“Want to know how to learn Chinese fast?” is a question many new students would like the answer to. Today I am very pleased to have Greg from En Route to Fluency to share some of his suggestions and tips on how to do just this!
A lot of students often wonder what is the best quick way to improve their Mandarin Chinese and ask: What is the best method out there?
The answer: it depends on you!
What’s all this then?
It all depends on what you’re interested it. What works best is different for everyone because everyone’s interests are so different. I say go find a TV show, a video game, a book a magazine—anything—that you could read, play, and watch for hours on end.
But where should you start? One thing I did was make a list of what I was interested in. Here’s a small sample from the list I created:
- Stephen Chow movies (God of Cookery anyone??)
o Bonus tip: so many quotes from Stephen Chow’s movies have made it into popular culture, that people use them every day. Some examples are 小強 for cockroach and是洋蔥，我加了洋蔥 for a good response to a variety of situations.
• Science fiction novels and movies
• Lighthearted TV Dramas (something similar to the American sitcom)
• Video Games (Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, etc.)
• Music genres (rock, heavy metal)
• Technology related: computers, programming, latest tech trends.
• Chinese literature
• Disney movies
After I had compiled a pretty decent list, I then went to Google and Wikipedia to find the Chinese names for those items. I also looked on app stores to see if any of the video games I had downloaded for iOS had Chinese translations. I also went and found top 10 lists for music in the genres I liked, then looked for those artists on YouTube. Great bonus tip: often times they have videos with subtitles for Karaoke, really helps out when you’re learning!
So really, the fastest way to learn and improve is to find what you like and enjoy in English, then find the Chinese equivalent. Trust me, it’s out there. You just need to look for it!
All of the above works as you branch into other languages too, and it’s how I’ve started looking into picking up Cantonese. In this case, though, since I already have some background in Mandarin and I found movies in Cantonese but with Mandarin Chinese subtitles. This has helped me out a lot, forth both languages, and I really recommend this method if you decide to move on to another language from Mandarin Chinese.
Two questions came up while I was working on this post, and I felt they fit with the overall theme, so I decided to address them here:
How long does it take to become fairly proficient conversationally in Mandarin Chinese?
Plus it really helps that you have a variety of materials you read, listen or watch. This will not only give you more variety of topics to discuss, but it’ll give you even more of an understanding of the variety of topics being discussed around you.
Generally, though, if you’re just following a textbook starting from zero I’d say roughly two years to be fairly proficient. If you’re using a textbook and immersing yourself at the same time? With enough dedication you could be ready in 6 months to a year. It all comes down to how much time you put in, and what materials you use.
What are the most common Mandarin Chinese mistakes made by English speakers?
Honestly? I would argue that spending too much time on textbooks and not spending time with real materials (see the list above) is one of the greatest mistakes that anyone can make then learning the language. There’s a large variety of materials out there just waiting to be consumed by learners. Google is your best friend! Let a textbook set the general foundation but branch out as soon as you can.
The tools and materials that you surround yourself with have such a huge influence in how you learn and how fast you learn.
And, really, there’s no magic miracle, there’s no expensive language program, that will get you fluent fast. It comes down to the hard work, dedication and time you put in to the task.
Surround yourself with great materials, break away from textbooks as early as possible and just get out there spend time and just enjoy the language!