How to Learn Chinese and not Embarrass Yourself

Real Estate Agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate

I want to announce that I have completed my first week of Beginners Chinese language class.  I am learning the Mandarin dialect.

If you don't know anything about the Chinese language I will give you a very brief overview of the language.  Mandarin is the standard spoken Chinese dialect. (That's why I am learning it-might as well speak the popular one!).  The language is broken down into initials, finals and tones.  An initial is essentially a consonant and finals are the vowels and tones are the way you say the combination of initials and consonants forming the word.

In English, there are more than 8,000 different syllables, but in Mandarin there are only 417syllables formed by 21 initials(consonants) and 35 finals(vowels).  So that makes you think that this language is going to be pretty easy to learn right, only a couple hundred words.  Hah, not so easy here comes the game changer.  The TONES, or how the pronunciation of the word changes everything.  The same word with different pronunciation or tone will change the meaning.  Also many of the consonants and vowels in Mandarin are very different to any English sounds that I am use to.  So you have to learn how to make new sounds and then learn how the way you say these sounds(the tones) will change the meaning of the word. This is very very difficult.

Take for example , if you say, "Wo wen ni." Depending on the tones you could be saying "I ask you or I kiss you." Clearly that could get you into a little bit of trouble if you ask a stranger that question.

I'm not so sure a beginner's Chinese student will not as some point in time embarrass themselves with a misspoken tone changing an innocent question into an indecent remark.

Why am I learning Chinese?

My fiance, Eileen Hsu, is Taiwanese.  She is fluent in both Mandarin, Taiwanese and probably a couple of other similar dialects that I don't even come close to understanding. Her family speaks Mandarin and English is their second language, but at family gatherings they speak their native language and I am sitting there typically stuffing my face with delicious Chinese food pondering if they are talking about me, usually not the case.  So it would be nice to be able to build better relationships with them and to do so I will have to learn the language.

Second is for business.  Eileen and I are partners in business and a large part of her business comes from being a Chinese speaking real estate agent in Manhattan .  Often the phone will ring at the office, the person on the other side is calling from Asia, typically from Taiwan or China and doesn''t speak any English, and I have no idea what they are saying.  So just having a very fundamental grasp of the language will allow me to help her with her business.

I'm fairly realistic and don't expect any overnight miracles to occur and wake up in a month and be fluent in Mandarin, but with my combination of going to class and coming home and practicing with Eileen I am very confident that I will learn my fair share of the language fairly quickly.  Maybe one day I will be posting my own blogs about being a Chinese speaking real estate agent in Manhattan alongside Eileen.  

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Morgan Evans is a Licensed Real Estate salesperson in Manhattan New York specialize in neighborhoods such as: Greenwich Village, Soho, Union Square, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Chelsea, Midtown West, Midtown East, Nolita, Lower East side, Financial District in Manhattan. Morgan specialize in working with international buyer, high net worth buyers,  parents buying for children and investors buyers. Contact him today by calling (917)837-8869.
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Susan Emo
Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage - Kingston, ON
Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area

Morgan -  I am impressed!   I've often thought of learning Mandarin and have even experimented with writing it when I was younger.  What a fabulous way to earn the respect of your wife's family as well as that of your clients.   Well done!!

Jan 15, 2010 02:28 AM #1
Bob Haywood
McGraw Realtors - Owasso, OK

Morgan, this is a very cool post.  Thank you for the introduction to the intracacies of Chinese language.  You've got a challenge on your hands.  I think it is very cool to learn the language so you can speak with the family.  And, of course, the application to business is a no brainer.  Best of luck.  Let us know how it goes!

Jan 15, 2010 02:29 AM #2
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Morgan sweets, you will for sure succeed since we can practice daily of your homework! Soon you will be a native speaker! Ni Ho Ma!

Jan 15, 2010 03:03 AM #3
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

I will keep everybody updated and maybe in a month I will post my own video blog with a few phrases that I know really well.

Jan 15, 2010 04:33 AM #4
Ellie McIntire
Ellicott City Clarksville Howard County Maryland Real Estate - Ellicott City, MD
Luxury service in Howard County & Catonsville

Morgan- You have great reasons to attempt such a difficult language. Good luck with your progress.

Jan 15, 2010 11:48 AM #5
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Morgan congratulations to you and Eileen.  I am also impress with your decision to learn Chinese; however with Eileen's help you will do well.

Jan 15, 2010 04:31 PM #6
Sherry Siegel, Managing Broker, EcoBroker, ABR
BrokersGroup, serving Sequim and Port Angeles - Sequim, WA

Morgan, what a great and powerful endeavor--and what great incentive, too! My husband also studied Chinese for some time. So, my step-daughter is half Chinese, speaks it very well, and is learning to write. I wish you well.

Jan 17, 2010 09:41 AM #7
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

Good for you! I'll pray that you do well and learn easily =)  I'm sure that having your own personaly tutor will help too ;-)  Now be careful not to go offering any kisses to the wrong people!

Jan 17, 2010 03:11 PM #8
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Morgan, how is the Chinese class going?    Since being in Taiwan, bet you were able to use these lessons!

Dec 01, 2012 04:22 AM #9
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