So you’ve decided to take the plunge and study Chinese! But you might be stuck on where to begin. Lots of questions will be going through your mind right now: do you start taking classes or self study, how much time should you invest, what resources are there available to help learn Chinese more easily? Well, you found the right article! Today I will take you through the steps you can follow to get started in your amazing Chinese language journey. Think of it as your introduction to learning Chinese for beginners.
3 Steps to Learn Chinese for beginner
Since this is a big question we need to break it down into smaller bite sizes. If you’ve gotten this far you probably realize that learning a second language is never easy and to be successful it requires perseverance, lots of time, and helpful Chinese language resources. This is not to put you off it’s just to remind you that learning a new language is as much about hard work as your mindset, but we will talk about this a bit more later on. For now, here are some basic steps to help you to learn Chinese.
Step 1: Learn Chinese with Determination and Persistence
The first step on how to learn Chinese, actually begins with you asking yourself a very important but big question that you may be reluctant to ask yourself: is this language the right fit for me? Learning a new language can be difficult, but this is especially true for Chinese, there’s a reason why it’s often found on the list of hardest worldwide languages to learn! Learning Chinese is not for everybody, it takes as much strength to start your journey as it does to throw in the towel before the race has begun and admit this isn’t right for you.
So how can you know if Chinese is the right fit? Think about how much time you are willing to invest (as mandarin requires continuous work), what about money towards resources? Online vs classroom classes, etc. The good thing is many online companies, like Lingo Bus will offer a free demo class to new users. So if you are unsure if this is the right language for you the best thing you can do is take a free class with a native speaker to find out without wasting too much of your time or resources.
Now that you’ve started your language journey it brings us onto our actual question on how to learn Chinese?
Step 2. Collect Resources for Learning Chinese
The resources you have available can either make or break your language progress, many language learners quit due to lack of adequate language learning support. My suggestion is to have regular classes with a native speaker as your supporting foundation, then use online resources or textbooks to continue and to support your practice.
Step 3. Break Learning Chinese Into Several Manageable Steps
The final step and third step is actually made up of smaller steps and is the most important! Where you break learning Chinese into several more manageable steps.
Learn Pinyin – Pronounce Chinese Words Properly
Start by learning Pinyin (the system for writing Chinese using roman letters) also known as the Chinese alphabet. You can find a more detailed guide in one of our past posts. Pinyin is essential as it will teach you how to pronounce words properly in Chinese. Because although Pinyin may look like something you could easily read, the words have a different pronunciation than expected.
Speak Chinese – Practice with a Native Speaker
Once you’ve mastered this you can go on to the next step, trying to speak Chinese. The best way to do this is find a way to practice with a native speaker, in this way you can make sure that you are pronouncing words correctly. This will also help you transition from saying simple words to having basic conversations, which will reinforce positive language patterns. It will also help you with your listening. The good thing about learning a language in such a connected world is that you won’t even have to leave your home to practice. There are many platforms that offer online classes with native speakers, or you can even find an online language buddy to practice with.
Listen Chinese – Practice More to Recognize Tones
Although it’s often combined with speaking, listening is its own step. Listening actually has a smaller step within it, the tones. You can star with these. Since you are interested in learning Chinese you probably know that Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language so speaking using the proper tones is essential! If you can’t recognize tones not only won’t Chinese people be unable to understand you but you also won’t understand them. This skill comes with a lot of practice, you can start by working towards recognizing tones, there are plenty of free apps that can help you practice this. Tone skills can also fall under speaking, don’t forget to practice your speaking using tones, this may seem impossible at the start but with proper practice it can be achieved.
The best way to do this is by mimicking, I often called myself a Mandarin parrot because I would repeat phrases exaggerating tones over and over. At the start I sounded a bit like a soundboard with pre-recorded answers but it helped to get my tones right! To further practice your listening skills try to use up dead time and listen to podcasts, watch movies, or have Chinese music playing in the background whilst you do housework. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, being abroad it’s hard to do that so listen to as much Chinese as you can and don’t waste any opportunity.
Write Chinese – Reinforce Chinese Speaking Abilities
The next step is the writing system, which in China is based on characters. For a handy guide on how to practice your writing check out our past articles! Start off easy and find a fun way to practice characters, when you are learning a language you may think speaking and listening is the most important but don’t let writing lag behind. Learning to write in Chinese will also reinforce your speaking abilities.
You don’t have to follow these steps in the exact order but there’s one thing you must do if you want your Chinese to improve, and that is to practice everyday!
Now that we’ve taken you through how to learn Chinese you may be wondering ‘how can I learn Chinese easily?’ We have some tips for you below.
3 Simple Tips for Learning Chinese Easily
As with any language most learners will often ask ‘How can I learn * insert desired language * easily?”, go on google and type that in and you will find thousands of articles and links all created to answer this question. We’ve already laid out specific academic language based help above, which is important. But when it comes to language learning there’s something else that’s just important, it can either make or break your language studies do you know what it is?
You! It’s how you feel about the language you are learning. There’s no fast track to learning a language, however you can make it easier by not turning into a chore. Learning a language is already hard enough without you making it harder on yourself. Here are some things you may already know but I thought might help to remind you, to make learning Chinese easier!
Many people will start learning a new language with very general goals, such as, “I want to learn Chinese.” Unfortunately, this is not very helpful, as we mentioned above first you need to ask yourself why, and then how. Once you know why you want to learn Chinese it may help you create helpful manageable broken down goals. Think of it like going up a ladder, you don’t want to skip too many steps or you may just fall down. Create a personalized plan with achievable goals. Your long term goal may be to speak Chinese but create daily, weekly and monthly goals. But don’t make them too hard to achieve or you may get disappointed.
Remember that learning a language is like going up a mountain wearing skis, as soon as you stop trying to ski upwards you quickly start slipping backwards, having to then start that whole journey again. So practice frequently to stop you from having to redo work and reinforcing the feeling like you haven’t gotten anywhere.
Say no to grammar
It may sound strange that I’m telling you not to focus on grammar when learning a new language! Of course the grammar is important! But don’t focus so much on it that you start going crazy. Focusing too much on grammar will get you nowhere and will just leave you feeling frustrated. Although language learning requires dedication it’s also easier to learn if you enjoy what you are doing, so have fun, study your grammar but don’t get so obsessed that you will quit.
Learning Chinese doesn’t have to be hard, although it’ll take time and effort, with the right mentality, a solid plan and useful resources you will find your Chinese improving exponentially everyday! I hope this article has been helpful in giving you confidence to start your language journey, just remember all it takes is the first brave step to start.
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