Top 10 Tips to Learn Chinese Faster
Have you ever felt you don’t know where and how to start learning Chinese? Have you ever felt your Chinese proficiency stop progressing? If so, you are reading the right blog post to know the top 10 tips to learn Chinese faster. Learning a language can be challenging, if not having good strategies of studying. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start and/or how to effectively master a language.
I have been teaching Chinese in the US for almost 15 years and have extensive experience helping students to be fluent. In addition, I am a native Chinese speaker who have learned English over the years. I had a hard time to speak English back then, but after many times of trial and error, I have found great tips to learn a language. Therefore, I would like to share this post and support you in the Chinese learning journey. I hope these tips makes your Chinese learning more effective and see the results you deserve faster.
What are these tips for learning Chinese?
There are so many tips for learning Chinese out there. However, the 10 tips for learning Chinese faster I’m sharing now are the ones that I really tried myself as a language learner. These are also the tips that I recommend my students to try and have seen great results and progress.
Why do people need strategies to learn Chinese faster?
“Work smarter, not harder.” This is the approach I do things, and that’s the approach I teach my students to learn Chinese too. There is only limited time in a day that you can dedicate to learn Chinese. Good tips will help you avoid mistakes that other people made, and get you to the fluency level you would like.
Top 10 Tips to Learn Chinese Faster
Tip 1: Set Up the Goal(s)
What’s your goal(s)? What do you want to achieve? Please ask your self these questions, so you know what you are working for. I would suggest have short-term goal(s) and long-term one(s). For instance, the short-term goal could be to order food in Chinese in a Chinese restaurant, or to pass HSK level 1 exam. The long-term goal could be to travel to China or Taiwan without language barriers. Having substantial goal(s) keeps you motivated!
Tip 2: Speak as Often as Possible
I suggest speak as frequently as you can. Apply whatever you learned whenever you find an opportunity to speak. If you want some basic phrases to start, check out these 130 basic phrases that you can’t miss. The more you speak, the easier it comes to you. When you speak, it’s a perfect chance to test out if you pronounce it correctly. If native speakers understand you, congratulations, your pronunciations and tones are understandable which is a big part of the communication.
If you are like me, a perfectionist, I suggest you forget about the “perfect” sentence structures. The mistake I made was that I tried to form a sentence without grammar mistakes, but it turns out it took a long time to say something. The listeners lost interests or patience while they wait. It also made me afraid of speaking spontaneously. I recommend just go for it on the spot (while you continuously learning about grammar). Speak whatever you know, even though it might not be perfect. It will give you the confidence that you know you are able to communicate. This motivation will go a long way. You can do this!
Tip 3: Integrate Chinese Learning to Your Entertainment
It’s human nature that people love to relax and don’t like stress. So, why not integrate your Chinese learning to your daily entertainment? Do you like watching movies? If you do, find a movie that you already watched and watch it again with the Chinese sound track and subtitles on. With the prior knowledge you have to the movie, it is easier to listen to Chinese and pick up some vocabulary from the context.
The same goes to TV shows. With TV shows, if you are beginners, I suggest to have subtitles on. So you can get both input from listening and reading which help to get more understanding. If you are an intermediate learner or above, I suggest only listen to Chinese and turn off the subtitles. There are other ways to practice reading, but it would be beneficial to listen only and get used to the talking speed of native speakers.
Tip 4: Be Friends with Native Chinese Speakers
It’s very beneficial to make friends with native Chinese speakers for different reasons. One, you have a lot of chances to speak with them. These are all real contexts when you two chat. There will be authentic words being used as well as native speaker’s talking speed that you are listening to. These are all hard to get from learning materials that were created for learners, because they tend to lower the speed and use simpler words.
Two, you will have chances to know more Chinese culture which often ties to the language. For instance, you might have heard people saying “你吃了吗” (nǐ chī le ma? Have you eaten yet?) as greetings or a conversation starter. It can take another post to explain this, but to explain in a short way: People from the generation where economy was not good might not always eat in full. So, it’s a caring way to ask other people if they have eaten yet. Therefore, you can learn so much more beyond the language itself from native speakers.
