How an English Speaker can learn Chinese

For many people around the world, learning Chinese is a major ambition. China is an incredible country that many westerners fantasize about visiting one day. Along with being the most highly populated region in the world, China is steeped in a rich heritage that makes it a part of many people’s bucket lists. 

Whilst many people want to learn Chinese, the majority tend to put it off. Although it’s a daunting task, it is definitely achievable for everyone. This article will provide a range of resources for native English speakers who are interested in learning Chinese. 

Listen before you learn 

One point that linguists all agree upon is that the best starting place for learning Chinese is to listen to the language being spoken. Without prior exposure to the language and dialect, understanding the Chinese symbols and pronunciations will be almost impossible.

Although it may seem like a pointless undertaking at the beginning, stick with it. When it comes to the point where you start to learn reading and writing yourself, you will be very surprised how helpful this listening exercise is. 

There is a multitude of intermediate Chinese podcasts and audiobooks available on the internet. Another way to learn, which is my personal favourite, is to watch TV shows and movies in Chinese. Your brain will be subconsciously picking up on elements of the language whilst you’re engrossed in the plot.  

Make learning a force of habit 

After the initial enthusiasm subsides, you will gradually start to come to terms with the size of the undertaking. However, it’s important to remember that a series of small commitments combine to make a big difference. 

What’s strongly recommended is that you set aside a fixed period of time, maybe 30 minutes or an hour, every evening that’s dedicated to learning about the Chinese characters. Much like learning any new skill, if you only sporadically come back to it, then progress will be slow to non-existent. 

If you are somebody who struggles with structure and self-guided learning, enrol yourself on a free online course. Alternatively, follow a YouTube video series that offers a pathway toward learning the basics of the language. There is definitely no shortage of resources available in 2022, so find the one that you like the most. 

Focus on the basics 

Although it’s always good to be ambitious, don’t bite off more than you can choose. At the start, your primary goal should be to develop the ability to communicate in a very basic way. There is absolutely no point in researching the complex grammatical rules of the language at the start of the process. More than likely, you will become disheartened and lose your enthusiasm for learning the language.

Some of the most accomplished linguists online believe that your focus should be on pattern recognition. Whilst it’s certainly not the most elegant form of learning, it will allow you to pick up phrases in a relatively short period of time. As with all languages, basic phrases tend to repeat themselves regularly. 

You need to read

Quite simply, there is no substitute for reading. If you want to permanently etch something into your brain, then reading is the best way to do it. 

Whilst this will be a tricky task, it can be an enjoyable one if you do it right. Buy a book on a topic that you really enjoy, something that you are deeply enthusiastic about. In order to complete the book, you will need to learn the language! Although you won’t be able to understand everything, it’s unquestionably a fantastic way to make the Chinese language a part of your daily ritual. 

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