Learning Chinese isn’t difficult at all if you know where to look and what to look for. You’ll be happy to find out that there are, in fact, so many wonderful resources on the web. Here are some of the best resources available today for learning Chinese by yourself.
1. Use music videos
Using music is one of the best ways to learn a new language because it’s fun and interesting! But why use music videos instead of just listening to Chinese songs? Well, sometimes what’s going on in the music video can give you context to better understand the song, and other times it’s a great peek into the culture. But the biggest benefit is that you can have a preview of the Chinese characters and follow along with the lyrics.
2. Regularly meet with a conversation partner
When I was taking up Chinese in Beijing, I was fortunate enough to have a language partner. I got to learn more Mandarin from her while she learned English from me: a win-win situation! We get to cover more areas than the ones taught in class, like slang and various expressions. I became familiar with their actual way of talking.
So if you have a friend who’s good in Mandarin, you can do that too. Chances are you’ll have to look for a conversation partner, but it’s completely doable! Is there a university near where you live, or a Chinese restaurant? Check there first. You can also look for a Chinese conversation partner online—that’s becoming quite the trend nowadays.
3. Watch Chinese shows with subtitles
Once you’ve covered the basics, watching Chinese shows is the next step. Whether it’s dramas or variety shows, you’ll be exposed to new characters and vocabulary. Like with music, pick the genre that you love most. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting to learn something new while enjoying what you’re doing.
If you ask me, I suggest that you choose Chinese dramas that border on romantic comedies. Why? They’re the easiest to understand! Talk shows or variety shows are equally entertaining, but there’s a tendency for you to feel lost in their conversations. If you’re not that familiar with Chinese current events and culture, you might not fully understand what their humorous statements are all about.
Also, choose shows with subtitles. There are so many video streaming sites available in the web; start with dramafever.com or maplestage.com. These are only some of the more famous sites out there that feature shows with Chinese subtitles. Watching with subtitles will greatly help your character recognition skills.
4. Listen to audio books
If you’ve noticed, all the references I’ve listed here so far target both your listening and reading skills. That’s because it works best that way. You won’t get the most out of your learning if you merely target one of them. It’s for this exact reason that audio books will really help you out. Merely reading a book won’t do, you have to listen to the words at the same time.
For starters, you can download Chinese course textbooks. Most of these have an accompanying audio book, so it’ll help you grasp the basics of the language. But if you wish to stick to novels and comics, there is a wide range of topics and titles available in 书声bar (Audio Book Bar), 天方听书网 (Tianfang Book Listening Web) and verycd.com.
5. Listen to podcasts
Finally, if you know where to look, podcasts can become your new on-the-go best friend. There is a great variety of topics, as well as numerous podcasts focused on teaching the Chinese basics to beginners. You can download these to start. But if you can already manage, I suggest you pick podcasts that are geared towards specific interests and Chinese culture. This will exposed you to a wider range of vocabulary—words that aren’t normally covered in the former.
For a start, try 好简单 (How Easy) or 黑米公主 (Princess Remy). These are the common favorites of both Chinese speakers and Chinese learners. They cover a variety of topics from culture to arts to daily news. You can also try BBC news for more detailed updates on politics, but be forewarned, you have to possess some intermediate level of Chinese to listen to them. News has a totally different lingo.
If you’re looking for podcasts that are aimed at specific interests, you can check out the iTunes store. Some of these include NBA 前线 (Front Line) for updates and reviews about NBA, 电影不无聊 (Movies Are Not Boring) for all info about movies and 科学脱口秀 (Science Talk Show) for science related talk shows, among others.