Lately, I’ve been trying to re-learn Mandarin Chinese and I came up with a plan that I think is effective and everyone can follow.
I started to learn Mandarin Chinese when I was 15. I remember being so immersed in Chinese, especially being in Armenia, it was not so common back then, and I loved that I had the “keys” to this amazing language that my peers didn’t have. I used to take private lessons from a native speaker, she was an amazing teacher and I loved her to bits. I wanted to move and live in China, I was that hooked! However, when I got into University at 17, I didn’t make time for Chinese, I won’t say I didn’t have time, because I did, I just didn’t prioritize my Chinese. I’d still take private lessons occasionally, but nothing consistent. Yea…consistency is definitely going to be something that everyone should have.
When I was 22 I went to Beijing, China for 5 weeks and took classes. I understood that I can read and write Chinese characters pretty well, but when it came to speaking, I wasn’t good at it. However, within 5 weeks being there, my Chinese improved a lot! Flash news, it improved a lot, because I was not only in that environment, but also I had Chinese classes every single day.
If you are a beginner, I would suggest for you to take private lesson for 2-3 months, when it comes to Chinese, if you can’t afford, you will find so many resources online, through textbooks, apps, that you can skip that. I, personally, decided to this by myself. I have some knowledge, I just need to be consistent.
This is the year that I’m going to really commit to my Chinese 100%. I know already what works and doesn’t work for me.
Tip 1: Commit. If you want to be really good at it, you need to do it almost daily, I’ve decided to commit at least 30minutes a day! It might be learning new words, listening to Chinese, whatever, I will dedicate 30minutes to this. And I love seeing my progress on a piece of paper. It actually takes me 3-4 days to not complain that I need to do something. Commitment is truly the most important part! Otherwise, you might end up like me. You kind of know Chinese, but you kind of don’t know. Which is way more frustrating, I wish I didn’t know Chinese, so I could start instead of re-starting.
Tip 2: Choose one textbook and stick to it. I’m saying this because I have plenty textbooks/apps/online resources that I can learn Chinese from. If you are a beginner or whatever level you are, I’ll suggest to choose just one textbook and unless you aren’t done with it, you won’t buy a new one, or won’t use any other textbook you have. In this way, you will follow a strict guideline and will not spend your time on different subjects. Chinese is like a math, if you miss one class, you won’t understand the following class.
Tip 3: Listen. I want to speak in Chinese without an accent and it will be hard for me. I live in Armenia, where finding a native speaker is as hard as it gets. Even though I have been in China twice, it was years ago, and I’m not really planning to move to China anytime soon. My textbook has an audiobook, where I can listen how Chinese people pronounce words and I can repeat after them.
Tip 4: Record yourself. I used to do this with my English, I’ll record myself and listen how I’m pronouncing words, and I would compare with native speakers. My English isn’t perfect, but there were lots of times that people were surprised to find that English is my second language. Take some text in whatever language you want to learn and read it out loud. Then listen to your voice. If you are one of those people who think their voice is attractive, you are a Unicorn! I hate my voice and every time I hear it I cringe, nevertheless it helps me, so whatever.
Tip 5: Flashcards. I use apps or I have a box, which contains 1000 Chinese flashcards. I find flashcards effective to learn bunch of words, just dedicate 10 minutes and take 10-20 flashcards and shuffle them and read-write-memorize. The moment you can understand that both you can say the word from English to Chinese and from Chinese to English without thinking too hard, remove that flashcard and take few more and do this.
Tip 6: Think. I’ve done this with my English, I would make myself to think in English, for example I’d tell myself to describe today’s events in English, I would have conversations in my head, it sounds crazy, but if you can’t think in that language, there is no way you will remember words/phrases. Plus, no one will hear your ridiculous stories that are playing in your head.
Tip 7: Group words. Take a notebook and write down in whatever language you are trying to learn all the colors that you know in that certain language, than if you are a coffee lover, all the coffee types, clothes, body parts, phone apps and so on. For example, on Pinterest, I found so many awesome Pictures that are already grouped what I mentioned, I just need to sit and learn them.
Tip 8: Embrace the Challenge. I understood that either I’m going to do this or not. Chinese is one of the hardest language out there. It is extremely hard, and I know it isn’t going to be easy. It will never be easy. Nothing in this life comes easy. I’m in this for the long run. If it takes me another 2 years to fully grasp Chinese, I’m willing to do this. Maybe you should remind yourself why you are learning that language. For me, I want to speak Chinese for my own pleasure, I think Chinese language is beautiful and unique. It will be a privilege to know it fluently.