Over the last year, we at Learn Mandarin Now have been interviewing a wide variety of experts who are learning or have learnt to speak or write Mandarin. The questions we put to them were a selection of the top questions which we get asked by students of Chinese—and, today, we’re happy to share these questions and a summary of the top 5 answers with you:
- How can I learn Mandarin Chinese quickly and without too much stress?
Obviously a key question, as who doesn’t want to fast-track their learning?
The most popular answer: go to a country where Mandarin Chinese is widely spoken, ensure you commit to speaking only in Chinese for the duration of your stay (say three months) and spend a high proportion of your time each day studying the basics of the language.
You can alleviate your stress levels by setting you own pace and get to a level where conversing in Chinese will be possible in a matter of months, instead of years.
An alternative if you can’t travel to China, and also way where you can set your own pace, is to get a tutor and schedule conversation practice every day.
Then there are some really great, informative and helpful daily Mandarin Chinese Podcasts available on-line to listen to.
- What is the best way to memorise Chinese words and/or characters?
Another big challenge for almost all students!
Yet, a question with quite easy answers: the best way to memorise characters is to actually put yourself in a situation where you’re regularly using the words in context. That could mean going to live in China, it could mean going to a local market or, possibly, using different platforms to find conversation partners you can use certain words and phrases with.
Another very popular way is to use spaced repetition software such as the Mastering Chinese Characters series from Anki. A number of students have found success with this because it offers full sentences with audio, and helping learners understand the various components of speech.
Then there are really useful articles such as how to write Chinese characters offering 12 great tips and more…
- What are the most common mistakes made by English speakers when learning Mandarin Chinese?
We all make mistakes when learning a new language, but how to identify and mitigate them is a key to success.
One of the most obvious mistakes is not learning the pinyin and tones properly and this warrants dedicated, regular practice from the very beginning. This is particularly important if you’re learning Mandarin through the immersion method because few Chinese speakers have standard pronunciation. Neglecting the standard pronunciation may be fine for native Chinese speakers, but it adds an extra layer of comprehension difficulty when you already have a foreign accent.
The second biggest mistake many students make is getting the word order wrong. Chinese grammar isn’t too difficult but, because there are fewer markers to indicate nouns, verbs, etc., it’s even more important to get the word order correct.
Perhaps the third biggest mistake is word usage as Chinese words rarely have a like-to-like translation from English. This can create difficulties since using the wrong word for the context often makes a sentence incomprehensible to native speakers, even though the word may have come straight from the dictionary. One solution is to often ask local people what word they would use and always remember that translations aren’t always like to like.
- How long does it take to become fairly proficient conversationally in Chinese?
Sometimes called the million dollar question!
Fairly proficient is inherently quite subjective, so it is a hard question to answer in a way that will satisfy everyone. For some people, they can comfortably have in-depth conversations with locals, whilst others are happy to maybe just use some set phrases for ordering food at a restaurant or taking a taxi.
There are other differences too where some students can’t fully follow a group conversation even though they’re fine in one-on-one interactions so, in short, different people have different definitions of proficiency.
Proficiency is always evolving so reading articles such as how to speak Chinese which include top 10 tips from experts is sure to help!
- Which Chinese learning App is the most recommended?
There are lots of Apps out there but many people keep coming back to one of them.
Pleco is by far the most important App that every Chinese language learner should have. It has so much functionality that it’s easy to recommend this as a single go-to App for everyone: it has flash cards, dictionaries, vocabulary lists, a clipboard reader, and so much more. Most people who use Pleco will never use all of its functionality but, for those who learn how to use it in-depth, it can offer everything you need.
As you can appreciate, our students and followers had a lot more questions but we have limited them to the top 5 in this article, and hope that the answers help you get ahead in your own Mandarin studies!
Please feel free to contact us with any questions as we’ll do our best to try and help…