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Tips for learning Chinese by yourself

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Tips on How to Get Started Learning Chinese by Yourself

Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your learning:

Familiarize yourself with the sounds. Familiarization is the key to learning any language. You have to know how to distinguish someone who is speaking in Mandarin from those who are not. Listen to anyone or anything that uses Mandarin, be it an audio book, a video or a mere commentary. It’ll help you learn the basics of the Chinese language: the sounds and the intonation. You’ll notice what sounds are most commonly used, and which are not present in Mandarin.

Look for the practical side of the language (语言). Think about it. What’s your main motivation for learning Chinese? Is it for business, for travel or just for the heck if it? Whatever your reasons are, use it as motivation for you to continue learning. There will always be a time when you feel discouraged or out of sorts. When that time comes, think of your reason for learning the language. That will get you back on track. You can also gear your lessons toward these goals. If you’re learning for travel purposes, acquaint yourself with the basic Chinese travel and shopping phrases. Once you see the practical applications of the language, you’ll want to keep on learning.

Listen to the words and conversations (会话) over and over. Repetition is the best way to remember whatever you’ve learned. You’ll be confused by everything you read or listen to at first, but over time, it’ll slowly start to make sense. Repetition helps you understand. You don’t need to look for the meaning of each character. Over time, you’ll understand what characters mean through context clues.

Combine your various interests with your learning. This will make it more fun! Don’t keep your learning so serious to the point that it becomes a burden to you. Learning should be enjoyable, so try to match it with your interests. If you’re into music, for example, use music to learn Chinese. If you love reading, check out these interesting Chinese novels. If you’re a fan of movies and TV shows, then use the Chinese counterpart. There are so many avenues of learning available for you to discover!

Practice every day. Never stop practicing. No matter how busy life gets, set aside time to practice the things you’ve learned. It’ll help you remember them and encourage you to further your learning.

5 Effective Ways to Learn 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.

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.

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.

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.

Remember that you already have the superpowers within to make your mark in the world, so use that power to learn Chinese on your own—and enjoy the journey!


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