under RM50 - these options and more can be filtered under the Superprof icon on the top left on the tutors’ page.

Remember to also choose between in-person lessons or online courses in Chinese. Some people prefer to have physical classes because of the real-life interaction between the teacher and the learner. However, there are also those who are comfortable with online classes as it means learning a new language from the comfort of home.

A Superprof Chinese tutor can guide you towards successfully learning how to read, write, and speak Mandarin.

Which Are the Best Chinese Dictionaries?

There are many different ways to start learning how to read, write, and speak Chinese. Whether you opt for private Chinese tutorials, group classes, or teaching yourself, a dictionary is always a useful investment for language learning.

Which are the best Chinese dictionaries?
Even with a Chinese dictionary, you need to make sure that you regularly practise reading and writing in Chinese. Along with this practice, you will not waste your energy in translating your words and sentences into Mandarin Chinese. (Source: vinsky2002)

They’re a useful way to look up new words during your lessons. You can also put together lists of words that you’d like to use or Chinese words that you don’t understand and look them up. Once you’ve found the equivalent, you can study the words and start using them.

So which is the best dictionary to help you? Which are the best Chinese dictionaries available?

There are plenty of effective English-Chinese dictionaries available. You just have to keep a dictionary by your side. However, you can’t take a massive dictionary with you as you travel. While there are smaller dictionaries available, you can also get dictionaries on your smartphone.

Dictionary apps allow you to look up Chinese words on the go and find their Pinyin transcription if you need them. These apps are very useful as you’ll always have a dictionary with you! Moreover, you can use them when you're reading, writing, or speaking Chinese.

To learn Chinese, you can also use online Chinese dictionaries. You can use them to translate words and sentences in order to better understand them.

Each student needs to choose the dictionary that works for them in terms of their own personal needs. You don't want a massive dictionary to travel to Beijing, but it might be useful if you're reading complex texts on the language and culture of China.

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