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How to Effectively Study Chinese: Learning Chinese Doesn't Have to be Scary

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Published:
Sep 16, 2021

The Chinese language can be daunting to new language learners, especially if it’s totally new to you, but there are a few ways to avoid panic.

Chinese language study has been a popular subject in American schools and as a new hobby for many. If you Google it, the number of pages about learning Mandarin Chinese is over two million and pages about Chinese, in general, is 438 million!

The sheer number of pages online about learning Chinese is an indicator of how many ways there are to learn this language but there are some tricks that apply to this language as well as many others.

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5 Tips for Learning Chinese

1 Study sentence and language patterns for 15-20 minutes a day. This is effective because you are not overloading your brain with large amounts of information at one time. Breaking lessons down into shorter time slots can also make it easier to focus on certain parts of a language.

2 Make flashcards and review them often. While this is an option that everyone should try it is not necessarily the most effective way for everyone to learn but this option works especially well if you remember things by writing them down. You can always study new vocabulary with Drops, too!

3 Practice reading out loud with exaggerated tones. This helps you memorize the way the tones sound and feel as well as helping to make them easy to speed up to normal speech levels.

4 Practice writing new characters at least ten times. Chinese is unique not only in its sound but also in the characters in which it is written this is another reason Western students find it hard to learn. Making associations between characters also helps because it makes you break down the structure of the characters rather than trying to memorize them whole.

5 Watch Chinese films/listen to Chinese music. Listening to other people talk is a big part of the way we learn to speak our first language as we are growing up so it makes sense to find as many ways to expose yourself to this sort of experience when learning the second.

5 tips for learning Chinese

Using the Internet to Study Chinese

The internet is a great resource for learning many different languages and Chinese is no exception. Not only can you buy Chinese media online but many free resources are available. Doing a Google search for Chinese or Mandarin Chinese will also give you some great resources including newspaper articles about Chinese culture which is invaluable for the savvy traveler.

Chinese Learning Tips

Studying Chinese includes careful attention to tones, Chinese characters, and a good textbook. Though these are issues that many people learning Chinese struggle with, some sound advice can go a long way.

Chinese Tones Are Important

In Chinese, a word might have the same pronunciation depending on its tone. This means that the syllable ma might mean “mother,” “horse” or “to scold,” all depending on the tone. Chinese has a large amount of homophony. The pronunciation of many words is exactly the same; it’s only the intonation that differs.

Because English is a toneless language, many students make the mistake of not paying enough attention to the tones in Chinese. Don’t fall into this trap. Tones are essential to speak the language correctly and the sooner you start practicing them, the easier it will be for you later down the road.

Chinese Characters

To outsiders, a Chinese character is a random assortment of lines and dots without meaning. To the trained eye, however, it is a picture jam-packed with information and meaning. Chinese characters are anything but random; they are composed of various set patterns, a particular order for writing each stroke, and even clues as to the character’s meaning and pronunciation.

To be considered fully literate you must be able to read thousands of characters. The task of memorizing thousands of characters may seem daunting to a brand new student, but it is advisable for those serious about mastering the language to dive head-first into learning how to read and write. There are several important reasons for this. First of all, true Chinese proficiency requires reading skills. Since colloquial spoken language and formal written language contain some major differences in word choice, syntax, and style, it’s best to get an early start, or else you’ll have to do some major catch-up later on.

The second reason, which is too often overlooked, is the encouragement one gets from being able to read and write, even just a little. The praise you’ll get from both Chinese people and other foreigners will go a long way toward keeping you motivated in the early parts of your study.

Chinese Learning Textbooks

A textbook is important for any foreign language learner, and this is doubly so for an especially tricky language like Chinese. There are heaps of poorly written and poorly edited Chinese textbooks and learning materials. Others are good enough but don’t really address the needs of the learner, instead of focusing on peripheral vocabulary and less useful grammatical structures in the beginning.

There is no magic resource that will make learning Chinese easy, but a few are high-quality and easy to use. Be careful when picking your study materials: make sure they accomplish your own personal goals. For example, if you just want to study how to order in a restaurant for your next trip to China, don’t get a book about how to read Tang Dynasty poems! With careful attention to the tones of Chinese, diligent work studying Chinese characters, and a good Chinese textbook to work with, you're well on your way to mastering the language.

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About the author: John J. Gregg is an experienced writer on essaywriter.nyc where he provides students with an opportunity to get high grades. Besides, He is fond of reading and playing the guitar. By the way, John dreams of traveling a lot and visiting as many countries as possible.

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