So you’ve decided to come to China to learn Chinese. Congratulations this is a big step and not easy. Simply coming to China won’t automatically make you fluent, you need to put in the time. In this post we will go through some simple tips every language learner should know. We will look at the 3 main language acquisition methods and the 4 areas of focus for anyone wanting to learn Chinese.
3 pronged approach
Chinese language class
If you want to study Chinese in China one of the main requirements taking classes. This gives structure to your study and will provide you with a study visa and residence permit. We offer group classes for as little as 5,000rmb per semester but if you really want to learn fast you need to go for more intensive study options. Chinese class will give you direct feedback on your mistakes and really act to pull together all aspects of your studies.
Having a language partner to practice what you learn in class is one of the best things you can do when learning Chinese. This can be difficult but luckily we can help with that. Our campuses are close to universities with students from all over China. These are fantastic places to make friends and find people to practice Chinese with. Please note that a language partner is not a professional teacher so arriving for lunch or coffee with thousands of questions and books is not good. Too many people think of their partner as a teacher but teaching can be stressful and take a lot of preparation so try not to put too much pressure on your partner.
General practice needs to be structured in some kind of way. It might seem counterintuitive but natural conversations can be a hard thing to get right. Many people fall into the trap of hanging around in foreign expat circles. When you arrive to China of course foreign expats can be a big help but you should try to get to a university or Chinese bar so you can make friends quickly. Our staff and teachers are also happy to hang out and speak Chinese.
4 Areas of Chinese learning
Listening is most students strongest area of Chinese. You can often understand what people are saying without being able to articulate it yourself. This is the natural way you learn Chinese as a child. So how can you pump up your listening so that it helps your speaking and also ties in with reading and writing as you sound out words.
A great tip for listening is listening to the texts using the CD from your textbook before class. Taking time to listen to texts 3 to 4 lessons ahead of your class even if you don’t understand them definitely helps. First you can listen without the text, then listen while reading and finally listen without the text again.
Another tip is exposure. First thing in the morning listen to Chinese for 20-30 minutes either on the radio, TV or your CD. Do this in the evening as well if you have time. This will help you more than you can know.
Speaking is often the most important aspect of learning Chinese for students. As Chinese is a tonal language it is very important to focus on tones from the start. Many textbooks include a poster with every possible sound you can make in the Chinese language. These are great for practicing tones and sounds.
Next you need to get out and speak. You should have an app such as Pleco dictionary. When asking for something in a store or restaurant you can use the dictionary and sound it out. If they don’t understand show them the character and the person will often repeat it aloud for you to hear, you can then repeat it back and let them correct you.
Apart from specific tips you just need to get the hours in. Use your language partner and class time to the max and immerse yourself in the language.
Reading Chinese is one of the hard aspects of the language. Of course reading your textbooks and Pleco dictionary as above will help you with reading. There is a way to turbocharge your reading and character recognition and that is spaced repetition software. The best known is Anki. All you need to do is download Anki and search for Chinese word lists. The way a lot of students use Anki is to start with the HSK lists. Spend 20 minutes per day on this and you will be able to recognise at least 2,000 characters after a year which is an amazing achievement.
Apart from Anki why not take the initiative and read through the next 2 or 3 lessons in your textbook and mark down the words you don’t know.
Learning to write in Chinese is probably the most time consuming part of learning Chinese. If you want to learn hand writing start off by writing the new words from your text book 5 or 10 times each. This can be difficult in the beginning as you can rely heavily on Pinyin.
Pleco App has a character stroke order function that can teach you how to correctly write each character. Another app that is popular is Skritter.
While not exactly writing you should immediately get in the habit of typing in Chinese. This is a great way to learn Chinese so practice typing in Chinese on WeChat when texting your language partners or teachers.