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How to Effectively Learn Chinese in 5 Steps

Updated on March 21, 2013

Considering that Chinese or Mandarin, specifically, is the most widely spoken language in the world, it is definitely not a bad idea to learn it whether you are planning to do business in the region or with Chinese businesspeople, are interested in Chinese culture, are visiting China soon, or are simply doing it for the sake of picking up a foreign language in your lifetime. Scientific research has continually proven that people who are bilingual are smarter as the cognitive muscles are given an opportunity to stretch themselves in many situations. Without further ado, here's how to effectively learn Chinese:

1. Take baby steps. One of the easiest ways to discourage yourself from learning a language is by trying to bite off more than you can chew at one specific time. Take baby steps and start small. Download apps on your iPhone or iPad such as Scribe: Origins or Study-Chat so that you can learn Chinese even while on the go. Browse through a bookstore and pick up a book on the subject that interests you. Learning a language also becomes extra fun if you have a friend who can speak the language and whom you can practice conversing with.

2. Test yourself. Have other people test you as well. Tests and exams are given in school and workplaces to ensure that the person taking the test has learned the necessary skills in order to perform a job or accomplish a task. Similarly, the only way to know if you are on the right track with your Chinese lessons is by testing yourself. You can also enlist the help of your friends if you think it will be useful.

3. Create opportunities to practice what you have learned. Let's be honest: learning any foreign language is no easy feat. Chinese or Mandarin is certainly no exception. Many people are successful at learning foreign languages only to find that they have become rusty after a few weeks or months. This can be attributed to lack of practice. The brain has a more difficult time locating the information if it isn't constantly being accessed by its cognitive muscles. With this in mind, create opportunities for yourself to practice what you have learned. This can mean visiting a Chinese restaurant in your town that is owned by native Chinese speakers or frequented by Chinese speaking patrons. Converse with them. Make new friends. Let them know about your goal to learn the language. If there is no area or establishment for you to do this, get online and find a chat group of beginners like yourself who are just acquainting themselves with the fundamentals of the Chinese language. Schedule a time each week to chat with them.

4. Don't be too hard on yourself. Keep in mind that most things worth learning will take a significant amount of time, effort and energy. Cut yourself some slack and don't beat yourself up if it takes you some time and you make a few mistakes along the way. The process of learning a foreign language is a gradual one. You also need to factor in that compared to other languages, Chinese is more challenging to learn because there are additional characters and accents that need to be learned and remembered.

5. Sign up for a class. While teaching yourself Chinese is entirely possible, you may want to consider signing up for a professional class. There are affordable ones; you just have to do some research. Look for suggestions online as well from people who've taken classes in your area. Online schools are another viable option to consider.

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    • Rich W2K profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Gold Coast

      Great hub. Number 4 is by far my biggest obstacle. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself is not useful at all.

    • SolveMyMaze profile image

      SolveMyMaze 5 years ago

      Cool Hub. I've always wanted to learn Chinese but it's something I've sadly never had the time to do. I would agree that you shouldn't walk before you can crawl, so to speak, especially with such a complex language.