Language Courses: Learning Mandarin Tips

Learning a new language is  an amazing experience. Sometimes, learning a new language can teach you a lot about a particular country’s culture – for example, learning Japanese. On the other hand, you could learn a language like Spanish that is spoken by a large majority of the US population and be better equipped for a variety of job positions.  Learning a language like Mandarin may be hard to start out with but it is a very interesting language and with China becoming such an important part of the global economy, Mandarin language skills will definitely be an asset for you.

Mandarin Language Learning Tips

  • Use the language as much as possible.  Even when you can’t speak but a few phrases, use those phrases.  Textbooks and websites are excellent sources of gaining new understanding and vocabulary, but finding a native speaker to practice with is essential for developing any real fluency.
  • Think in the language.  This takes a long time to achieve, but it is the only true fluency.  As phrases and sentence patterns become natural to you, your mind will be capable of using that vocabulary and grammar in thinking.  If you want to increase your fluency you must force your mind to think in the language rather than your native tongue when studying.
  • Consider putting off studying Chinese characters.  If your goal is oral fluency, you may wish to hold off on learning characters.  Chinese characters are a large investment in time.  If you only have a few months of study before you need to use your Chinese, you may want to budget all your time for learning how to speak and understand.  Characters will aid you in learning, but the time it takes to learn a sufficient amount of characters may be too high of a cost.  On the other hand, if you can wait for fluency, studying the characters parallel to your regular study is probably the most effective method.
  • Constantly study and review.  Carry flashcards everywhere.  You can spend 5 minutes waiting in line doing nothing, or you can spend 5 minutes in line learning something you want to know.
  • Concentrate when someone is talking to you in Mandarin. It’s easy to tune someone out and just pretend you are understanding once you get lost in a conversation.  Stick with it, it will increase your retentive ability.  If you do get lost, try to listen for words you know or ask them to repeat (if possible).
  • When you get a headache, take a break.  When you feel unwell your ability to learn is decreased.  In fact, if you are studying hard you should take frequent breaks to keep your mind fresh.
  • In Mandarin, accuracy is better than large vocabulary.  If you know a lot of words but you say them wrong, it doesn’t help much.  Practice the sounds and tones constantly.  Ask for correction.  Chinese people would rather not point out your mistakes and tend to emphasize how good you are doing.
  • Correct yourself whenever you notice yourself make a mistake.  Repeat a new word or phrase until you get it right.  If you make a mistake while talking to someone else, stop yourself and say it right.  You may even wish to ask them to model the phrase for you if you feel that would be appropriate.
  • Don’t be shy.  Try to say what you can in the language, and if you get it wrong, explain until someone understands what you mean.  Then ask them how they’d say it.  Try to give the explanation in the language even if the person you speak to knows good English.
  • Write new vocabulary down.Use the romanization as well as characters (if you are learning characters).  This will help you to listen and will give you good practice with the romanization system.  After you write it down, ask someone what the meaning is and give them the context you heard it in.  Then, review that new vocabulary when waiting around.
  • Buy a good dictionary and a good language text.While using a language is the only way to get fluent, good literature can add lots of new vocabulary to practice.
  • Spend at least 30 consecutive minutes a day studying the language, more if you’re on a roll.

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