The sounds, the tones, and the different accents can often be the stuff of nightmares for anyone considering learning the Chinese language.
Given that it’s a so-called “difficult” language to learn in comparison to other European languages that are more similar to our own, learning Mandarin Chinese, in particular, is often seen as a challenge for even the most ambitious linguists.
Since the People’s Republic of China standardised the language and created the Pinyin romanisation system and tonnes of advances have been made in e-learning, any European can now learn Mandarin Chinese and become fluent.
So lets have a look at how you can learn to speak, pronounce, and understand Mandarin Chinese thanks to immersion, teaching methods, and different resources.
Consider these ways to learn Chinese on your own…
While English is one of the world’s most important languages, Chinese is by far the most spoken language in the world.
There are few better places to learn Chinese than China! (Source: Manuel Joseph)
With over 900 million native speakers and 300 million people who speak it as a second language, Mandarin Chinese is almost everywhere.
This means that Chinese language skills are essential for almost anyone who wants to work abroad, especially when speaking about Mandarin Chinese since the People’s Republic of China is expected to become even more powerful in the future.
Apart from Mandarin Chinese classes offered in partnership Confucius Institute, there are also linguistic stays and exchange programmes for those who’d like to learn Chinese more quickly through immersion.
Whether with a host family or at work, anyone spending time in China will come into contact with Chinese people. Even with an English-Chinese dictionary in hand, they’ll be forced to speak the language whether they feel like it or not.
One of the easiest ways to master the Chinese language is through immersion. For example, you could head to Beijing (while avoiding all the areas inhabited by other expats where English is spoken a lot) and surround yourself in Chinese culture and learn the most neutral form of Mandarin Chinese.
If you don’t feel like organising everything yourself, another option is to get in touch with organisations that offer trips to China for learning the language. While you won’t get as much choice as you would if you’d organised your trip yourself, these are handy options for people who know nothing at all about China or just don’t have the time to organise their own trip.
These organisations can ensure that you stay in decent accommodation and get involved with Chinese life and using your new language as quickly as possible. However, it should be noted that these organisations can add a large number of fees (for food, transport, excursions, Chinese lessons etc.).
It does guarantee that you end up in the best possible position for learning Chinese in China, though.
Find out more easy ways to learn Chinese…
If you want to improve your comprehension, pronunciation, understanding of tones, and your general level in Chinese, a private tutor or Chinese teacher is a great option.
There are a lot of people ready to teach you Chinese! (Source: Claudia Seidensticker)
They’re really useful for absolute beginners and for those that need academic support for their GCSE, A Level, or university studies. The main advantage of private tutorials is that you can take a different approach than you would do if you were taking traditional language courses at school or university.
How do you choose the right private Chinese tutor to help you become bilingual?
No matter what language they’re teaching, it’s often a huge advantage to opt for a private tutor who’s teaching their mother tongue. There are plenty of Chinese tutors on Superprof for students of all different levels. It’s a great way to learn Chinese quickly!
Generally speaking, private tutors will adapt their courses to the student and their level. This means they can help you study for GCSEs, A Levels, or just for fun!
They can also help you with:
Decyphering Chinese characters using the Pinyin system
Improving your Chinese grammar and vocabulary
Putting together Chinese sentences and phrases
They’ll focus on using the language. After all, if you’re working with a native Chinese speaker, they’ll want to speak to you in Chinese and will be able to help you improve your pronunciation and comprehension.
In terms of your career, there are also private tutors who can offer tutorials for adults wanting to improve their language skills through conversation or learn more about Chinese-speaking culture.
Personalised Mandarin Chinese tutorials are also useful for anyone studying for the HSK test or looking to get conversational so that they can travel to China as part of a university exchange programme.
Whether they’re perfectly bilingual, of Chinese heritage, or very experienced, private tutors have the benefits of:
Putting students in genuine speaking situations
Being able to talk about current events
Using specialised vocabulary
Their rates may vary depending on how far they have to travel or the type of tutorials you’re asking for. However, some private Mandarin Chinese tutors even offer discounts if you’re willing to book several tutorials at the same time.
Discover the quickest ways to learn Chinese…
While there are plenty of e-learning resources and apps for learning Chinese, far too many of them focus on reading and writing instead of speaking and listening.
Make sure you’re up-to-date with everything going on in China! (Source: Tranmautritam)
As you’ll see, there are some that don’t. Here are some apps you can use to learn Chinese while having fun!
While the simple version is free, you’ll have to pay for the full version. However, this only costs a few quid and is really useful for anyone who’s getting ready to travel to China or another Chinese-speaking country. The advantage of paying for the app is that the full version focuses on everyday situations. These situations include things like: organising a meeting, going to the hospital, planning trips, etc.
The free version includes lessons on how to speak Chinese covering things such as:
Key expressions (organised by theme)
Mandarin Chinese expressions for speaking with locals
This app is available on all platforms.
There’s nothing better for starting to learn a language than getting an app designed for children (whose level in Chinese is similar to your own). This app is great for beginners since it can teach you how to speak by listening to 100 different stories. It’s free and available on Android and iPhone.
This app (which is also for kids) lets you feed a dragon. Since all the different types of food are pronounced in Chinese, it’s a fun way to perfect your culinary vocabulary. There’s also the vocabulary for numbers and colours which is great for anyone who’s just started learning Chinese. The app only costs a few pounds but it’s only available on Apple devices. It’s perfect for learning Chinese on your own!
This app is aimed at absolute beginners and as you play with the main character, you’ll improve your pronunciation, vocabulary, and comprehension. This fun little Chinese app is available on both Android and iOS.
Discover other fun ways to learn Mandarin!
Based on a system designed in the 19th century by Hermann Ebbinghaus, research on a Spaced Repetition System has proven it to be an invaluable language learning method.
Knowing when to study is key to learning. (Source: startupstockphotos.com)
This system is based on Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve and is one of the best methods for learning vocabulary. You’ll find this method being used in university textbooks, on-line courses, and even in e-learning apps.
This learning technique focuses mainly on timing when it comes to remembering words in a foreign language. The ideal time to study new words and vocabulary is at the very moment you’re about to forget them. This is when you need to refresh your memory.
While technology has changed how we learn foreign languages, this simple method is still used as the foundation of an algorithm designed to work out the ideal time for further study.
It’s recommended that you use an app like Anki to fully exploit this learning method. While it’s free for tablet and PC, you have to pay to use it on Apple devices. It’s useful for absolute beginners and will work out exactly when you should be going back over words and vocabulary you’ve already studied.
Finally, it should be noted that spaced repetition isn’t the only method you should be using when it comes to learning a foreign language such as Mandarin Chinese. In fact, there are more students with bad techniques than there are with bad memories. This is the main reason why there are so many of us who studied a language for a number of years at school but somehow don’t remember any of it once we leave.
Discover also our best tips for learning Mandarin…
Find a Mandarin Chinese tutor: