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What are helpful tips for learning Chinese?

January 23, 2018



1: set a clear and attainable goal (reaching HSK 3 after one year of study for example) 2: use a wide variety of resources: text books, apps, podcasts (chinesepod is very good) videos etc 3: find a language exchange parter - a big issue when you begin learning Chinese is pronunciation 4: decide if you want to study simplified or traditional characters
5: most importantly - stay motivated and try to study each day.

Some people set quite vague goals like becoming fluent etc - that is admirable but would take years and years of immersion. Aiming to learn 1000 characters in a year is more attainable and you can see your progress without being disillusioned.

Your goal should be linked to your reason for learning Chinese.

If you want to be fluent, able to write essays in Chinese, or speak in depth on complex issues then you would need to focus on incorporating an understanding of classical Chinese into your studies as educated people in China will frequently make reference to set phrases and events etc from CC - in the way that people would make reference to Latin or classical mythology in English lit. Good university courses would add a CC component into the second or third year of study and you could use that as a guide. I wouldn't recommend setting your goal as becoming fluent unless you are seriously committed to being a student of Chinese. Baby steps are best at first.

If you just want travel / survival level Chinese, then an app like this, an introductory textbook, podcasts etc should be adequate.

Go to a good book store and look through the different text books on offer - some are more visual, some focus more on speaking than writing, some are aimed at university students: choose the one that suits your learning style and your goal (or even better choose a selection)

If you are more interested in mainland China and Singapore then focus on learning simplified characters. If you are more interested in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and the overseas diaspora generally then traditional is the way to go (this is also best if you decide to branch off into Japanese or if you want to be a serious learner of Chinese at some point) I started with simplified and can usually decipher traditional characters when I travel to HK etc but I have heard that it's easier the other way around and there is certainly a greater level of logical consistency in traditional characters that makes them easier to learn - if not more complicated to write! 爱 愛 if you compare these two characters for love the first one (simplified) removes the heart radical 心 from the character and essentially strips it of its aesthetics and takes away the meaning radical (linking it to emotion)

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters is a good book as is Remembering the Simplified / Traditional Hanzi (if you want to progress to a good level of Chinese you need to incorporate learning characters as reading pinyin will only get you so far)

Use a range of resources - don't neglect any of the major skills (reading / writing / listening / speaking) - stay motivated and enjoy!

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