How do I learn Chinese fast?
A 7 Step Guide for Beginning Mandarin Learners
So you know you want to learn Chinese. Great. But now you’re probably asking yourself a second and more pressing question — how do I learn Chinese fast?
Be careful here. With learning fast you must still put the emphasis on the learning aspect first. If you find yourself compromising learning quality for speed you may end up with all kinds of bad habits, forcing you to re-learn basic things that you had previously thought you’d mastered. That doesn’t sound so fast, does it?
So, how to optimize a learning strategy that gives you strong fundamentals while going in an organizing way up the ladder of success.
Step 1. Learn Chinese pronunciation a.k.a the Chinese alphabet a.k.a Pinyin
You may have seen Chinese written in ‘English’ before. Ever order General Tso’s Chicken at a restaurant? Seen a Chinese name like Zhang or Yang? How about read a place name like Kao Hsiung?
These are all different ways of putting a language with its own unique pronunciations into similar sounds based on the English alphabet. None of these is an exact match. Don’t forget that. That’s why to get started Chinese as a Second Language Learners start learning “pinyin.”
After that, you must learn all the consonant and vowels put together with TONES.
Step 2: Get toned
One of the hardest parts of learning Chinese is the tones. Tones are so important. A tone changes the entire meaning of the word. Mess up the tone and you mess up the word. For example, the word “Ma” can mean “Mother” or “Horse.” You wouldn’t want to confuse those would you? Would you??
Getting a knack for listening for the different tones and saying them correctly can come very slow or fast depending on the learner. If you have a familiarity with the language and a good ear… it might be quicker. If you’re brand new to Chinese and ‘tone-deaf,’ then it will take a little longer. That said, you can do it. Ever one of the 1.3 billion Chinese did it when they were a kid.
3. Keep It Simple Stupid – “K.I.S.S. Chinese”
Now it’s time to learn Chinese with the basic vocabulary in practical situations. Obviously, some words are used more than others. You need to memorize the most common 100 words. Then, the most common 300 words. And on and on. However, there’s a broader point to be made here.
Learn out loud through context. You should be learning these words by not only saying them out loud as often as possible but connecting them into practical phrases and sentences using the even more important most common 50 grammar points. Then, the most common 100 grammar points. Don’t worry, Chinese grammar isn’t so complicated.
But yeah, it’s time to go around like a child learning their first words… babbling out all the things you know in Chinese all the time. If you lose some friends, we apologize.
4. Nothing like a good Chinese conversation
Of course, this is just a prerequisite for getting “conversation ready.” There is almost nothing better for a new language learner than getting in lots of conversation with a native speaker. It’s amazing for your speaking, listening authenticity, and overall fluency. If you can find someone to speak to – do it. If you have to pay someone with more professionalism, go for it.
5. Get immersed in Chinese
Time to dive deeper and deeper into the language – as much as your level permits! It’s time to find things in Chinese that you’re interested in. TV shows! Movies! Music! Internet Gossip! Gaming! Technology! The list goes on and on.
This is where you can keep the motivation going by finding things that pique your interest. At the same time, you’ll hear Chinese in its native form — which is perfect for mimicry and adapting your language style too.
6. How far will you go? To where?
You’ve now already gone fast and pretty far! How far do you want to? In what direction?
If you want to work on Chinese for business, you can explore those textbooks, vocab words, and improving your oral speech. If you want to be translator, you’ll have to go through a more rigorous test that is certified. If you just want to be able to talk on a daily basis, then there’s ways for that.
Step 7. Enjoy the Ride
How far and wide you make it on your Chinese journey, keep in mind why you started in the first place and what it means to you. Best of luck.