5 Unusual Tips for Learning Chinese from 5 Awesome Language Bloggers
There are a lot of articles out there on how to learn Chinese. Basic tips include things like “go to China”, “take Chinese language courses”, etc. Great tips.
But, as somebody that wants to learn Chinese, what else should you know? What are the secrets that only someone who has invested their sweat and blood into learning a language can tell you?
To answer this, I asked this question to several accomplished language learners on the topic of learning Chinese: What is one unusual tip you have for learning Chinese?
They sent some great responses. And, if you’re aiming to learn Chinese, each of their blogs is certainly worth a look too.
Dave Flynn of ChineseHacks.com
“Make sure you have an outlet, that is, somewhere to put into practice what you have learnt. This is especially important if you're learning Mandarin in your own country. An outlet could be anything from blogging about what you've learnt, to setting yourself mini-tasks such as writing about a movie you recently watched, or even just tweeting your thoughts in Mandarin. Putting what you've learnt into practice will help remember it, and become more confident in using it."
Grace of JustLearnChinese.com
“You can't master Chinese without being able to read. You can't master Chinese reading without being able to recognize characters. You can't master characters without being able to make connections among them. The secret to explode your character memorizing is to connect them by radicals
and sound components. At the same time, interesting Chinese stories written in graded Chinese are the most efficient way to grow your vocabulary, improve your comprehension and re-enforce your memory.
Without that foundation, your pinyin based spoken Chinese can't go too far. This is my advice for Chinese learners aiming at fluency.”
Niel of ConfusedLaowai.com
“This comes from my research that I did for my Master's degree and probably one of the biggest things that very few people know in learning Chinese characters.
Most people know of radicals, but very few understand how they interact with recall and reading. There are five variables: frequency, consistency, transparency, regularity and combinality. I document them in full in a blog post on my site.
The main thing that very few learners of Chinese characters realize is that there is a sub-conscious influence on these radicals on your recall and reading. A learner should take the responsibility to not let the negative impact of these variables inhibit their learning. I launched HanziCraft recently that tries to provide as much of this useful information as possible; to help learners easily find the info in the characters. For instance, trying to automatically determine if there are pronunciation clues available in the character components.
The Chinese script is one of the most interesting and fascinating scripts alive in modern times. Each character is not a mess off strokes, but contains a wealth of history, semantic and phonetic information that is extremely useful to a learner. They should not miss out on this. If you're more conscious of what's going on, then you'll be able to master Chinese characters a lot easier.”
Me! (Tait Lawton – I Write East-West-Connect.com)
My tip is to get emotionally involved with the language. You’ll remember things a lot better if you feel it when you learn it. This isn’t only my experience. It’s also something I’ve seen mentioned again and again by psychologists, like in this article.
So, how do you go about obtaining emotionally charged experiences in Chinese? Here are some pointers:
- Don’t back out when you’re in situations that make you nervous or otherwise provide you with a bad feeling. Instead, push on through it and put your language muscles to use.
- Sometimes people think I’m joking about this one… Get a Chinese girlfriend/boyfriend. This is sure to charge up your conversations with all flavours of emotion! Besides, if you’re in China, you’re likely going to want a boyfriend/girlfriend sooner or later, right?
- Choose reading topics that are about things that make you feel something. This could be anything from an essay about political issues that you are passionate about to a romantic novel – choose what works for you.
Jake Gill of ILearnMandarin.Blogspot.com
“Add accountability to your language learning goals.
All too often we set out with the overwhelming task of "learning a language" without the appropriate goals or accountability that might lead to success. Picking a personal goal is a great way to get things going, but getting others involved in your language learning process, and giving them (and yourself) incentives to stay motivated can really help push things in the right direction. The traditional classroom is great at doing this, with homework assignments and grades to keep (most) learners on task, but you don't need a classroom to have accountability.
The first KTV song I ever learned was the result of preparing to sing in Chinese at a friend’s upcoming birthday party. I told them I would be giving my debut performance of "我很醜可是我很溫柔" (I'm ugly but I'm tender) in honor of their birthday, and then I got to work actually learning the song. The pressure of performing in front of my friends, and the potential of embarrassment of totally failure, was just enough accountability to push me to study overtime and sign a wonderfully KTV-esque version of Zhao Chuan's classic rock ballad! Accountability doesn't have to come in the form of potential public humiliation, but adding some kind of stakes to your goals will help increase success. Want to learn 10 new characters a day? Tell your friend their next cup of coffee is on you if you fail. Want to finish a chapter of that textbook or Chinese novel? Your friend get's a free dinner on you if you can't cut it.
With incentives like that they'll be sure to check in and see how things are going... trust me! If you don't want to get your friends involved, than you can do the same thing on sites like beeminder. I've been using accountability tactics for the past few months to get homework assignments done days (or weeks) ahead of schedule with great success. I have taken my friends out for a few dinners since then, but rather than feeling like a total failure as I reached for the check, I was filled with a renewed desire to work harder to make sure it didn't happen again. It’s also given me lots more time to actually focus on things I enjoy, like studying Chinese!
While things like tones and characters are important for learning Chinese, having a good study plan and a way of reaching your goals is crucial for success.
Best of luck and happy studying! “
Jake also works at Skritter, a sexy app that helps Chinese learners remember Chinese and Japanese characters better.
What’s your favourite tip for learning Chinese?