The Truth on How To Learn Chinese with LTL in 2021
You want tips on How to Learn Chinese (for 2021)? We’ve got the answers here, with tips, tricks and plenty more for you.
For a native English speaker like myself, Chinese is a very intimidating language!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when studying any language, but especially Chinese, since it’s so different from English.
But don’t give up!
Learning a language is also one of most worthwhile things you can do, and it can be extremely rewarding.
I’ve been in China for a little under 5 months now, and here are some of my top study tips for learning Chinese.
I’ve accumulated these tips over the past 2-3 years, as I studied Chinese in university, but accelerated my pace here in China.
These tips are all things I do myself or have gathered from classmates, and they’re mostly targeted for learning Chinese here in China. You can also apply these to any new language you learn!
Of course, everyone has a different method of studying, but hopefully these tips are useful and can help you maximize the amount you learn during your stay in China or wherever you happen to be studying.
Tips for Learning Chinese – Make Goals
Tips for Learning Chinese – Set Your Priorities
Tips for Learning Chinese – Target Your Weaknesses
Tips for Learning Chinese – Review
Tips for Learning Chinese – Flashcards
Tips for Learning Chinese – Supplementary Resources
Tips for Learning Chinese – Take Breaks
Tips for Learning Chinese – Surround Yourself
Tips for Learning Chinese – Make Chinese Friends
Tips for Learning Chinese – Stay Motivated
Tips for Learning Chinese – Don’t Compare
Tips for Learning Chinese – Don’t Be Afraid to Speak
Tips for Learning Chinese – Outside the Classroom
Tips for Learning Chinese – ConclusionOK, let’s delve deeper into how to learn Chinese…
#1 – Tips for Learning Chinese: Make Goals!
Goals have the double purpose of helping you stay motivated, as well as measuring how much you’ve accomplished.
Don’t be afraid to make several goals at a time.
For example, I hope to be at HSK 6 level by the time I leave China. Your goal could look different– maybe it’s just to become conversationally fluent in Chinese. But having a goal can really keep you on track.
Additionally, daily or weekly goals can be helpful.
Language is, of course, not something you can ever 100% master. You can always learn more, but by setting daily or weekly goals for yourself, you can still feel accomplished without completely melting your brain.
For example, my daily goal is generally to review what I’ve learned in that day’s lesson.
Alternatively, you could tell yourself that you’d like to complete lessons 5-9 by the end of the week.
Make sure your goals are realistic! But simple goals are easy to set, and they’re a good measure of how much you’ve progressed.
PS – for the full download of the above graphic, you can go to our Chinese Radicals blog post.
#2 – Set Your Priorities Straight
If, for example, you came to China for the singular goal of passing the HSK 5, then that’s how you should be spending your time.
Focus on HSK test materials and learning vocabulary from the test.
However, if your main priority is to be able to speak with a Chinese friend, then your study methods and materials might look a little different.
Discover your HSK level with our FREE HSK vocabulary assessment.
#3 – Target Your Weaknesses
Everyone has a weakness when it comes to learning language. For me, it’s definitely listening.
Among speaking, listening, reading, and writing, speaking and listening are generally harder for new learners, but your weakness could be any of the four!
Or it could be something more specific, like tones.
So a key part of how to learn is targeting the things you struggle at.
It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and devote extra time and effort to pulling your area of weakness up to the level of your other strengths.
Since I know my weakness is listening, I sometimes listen to a Chinese podcast, which is convenient while I walk to class or ride the metro. I also like to go back and listen to the audio from my lessons.
This helps me to reabsorb the new vocabulary words and grammar structures.
Whatever your weakness is, you also might want to use some extra resources to practice in this area.
Complete Guide to Basic Chinese Grammar & Sentence Structures
Chinese grammar is NOT as hard as you think. In fact it’s a lot easier than many other languages. Here we introduce some key points and show you the way.
#4 – Tips for Learning Chinese: Always Review!
This is probably one of the most important tips.
Unless you’re some sort of genius, you most likely won’t remember a word that you only see or use once or twice (I know I can’t!)
So make sure to go back and review vocabulary and grammar structures that you’ve learned. You won’t realize how much you’ve forgotten until you review!
This doesn’t just apply for how to learn Chinese but how to learn any language.
For me, after every class, I go back over my notes, practice writing my vocabulary words, and make flashcards of all my new words and grammar structures, which leads to my next point…
#5 – Tips for Learning Chinese: Flashcards!
Maybe they seem a little old-school, but for me (and for most of my classmates), flashcards are an incredibly useful tool for learning and reviewing.
You could go really old-school and make paper flashcards, but I like to use flashcards apps.
Pleco, a Chinese dictionary app, has a built-in flashcard program. It costs about $10 USD, but it is a well-spent $10.
Instead of manually writing each flashcard, you can simply tap the plus button to have a card (including characters, pinyin, audio pronunciation, definition, and example sentences) automatically added to your flashcard deck.
From there, you can organize them by category and review them at any time.
Of course, you can use a free flashcard app as well, but I’ve found Pleco to be extremely convenient.
Speaking of free apps, I also like to use AnkiApp, another flashcard app, to make grammar cards.
Since Pleco is a dictionary, making grammar flashcards isn’t very convenient.
So I use Anki to review grammar structures. Since I make these cards manually, this is a bit more time-consuming, but again, very worthwhile.
