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The simplest way to learn Chinese is to “do it”

The simplest way to learn Chinese is to do it.jpg

I'm often asked questions about how to learn Chinese. Many of them relate to specific areas of learning, such as "How should I improve X?" There are many ways to answer (回答) such questions (问题) depending on how much you know about the student and the learning process, but the simplest one is often to just "do it". You improve listening ability by listening more, you learn to write better texts by writing more.

Is it really that easy?

Naturally, if that was the whole truth, I wouldn't have written hundreds of articles about how to learn Chinese, but it's still true surprisingly often, even if it feels silly as a piece of advice because it's so obvious.

If you don't know what to do to improve in a certain area, the first thing you should do is spend more time and focus on it. There is no silver bullet that will fix all your problems, all the methods that are helpful also take a lot of time.

Passive and active skills

In many cases, the simplest answer is also a good one, especially when it comes to reading and listening to Mandarin (passive skills). I really think that the best way to get better at listening is to listen more. Yes, it matters how you listen, what you listens to and so on, but nothing of that matters if you don't listen enough. The same is true for any other part of learning Chinese. You learn by doing.

The only case where I don't recommend this is if you always learn by doing. For example, if you are an extrovert person who speaks all the time, just speaking more might not be the best way for you to keep improving.

You might need to listen more instead, or practice speaking in a different way.

Doing rather than studying

Learning by doing can also mean something else. It means that you should make learning as practical as possible. Whenever you have the chance to do something rather than just study, do it. If you want to learn to ask for directions in Chinese, you go out and ask for directions. If you want to improve your ability to understand strangers when they speak Chinese, listen to more strangers speaking Chinese. If you want to learn how to count in Mandarin (or any other language), start counting things in your daily life.

When you are already doing that, that's when you should ask yourself if there's anything else you could do, or if you could do what you're doing in another way to get more out of it. Don't try to tweak a method you aren't using, try it first. Get going before you try to correct your direction. You learn Chinese by using it. There are many useful things you can do apart from that, but those should only be considered once you are actually learning by doing.


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