LEARN THE BASICS
I’ve been in Mexico for the last seven weeks learning Spanish and it really gave me some perspective on beginners learning a new language. I’ve been struggling with remembering phrases and getting my tongue used to speaking in a new accent. I needed to encourage myself to keep practising the basics. So, here are my tops tips for starting to learn Mandarin Chinese as a complete beginner:
1. Surround yourself with the language
If you’re living in China then you’re one step closer to integrating yourself. Go to markets, cafes, parks and open your ears. Listen to accents and the speed at which people talk. Learn to copy pronunciation and the nuances that local Chinese people use to speak.
If you’re taking the leap to learn Mandarin Chinese in your home country then it might be harder to surround yourself with Chinese speakers. You won’t be able to hear Mandarin all day at school or in your office. What YouTube channels can you watch to get that listening fix?
Mandarin Corner is my absolute favorite. It’s the channel I use because there are tons of dialogues you can listen to in Mandarin. They also have a range of speeds available so you can listen whatever level you’re currently at.
When you’re watching or listening to anything in Mandarin Chinese always try to speak under your breath, or out loud if you’re in a comfortable place. Copy the phrases as you go. Even if you think you’re terrible, repeat along with the audio as it gets your tongue and brain used to speaking the language.
2. Audio practise with books
Pronunciation is the hardest thing to acquire and the thing that you need to practice the most. Pick yourself up a comprehensive book with audio that will allow you to listen to native speakers speaking fluently. This way you can rewind, go back, listen over and over again and practice until you’re blue in the face.
Get Talking Chinese is honestly a revelation. It’s absolutely perfect for beginners. Everything inside this book is pure, pretty gold. They only teach you the useful day-to-day language you need to know in China. Let’s call this a phrase book plus. I haven’t felt as excited about a book since Integrated Chinese and you guys know that is my all time favorite book.
3. Practise like crazy
In order to master the basics, you must practice every day. No questions asked. If you’re not practicing every day and you aren’t seeing results then this is why. You must prioritize your language learning. Create a habit. Turn your habit into huge success. Use your downtime as study time. Set aside ten minutes of your commute to listen to your audio book or revise your flashcards.
I am seriously obsessed with the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. He talks about turning simple disciplines into massive success and happiness. I’ve honestly read this book a billion times and it keeps teaching me new things.
If you practice for ten minutes, that time is seemingly insignificant. Ten minutes every day for a week or a month builds up to a whole heap of study time. Finally, you’ll see the compounded results. You’ll start to notice you can understand more words and phrases, your pronunciation is getting better or your reaction time is quicker.
That’s it. Sounds simple, huh? These three tips are your key to success. Learn the basics. Surround yourself with the language. Listen to audio, and study like crazy. No one said it would be easy but if you create a solid habit then you’re on the road to success.
Comment below what you are doing to keep your language learning going? How do you persist? The Elementary Chinese community will benefit from your knowledge.
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The Great Firewall of China
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