I also use the flashcards to help me with words that have similar meanings, or words that often go together. For me, Anki and Pleco are my two most commonly used apps for studying.
Using the flashcards are great for helping you remember the words you’ve learned.
And you can review them on the metro or during any kind of down time!
#6 – Use Supplementary Resources
In addition to Anki and Pleco, there are a lot of useful Chinese learning apps and other resources out there.
You aren’t solely confined to your textbook!
I have an app called Du Chinese, which has stories in Chinese for you to read, organized by level.
We have actually reviewed numerous apps so you know what to choose!
I particularly like one called “Learning Chinese through Stories” or “听故事学中文”.
I’ve also listened to iMandarinPod, which sometimes tells news stories (it’s a bit more advanced).
Lots of Chinese-learning resources are available online!
And LTL has started to create its own free online tools for you to study and find extra materials to learn Chinese.
For example we’ve got:
- HSK vocabulary tests
- Vocabulary tests: proverbs, measure words, radicals
- Pinyin Translator
- Pinyin Chart (free to download!)
- And more!
This is a way to both learn and have fun at the same time. Find a Chinese show or movie you’re genuinely interested in, and it won’t feel like studying!
#7 – Give Yourself Breaks
While it’s true that studying a language takes a lot of effort, there’s only so much information you can absorb in a certain amount of time!
You definitely need to take breaks while studying or throughout the week, so you can maximize your learning during the time you are studying.
Everyone is different of course, maybe you need a 5 minute break every half hour, or maybe you’d prefer a half hour break after 2 hours. It’s up to you and your individual studying method.
Maybe you need to take a day to not study at all.
Just know that it’s definitely possible to overdo it when it comes to studying.
#8 – Surround Yourself!
The fastest way to becoming fluent and learning functional Chinese is to immerse yourself.
Some of these things require a base level of knowledge in order to be helpful, so maybe don’t do all these things on your second day of class…
But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little!
You can EVEN learn Chinese with our favourite Disney songs!
#9 – Tips for Learning Chinese: Make Chinese Friends!
This tip is an extension of my previous point.
When surrounding yourself with the language, that includes the people you hang out with as well.
Practicing the language with a friend (not your teacher, who knows your exact level) can be extremely helpful in picking up conversational skills.
Staying inside your comfort zone of speaking only your native language won’t get you as far as fast.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to talk with a native speaker!
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#10 – Tips for Learning Chinese: Stay Motivated
This one is tricky, it can be hard to keep going if you’re feeling especially discouraged.
Try to study with friends!
Go to a coffee shop or the library and study together for a couple of hours.
It can be helpful to have friends to encourage you, and you can ask each other questions.
There are also people who have achieved high levels of Chinese in a short amount of time! These stories can help you stay motivated.
Check out this story of an LTL student who was able to reach HSK 6 level in only a year!
#11 – Don’t Compare Yourself
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way.
Comparing yourself to others doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s easy to do, especially in a school where everyone is divided by class and/or Chinese level.
However, remember that everyone has different goals and strengths.
Getting through your textbook fast or slow doesn’t matter, as long as you are thoroughly understanding and learning the material.
#12 – Don’t be Afraid to Speak!
You might find yourself a bit stuck in the middle of a conversation. What was that word again…?
Or maybe you feel nervous talking to native Chinese speaker that you don’t know.
I think the most important thing to remember is that saying something (even if it has some sort of grammar mistake) is better than not saying anything at all.
Making mistakes is how you learn!
In my book, if you get your point across (mistakes and all), that’s a success.
So don’t shy away from asking for directions, ordering from a Chinese menu, or any type of interaction with a Chinese speaker. These daily interactions are invaluable for becoming fluent.
#13 – Learning Never Stops
Once again, you aren’t confined to the 31 new vocabulary words from lesson 14 in the textbook.
Sometimes words from the textbook aren’t always the most useful words.
Take every opportunity to learn more and increase your knowledge.
For example, if you see the same characters every day on the metro, but don’t know what they mean, look them up and learn them.
Same with street signs or unfamiliar words you might come across in a conversation.
These types of words are often super useful when out and about. It’s as easy as adding a new flashcard to be reviewed later.
Tips for Learning Chinese: In Conclusion…
Those are my top 13 tips for how to learn Chinese!
I hope you found these to be useful to you in some way.
Studying in China is obviously a huge step in the right direction for learning Chinese.
Nothing can accelerate language learning quite like being surrounded by it.
Do you have any other study tips on how to learn Chinese? Share them with us in the comments below!
How to Learn Chinese – FAQ’s
Where is the best place to learn Chinese?
Can I reach HSK 6 in one year?
Can I learn Chinese using apps?
Yes you certainly can learn Chinese but don’t expect to master the language solely through apps.
You need to communicate with people and speak Chinese to truly gain the fluency you crave.
I heard Chinese is hard to learn, is that true?
Not really! It is a common misconception that Chinese is hard to learn. The language is a lot different from Western languages, yes, but it is actually a very logical language.
Chinese grammar is much easier than most, Chinese uses building blocks called “radicals” or “keys”. There is no use of tenses… the list goes on.
Once you master the tones and learn some bases, it is definitely not hard.
What is the best Chinese dictionary?
Definitely Pleco! – anyone who’s in China uses Pleco.
It’s a free app allowing you to find new characters translation, pinyin and example of use. There is also a very useful flashcard feature!
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