Making friends with native speakers is one of the best tips to learn Chinese faster.
Tip 5: Build on the Words You Already Know
One of the Chinese characteristics is that words have their original meanings and you can form new vocabulary with different combinations. For example, 饭 means rice or meal, 早 means morning, so 早饭means breakfast. You can also go for 午饭 which means lunch ( literally, noon meal) or 晚饭 which means dinner (literally, night meal).
Helpful Resource: Blank New Vocabulary Study Sheet
Tip 6: Always Review- Especially the Ones You Often Forget!
Have you ever felt so familiar to certain vocabulary words? You know you must have seen them before quite a few times, but for some reason, you just can’t remember. Those are the words that you almost remember, but still need a little bit of work to fully memorize. Compared to the brand new words, these are more likely to be memorized faster, because you have seem them so many times already. Find a way to organize them, review them, use them in contexts, make flashcards for them, etc. Just be sure to nail down those words because you are so close.
Tip 7: Master the Tones From the Beginning
If you are reading this article, I believe you have already started learning Chinese. I bet you know Chinese is a tone language. When the tone changes, the meaning changes too.
Generally speaking, it takes some time to have a good control of the tones, from being able to differentiate the tones to being able to pronounce tones accurately. It could be a long-term process. Many people didn’t understand the importance of the tones at first, especially when they feel they are able to understand each other pretty well among all the learners.
However, things change when they have a chance to talk to native Chinese speakers who totally don’t have exposure to listen to how learners’ speak without tones or with incorrect tones. People find out they are not being understood because of their tones. At that time, it will take even more efforts to adjust how you pronounce tones, because you already have the “bad habits” to pronounce them. Therefore, I would recommend you master the tones from the very beginning. It’s so much easier to develop the “good habit” at the early stage. Even though it might take a lot of time and effort to do so at first, it’s totally worth it for the long run! This is one of the top 10 tips to learn Chinese faster for a very good reason.
Tip 8: Be Sure to Learn Chinese Characters too
If you just want to speak a few things here and there, it doesn’t matter if you learn characters or not. However, if you are serious about advancing your proficiency, learning characters is a must down the road, even you don’t start from the very beginning.
By “learning” characters, there are different levels of learning to choose from, depending on your need.
(A) The first level: Be able to simply recognize characters and know the meanings
(B) The second level: Be able to recognize characters and copy them by handwriting correctly
(C) The third level: Be able to memorize how to write them by heart.
There are also radicals associated with each character. Some radicals represents certain categories and are helpful for you to guess the meaning of characters when you don’t know them. For example, 木 is the wood/tree radical. When you see 森林(forest), you know the words must related to wood/tree. Learning characters will help you further your knowledge of Chinese language.
Tip 9: Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes
This is easier said than done, and sounds cliche. However, it’s very true. Remember, languages are used for communication. Being able to communicate with people is the ultimate goal, no matter what language you are learning. Think of communication is on the top of the pyramid, others such as vocabulary, grammar points sentence structures, tones, pronunciations are fundamental blocks that help you reach to the top. If you make mistakes, so what? As long as other people understand what you meant, you still reach certain level of communication. Also, when you make mistakes, you know where your weakness is. Then, you can focus on improving it, and that’s good for your learning.
Tip 10: Study as Frequently as You Can
Life is busy. I get it. When you have limited time, how frequently and how long should you study? When it comes to the matter of frequency and length of time, here is my suggestion. Make sure to study everyday if you can, or every other day if you must, even just for 5 or 10 minutes a day. I wouldn’t recommend wait until you have a long chunk of time, but only study once a week. Frequency is the key to language learning. The more often you review it, the easier it comes.
To conclude, have your goals in mind, keep Chinese learning as entertained as possible, speak often and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
I hope you find these top 10 tips to learn Chinese faster helpful. Please leave a comment down below and let me know which tip you are going to execute first!