China is the 800 pound gorilla among the new emerging world powers Its economy, says Goldman Sachs, may outsize every economy except the United States by 2016, and even surpass the US as soon as 2039. There is no point in belaboring things. China will be a force to be reckoned with.
According to yesterday’s New York Times, the hottest language being studied right now by business travelers is Mandarin, and quite rightly so. Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan, and it’s also spoken in Singapore. (Cantonese is widely spoken in Hong Kong.) As the Times article notes, speaking a little Mandarin can translate into new business opportunities, and so it could be worth spending some time getting conversant in the language. You could spend $2,500 for a week-long Mandarin course. However, if you’d like to do it on the cheap, we have some solid, free resources for you.
To get up and running, you’ll want to check out the well-reviewed podcast called Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk (iTunes Feed Web Site). Put together by an English speaker who studied Mandarin Chinese for almost 20 years (and who has lived in Beijing and Shanghai for 12 years), the free podcast currently offers 55 lessons that last between 20 and 30 minutes on average. A second option, which also gets very high marks, is Chinesepod.com (iTunes Feed Web Site). Produced by native speakers, these daily audio podcasts, each 10 to 20 minutes in length, will immerse you in colloquial (read: useful) Mandarin. Both of these podcasts are free, and the freely available material will keep you busy for some time. However, each podcast also offers additional resources for a reasonable fee, although you can certainly get by without them.
Beyond these podcasts, you may want to check out a couple other free alternatives: Think and Talk Like the Chinese (iTunes Web Site) and Chinese Learn Online (iTunes Feed Web Site). Also, if you’re looking for more systematic approaches to learning Mandarin, we’ve included some options in our new Amazon store.
Also, one of our readers asked us to through this one into the mix: Chinese-Tools.com
Please see the previous installments in this series: