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Six tips for learning Chinese more effectively

Zizzle Co-founder Kevin talks about strategies on how to learn Chinese faster.

So we have talked about that learning Mandarin is not all that hard. We have also talked about how others learn Chinese. Below, we will cover some general advices for learning Chinese more effectively. There is no best way for studying, because it will always heavily depend on your own learning type and motivation. But following the tips mentioned in this article will do go a long way!

1. Use the language as much as you can
Studies have shown that we remember things best when we actually actively use them. For learning every language, frequently using the language - speaking or writing - is an almost guaranteed way of improving your skills. Don't be afraid to embarass yourself in the beginning. First, nobody will blame you for not being able to speak perfect Chinese from day 1. Second, if someone actually points out to something you can improve, you will never forget that for the rest of your life. 

2. Immersion

Immersion refers to the exposure to a new language or culture and the process of "diving" into it. Generally, the more immersion you can get, the faster you will be able to literally absorb a new language. If you have the chance to study in China, do so. The constant presence of spoken and written Chinese will leave you no choice but to deal with the language. If you cannot travel to China, find yourself a language partner, attend meetings with other Chinese students or download HelloTalk to chat with native speakers.

3. Start with pronunciation and tones

Starting out with pronunciation and tones is so important because once you have adopted a certain style of speaking, it will be hard to change that later. So it is better to learn correctly from the very beginning. Especially the tones are hard to distinguish and to reproduce for the untrained ear. You can find quality exercises for example on ChinesePod. For learning pronunciation and tones, in my opinion it is definitely important to have professional guidance at first. You can pretty much do everything else on your own.

4. Learn Chararcters with an intelligent method
Once you have a basic idea about pronunciation and tones, you should move on to characters. Characters are deemed the hardest part of learning Chinese – and the reason is obvious. Without training, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to make any sense out of the characters. Having a strategy goes a long way here. Spaced repetition with Anki flashcards is a good start. You are even better of, if you actually understand the structure of characters. That way, you will realize that you only need to learn the components and not all 3000 characters seperately: Why you only need to learn 200 Characters instead of 3000.

5. Find out why you want to learn Chinese and set goals

You might probably agree with me that motivation plays an important role when learning anything. In fact, when you are faced with the long journey that is learning Chinese, a lack of motivation will almost certainly lead to failure. So how do you motivate yourself? Motivation is a response to a personal need. So you have to find out why you want to master Chinese and set your goals according to that reason. You want to learn Chinese to communicate with your boyfriend's parents? Well than that is your goal which translates into your motivation. But also in your everyday life, setting smaller goals is important for your motivation. For every hour you sit down to learn Chinese, define what you want to achieve in that hour. These small goals will help you to stay motivated and focused. Is your next goal passing the HSK test? Maybe you want to check out Lukas' story who managed to pass HSK 6 in a year. 

6. Have fun!

To conclude this post, I want to remind you of the probably most important factor of learning. It will just be so much more natural if you don't have the feeling that you are slaving away, but if you are actually enjoying your time spent. Some things that might work for you are:

  • Watch Chinese TV shows (they can be serious fun!)

  • Go to karaoke places singing Chinese songs

  • Play Chinese games (Chinese card games are often a lot of fun!)

  • Read whatever interests you

  • Make Chinese friends and eat some good Chinese food together

Good luck and enjoy!

Kevin from Zizzle