How to Learn Chinese: My Top 6 Tips
Chinese (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語; pinyin: Hànyǔ or also 中文; Zhōngwén, especially for the written language) is a group of language varieties spoken by the ethnic Han Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in Greater China that form the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages. Approximately 1.3 billion people (or roughly 16% of the world’s population) use a form of Chinese as their primary language.
Let's now go over a few sure to work tips!
Set realistic, achievable, measurable, firm goals!
In order to be successful at learning Chinese, you would need to define a few critical parameters for yourself. Identify the reasons that can compel you to stay dedicated and recognize how much that means to you! Is it just for the sake of knowledge or do you have a dire need for it? Is it business Chinese, a job or to communicate with your in-laws?
Be selective about exercises you want to practise, screen chapters in a book you plan to go over, decide on the number of words you want to master each day (rather than an unmeasurable goal like improving my handwriting!). The more detailed you are, the better. It will help you sail through the busy days, or on days you don’t feel like studying!
Define Short-term and Long-term Goals for your learning.
Devise a comprehensive learning plan, where you map language learning topics with the time required to learn them, in a realistic, not idealistic manner under short term and long term plans and evaluate the best approach you can take, to ensure you follow the learning plan, as devised. Assess the amount of time you can invest in. You could choose if you want to target your understanding of Chinese speech in news, radio, documentaries under a short term plan. Study consistently using the Pomodoro technique, a few minutes multiple times a day rather, cramming it for 6-7 hours on the weekend. Your daily schedule should cater to your goals and learning style.
Select the dialect you want to learn Mandarin or Cantonese
Mandarin is the dominant dialect in Mainland China, Taiwan, areas of Singapore and increasingly in Hong Kong. Cantonese is, however, the main language spoken in Chinese communities in the United States, followed closely by Mandarin Chinese which is far easier than Cantonese due to fewer tones to master.
Listen to as many audio resources of the dialect you choose.
Focus on listening to Chinese to get a hang of the Chinese speech, pitch, tone, accent, speed, rhythm and to effectively train your ear to get used to sounds and identify Chinese when exposed to the language anywhere. Look through the transcript after playing it multiple times to assess your hearing.
Yes, every new language would sound nothing more than some noise at the beginning – unfamiliar, confusing, and baffling! So familiarize yourself with the individual sounds of the language, to learn to differentiate words from each other, and to have a few words and phrases resonating in your brain.
Read along and read aloud.
After multiple listening sessions, it’s time to follow the shadowing technique.
Develop a sense of how words are spoken, where the speaker stops to breathe, and what words are conjoined and spoken together. Read the transcript loud, along with the audio, speaking the words correctly, aping the accent as you speak! Learning characters would not be sensible if you don’t have any sense of the words, to begin with. You will get to learn the characters eventually so, you could skip the characters in the beginning; instead, try to get a little momentum in the language. Familiarize yourself with the Chinese characters, learn Pinyin and memorise them diligently, learning a few, at a time, consistently every day. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Articles, news, blogs of interest on subjects of your choice such as food, fashion, travel etcetera. Introduce yourself to learning Chinese culture, history, beliefs, religion, value system, way of life, socially and legally acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Keep a Chinese dictionary handy. You could also any reliable online dictionary(ies). Use Spaced Repetition System apps such as Memrise or Anki to enhance the quality of your learning. You could either use the existing flashcards or create your own. Shorter repetitive content is better than crammed monotonous learning!
Chinese study requires more than adequate time to master. Therefore without a lot of effort and time, a learner may not see any results. And since the definition of a lot varies from person to person despite the effort and time it may not be working! I, therefore, suggest interested students choose Multibhashi along with other internet aids to master the language fast.
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