1. Which language you want to learn?
Mandarin is the national language of China and Taiwan, and if you're learning Chinese for academic or business purposes or you want to live in China,Mandarin is the one you should choose to learn. And if you are planning to travel around China, Mandarin should also be your first good choice .Even people speak different dialects in different provinces,Mandarin is easyto understand for local people and makes the communication easy. China's large population makes Mandarin the most spoken language on the planet.Mandarin is very popular among foreigners.Learning Mandarin is a popular trend.
Cantonese is used by less people compared to Mandarin.People in Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province speak Cantonese. It is also a common dialect spoken by Chinese overseas. If you're traveling to Hong Kong or Guangdong , or you’re going to do business in Guangdong (a major economic region of China), or if you want to speak with the majority of Chinese overseas, Cantonese is a good choice for you.
Difficulty: Mandarin is a bit easier to learn and more structured , Cantonese has an ever-changing variety of slang terms and more tones,which makes Cantonese an enjoyable language to study. Although there are a little similarities between Mandarin and Cantonese (learning one can help with learning the other), learning both simultaneously would be difficult and inefficient.
2.Whether you need to learn to read and write Chinese?
Chinese characters are not based on phonetics, that means knowing how to write does not help you learn to speak.Mastering ahandful of Chinese characters will actually help you read signs,maps and menus in Chinese when you are traveling, so thereis no need to get too serious about writing if travel is your only objective. Most of the sign and menu characters can be extracted from a simple guidebook.
Besides,many international students enjoy learning Chinese calligraphy solely as a beautiful art form.
3.Choose the appropriate system for learning Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese characters are used in China and Singapore. Traditional characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.You can make a choice according to where you would be living and people that will work with you.
4.To learn by yourself or go to a university?
Some foreigners tell us that Chinese is too difficult to master for them.We agree with that but there are always some helpful and useful ways to make it enjoyable and easy.Learning by yourself is difficult and boring but if you find a school,it would be more easier.Now Chinese program is offered by lots of public key universities in China.The best thing about Chineseprogram is that you would have a chance to entry an university to live and study with many talented people and make new friends.Language skills will be improved fast.Another reasonable choice would be to go to a private Chinese language school.Itmay be a little expensive but you would have more chances to speak and talk with your teacher.