Easiest ways to Learn Chinese at the age of 18
Standard Chinese is the most widely spoken language in China. China is one of the world’s most linguistically rich nations. In China, more than 70 million people from 55 distinct national minorities live, and although each minority has its own spoken language, many minority groups lack a distinguishable written medium for their languages. Despite the fact that many officials and commoners spoke different Chinese dialects, Nanjing Mandarin became prevalent at least during the officially Manchu-speaking Qing Empire. Until the mid-twentieth century, the majority of Chinese in southern China did not speak Mandarin. Since the 17th century, several efforts and attempts have been made to make pronunciation adhere to the Beijing style. To accomplish this, the Empire established Orthoepy Academies. These efforts, however, were largely unsuccessful. The Nanjing Mandarin standard was eventually replaced in the imperial court during the last 50 years of the Qing Dynasty in the late nineteenth century. Eighteen is a beautiful age where you, as a high school/college graduate, are excited, nervous, scared, happy, and angry all at the same time. While you’re still trying to figure out what’s important to you, between school, family, friends, and errands, you decide to learn Chinese! And you want to be fluent and ready to communicate as soon as possible.
To assist you in accomplishing this, I have compiled a list of five fundamental approaches to learning Chinese, which include: learning through complete Chinese immersion, Translation-based learning, Grammar-based learning, Communication-based learning, and Vocabulary-based learning with multiple options.
The Immersion Approach is one where one takes a plunge into Chinese language and culture by traveling to China or Chinese-speaking regions such as China, Hong Kong or Taiwan spending an extended period of time, living your day-to-day life with Chinese natives.
The immersion Approach works only for learners who do not like formal study, have time and money to spare, want to learn a language in its natural environment, or are outgoing and ambitious, and wish to use the language on a daily basis while remaining connected with native speakers, all within a very short period of time. All others, who find the travel Immersion Approach complicated, expensive, daunting, intimidating and time-consuming, stressful owing to initial communication barriers offering culture shock, despite helpful native Chinese speakers, could take up Classroom Immersion method of study, which’s offered in Complete and Personal Immersion techniques.
It’s natural, not all of us have the time, money and freedom required to leave everything and travel to China to learn the language.
Fortunately, there are 10 great ways to immerse yourself in Chinese wherever you are:
- Find a conversation partner or join a conversation club – If you really want to immerse yourself without leaving home, you need to find a conversation partner – a native Chinese speaker who is willing to help you practice. Search the Language Exchange Apps such as Tandem or HelloTalk, for meetups, clubs or partners through local, online or social networks. If there aren’t, consider starting one!
- Volunteer in Chinese. Get involved in your community with people who speak your target language. Schools, nonprofit organizations, libraries, places of worship, medical clinics, immigration services, ESL classes, to meet some native Chinese speakers both to practice and make a difference.
- Do some Chinese every day. It’s much better to study for 15-20 minutes each day. If the First Golden Rule of language learning is practice every day, then the Second Golden Rule is not being afraid of making mistakes. Don’t just Study, Practice aloud fearlessly! Studying is when you simply learn new grammar, expressions or vocab from a textbook but Practising is when you take this Chinese knowledge further and try it out in the real world. Read for pleasure. Avoid focusing on short passages and studying them in minute detail or reading copiously. Read error-free materials. Learn the difference between intensive reading and extensive reading.
- Go shopping in Chinese. Seek out any local immigrant community that speaks Chinese and shops they use. Take over running errands at home and visit these shops to be forced to read some Chinese labels, besides finding a possible future conversation partner.
- If you don’t have a learning buddy, you can practise by speaking to yourself or your pet! Listen to free podcasts!
- Label things in your home and study. Put Chinese labels on the things you regularly use in stationery, books etc.to improve your vocabulary. Change your device language settings, your social and online media language settings to Chinese! This is an excellent way of making Chinese a part of your everyday life.
- Watch like a local but don’t talk like a local! Start by watching movies, c Dramas, or TV programs in Chinese, with English subtitles picking simpler easy to understand slow speech titles, from online search or leads from native Chinese friends. Once your Chinese proficiency progresses to a higher level, you may switch to suitable movies, TV and radio programmes for native speakers. You could also try answering dialogues in the programme.”A young learner once explained that every night, when he watched TV, and people on TV spoke, he answered them back as if they were talking to him to improve his proficiency!” When posed with a question in Chinese never try to answer in monosyllables to impress. Native speakers may use that but you’re not one and you need practice. So always speak in full Chinese sentences.
- Keep up on hot news and current events in Chinese-speaking countries to be able to start some great conversations, besides improving vocabulary and cultural knowledge.
- Practice writing through a journal that can be used to take notes, make vocabulary lists, internet slangs, commonly used slangs, about your day, or simply keep track of your Chinese learning process. Create a vocabulary notebook for yourself the classic way!
- Have fun. Pick up reading as a habit. Start with the Chinese version of your younger sibling’s books. Download some Chinese hits. Search for games in Chinese to play or connect with Chinese-speaking players when playing. Play Chinese board games with fellow learners or native speakers. Look up for Chinese blogs and videos related to your hobbies.
How to seal the deal?
- Learn from apps
- Duolingo: Duolingo uses interactive games and bite-sized lessons to teach you Chinese. Basic lessons such as greetings, numbers, and names are taught first to beginners. A placement test is required for advanced students.
- Memrise is a flashcard app that uses mnemonics and SRS to help you memorise Chinese characters. You will select your own course and study it, after which Memrise will quiz you on it using fun games in which you will earn badges and virtual rewards.
- Skritter, like Anki and Memrise, uses SRS, but it also has a smooth on-screen handwriting feature that you can use to actively recall how to write Chinese characters wherever you are.
- You can use Lingbe to practise your Chinese by calling other Chinese learners (for free) or native Chinese speakers (for only $5 for an hour of conversation). Lingbe is quick, cheap, and anonymous.
- Anki is an app that uses SRS. You can make your own flashcards or use pre-made ones. You can then rate your card knowledge as “Hard,” “Good,” or “Easy.” Anki’s best feature is that it is open-source and easy to customise. Rich, the CEO of China Admissions, personally uses Lingbe.
- Hello Chinese includes mini-lessons delivered through entertaining games. You can practise writing characters with their handwriting tool. This app has many listening exercises and a speech recognition tool to help you with your pronunciation if you want to speak conversational Chinese quickly.
- ChineseSkill is the only app that adheres to a curriculum created by veteran Chinese teachers at Peking University, China’s best university. Automatic speech recognition, character handwriting, and pinyin tone animation are all included in this app.
Most linguists identify all of the varieties of spoken Chinese that comprise the Sinitic branch as the Sino-Tibetan language family (spoken by the ethnic Han Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in Greater China) and claim that there was an initial language, Proto-Sino-Tibetan, from which the Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman languages descended, close to Proto-Indo-European. The connection between Chinese and the other Sino-Tibetan languages is still unknown and under investigation, as is the effort to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan.
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