How To Learn Chinese
Learning spoken Mandarin is made easier through the use of Pinyin, a phonetic system that uses the Roman alphabet to represent characters. It is still tricky to learn because it is a tonal language.
Each character is assigned one of four main tones in spoken form. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t carry a tune, you won’t get far speaking Chinese. English is spoken in most central and expat neighbourhoods as well as popular tourist sites near the city centre.
However, while English is spoken, it may not be well understood and you will soon learn through experience to enunciate well and speak slowly.
If you are going to be in Beijing only one year, learning the basic phrases will help you get around, order at a restaurant, or negotiate the price at a local market. If you are going to be in Beijing longer, taking the opportunity to learn spoken Chinese will only ease assimilation and make your time in Beijing more enjoyable.