Chinese is often considered one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. However, if you can overcome the mental barrier that we create before we embark on a new learning journey, especially the learning of a new, foreign language learning Chinese can be fun.

With the march of technology and the intermingling of cultures, it has become easier than ever before to teach yourself Chinese - be it Mandarin or Cantonese - or learn the basics of the language through cultural interactions. Superprof brings to you some of the most exciting and rewarding ways of learning the Chinese language.

Tips to Learn the Chinese Language by Yourself

Learning Mandarin Chinese is equally challenging as well as rewarding. Along the way, you can also teach yourself expert penmanship and calligraphy. Learning Chinese has many benefits including gaining cultural insights into one of the oldest civilizations of the world, access to better business opportunities, communication while traveling, and even some lifelong friendships.

Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, second only to English. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people speak this beautiful language.

Not just native speakers of China, Mandarin Chinese is spoken by people in Singapore and Taiwan. Chinese-speaking people are spread across the world and you are more than likely to encounter a few in your professional circles.

All you need to know to be a good chinese professor
Chinese writing is almost like calligraphy, beautiful, and complex. | Source: Unsplash

Unraveling the Complexity of Chinese Grammar

The Chinese writing system may appear complex at first glance, especially for beginners. Chinese letters look more like calligraphy than words and phrases. However, the good news is that Chinese grammar and conjugations are quite simple.

There are no genders, as in some of the other leading languages of the world, such as English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, singular or plural nouns.

The basic formula for a sentence in the Chinese language is: subject + verb + object. There is no need for adding auxiliary verbs to adjectives in Chinese, either as verbs are understood in context.

Tone and Pronunciation in Chinese

Chinese is a monosyllabic tonal language. This means a word can have four different meanings based on how it’s pronounced.

For example, the word ma can mean:

  • Mother” in the first tone.
  • To bother” in the second.
  • Horse” in the third.
  • To scold” in the fourth.

Spend between 15 and 30 minutes per day working on your pronunciation. You will discover that learning Chinese on your own is an enjoyable activity!

How to Enjoy Yourself While Learning the Chinese Language 

To learn a new language, foreign to you, be it English, Japanese, or Chinese, you must be prepared to let yourself enjoy the process of learning. There are plenty of good reasons to learn Chinese. For one, 1.35 billion people in the world speak a form of Chinese with most of them residing in mainland China and Taiwan. In fact, it’s the most popular language on the planet, along with English. Not to mention, Chinese food is one of the most popular cuisines on Earth!

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Chinese is a leading international language of business communication.

Be it trade or food, China is a world leader and it is useful to learn the language to stay on course with the international competition. You never know when a Chinese business comes calling! The Chinese language can be fun to learn. And, it is possible to learn Chinese on your own by using smartphone apps and digital or online Chinese resources.

Learning Chinese, indeed any new language, such as Japanese, French, or English, can become monotonous and challenging if you stop enjoying the process of learning. Be it Mandarin or Cantonese, foreign language learning should not feel like a mundane chore. You won't be able to improve your language fluency that way.

Make Foreign Language Learning Fun

No matter the form of Chinese you desire to learn - traditional or standard, Mandarin or Cantonese - here are some ways to make the business of learning Mandarin Chinese fun and simple.

Listen to China Radio International

The radio continues to be an essential medium of information. But, did you know that it is also a great way to pick up a foreign language? Teach yourself Chinese on the go by listening to Chinese news radio. Instead of your daily dose of news in English, listen to half an hour of international news a day in one of the best Chinese stations, China Radio International (CRI). It is a state-run consortium, with a very good news channel, that can easily be streamed online.

How to Learn Chinese Like a Pro

There is a Chinese saying, “磨刀不误砍柴工”, which means “the more the preparation, the faster work gets done.”  In this article, we’re going to show you some tips and tricks that will help you reach your ambitious goals of learning Chinese in a structured and organized way.

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To start learning Chinese, you must first lay a solid groundwork for progress.

Lay the Foundation for Learning Chinese

To start teaching yourself Chinese, you must do some basic research about your target language, Mandarin Chinese. The internet is a good place to start, with its repository of articles and videos about the Chinese language, its history, the Chinese culture, and so on.

Mandarin Chinese alone is the most widely spoken native language in the world: nearly a billion within China alone and 1.2 billion worldwide—a few hundred million people more than the next most widespread languages, Spanish and English.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. You can also speak Chinese in parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, and a number of different regions around the globe. Mastering every aspect of Chinese would take years and hundreds of hours of classes.

Practice Writing in Pinyin

Pinyin, a system devised to write Chinese characters using phonetic spelling, is an enjoyable way of learning to write in Chinese without having to memorize the thousands of Chinese characters. You can write in pinyin on your computer by adjusting the settings on your Mac or PC.

Learn and Practice Everyday Chinese Words

If you want to make learning Chinese easier, you should always start with some useful words and expressions. When we say basic words, we mean everyday words that you can use in almost every situation.

Useful Tips to Learn the Chinese Language

While the Indian language shares, to a great extent, similarities with British English or French, such similarities are absent when it comes to the Chinese language. But you do not need to worry. For there are many options to learn Chinese online or take a Chinese language course elsewhere.

More Useful Tips on How to Learn the Chinese Language

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Online tutor platforms like Superprof provide ample scope for learning languages, such as Chinese, from the comfort of your home. | Source: Superprof
  1. Spend time with Chinese friends. They will be more than happy to speak in their mother tongue in a foreign country. Even a 5-minute conversation can work wonders.

  2. Explore the Chinese culture: Go to Chinatown and visit the local restaurants. Try to pick up the menu that offers you options in Chinese. So what if you can't go to China, you can always make do with local solutions.

  3. Watch Chinese films and TV shows. Pay attention to the tonality, pronunciations, and relate them to the contexts in which they are spoken. Even those who rarely watch TV should consider using this method to help them hear and speak more Chinese. You can only make so much progress in reading and writing Chinese. A little bit of hearing it being used also helps.

  4. Acquaint yourself with Chinese music. If the language is an art, wonder how beautiful its music would be. Look for channels that offer karaoke music. That way you can not only make progress in learning Chinese but can also hone your talent as a musician.

  5. Travel to China or Taiwan. Mix work and pleasure. These are two countries that predominantly speak the language and can offer a great deal by way of its cultural heritage. No better place for you to be exposed to the nuances of the Chinese language.

How to Learn the Chinese Language

If you are looking to learn Chinese, then you need to first understand the basics of the Chinese language. Chinese is a difficult language to learn and master. That is the basic premise you need to start with. At the same time, learning the language presents an opportunity as well. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with almost 16% of the global population speaking one or the other type of Chinese language.

How to Learn Chinese Using Spaced Repetition

Chinese Scripts
Chinese writing using spaced repetition.

Based on a system designed in the 19th century by Hermann Ebbinghaus, research on a Spaced Repetition System has proven it to be an invaluable language learning method. This system is based on Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve and is one of the best approaches to learning Chinese vocabulary. Many school textbooks, e-learning modules, and Chinese language courses use this method to teach the Chinese language.

To understand how to learn Chinese using spaced repetition, you need to be aware of what the actual technique is. And the purpose it serves. The spaced repetition strategy reviews vocabulary that uses increasingly long intervals between reviews of a word. Since the Chinese script is lengthy, there is always the fear of forgetting some words while using them in a text. This technique helps you remember the texts better even without seeing them for a long time. 

At the end of the day, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to learn Chinese. A little bit of motivation, and sincerity, along with a little perseverance will do the trick. But it is important to keep practicing and exchanging the learning with others for the art to not get lost.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.