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Some people say that in order to master Mandarin language, the only way is to first learn Han Yu Pin Yin. I disagree with this viewpoint. Let’s talk about using the dictionary. It is not necessary to know Han Yu Pin Yin in order to learn from the dictionary. Han Yin Pin Yin basic purpose is to provide a method for non-native speakers of the Chinese language (like myself) to recognise how to read Chinese characters.


Since primary level, I started learning Chinese from reading Chinese words. It was not until Primary 6 when my teacher started teaching Han Yu Pin Yin. I relied on reading, writing, listening and speaking Chinese language to achieve the minimum standard required as a student. I did not have any use or help from the dictionary. After I learnt Han Yu Yin,the teacher introduced us to the dictionary. By then, the dictionary was only used to augment my learning potential. It was not allowed to be brought into the exam hall.


Presently, at the start of Primary One, students are required to learn Han Yu Pin Yin first. The textbooks are strewned with lots of Han Yu Pin Yin text. The teacher introduced the electronic dictionary to the students in Primary 5 and 6. Compared to my time, this method give the students very less opportunity to learn Chinese characters and speak the language. This is because of the Han Yu Pin Yin in the textbooks. The opportunity for students to intentionally listen attentively to the teacher’s lessons and recognise Chinese characters naturally becomes lesser also. If we are going to factor in my present home environment, where the family speak only English and Malay, this is going to be very difficult to learn Chinese properly. No matter how much Han Yu Pin Yin has been learnt, it is important to know writing strokes in order to use the Chinese dictionary effectively. Fortunately, the skills that I have acquired with regard to learning have helped me in tutoring my daughter all these years. It provides me with a good channel to confidently harness her langauge learning potential.


Frankly, it is not easy to learn Mandarin. Han Yu Pin Yin cannot replace writing and structure of the language. To learn Mandarin well, one has to read, write, listen and speak more, there is no short cut to the this learning journey.