“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela
There are over 800 million native speakers of Chinese. Learning to speak Chinese is, therefore, an excellent way to learn more about the world, new cultures, and improve your job prospects. Of course, there isn't a single Chinese language but rather a multitude of them that are spoken inside China.
For the purpose of simplicity, in this article, when we talk about Chinese culture, the Chinese language, and learning Chinese, we are referring to learning Mandarin Chinese, the most commonly spoken language in the People's Republic of China.
So do you still need to pass exams in Chinese?
Here’s what you’ll need to know about preparing for Chinese exams when you learn Mandarin Chinese.
How to Get Ready for the Chinese HSK 1 Exam
Learning a foreign language can help boost your career as well as open your mind to new experiences, new cultures, and a new way of thinking. Be it Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian, or Japanese, all languages are useful.
To gauge your level in a foreign language, there are exams you can take to prove your linguistic abilities. Those learning English tend to do the TOEIC or TOEFL exams whereas if you’re learning Chinese, you have to do the HSK. The HSK is divided into six levels and can show future employers just how good you are at Chinese.
The HSK 1 is the lowest level of this test. To pass the exam, you’ll need to know 150 Chinese characters. You’ll need to recognise them and translate them. Pinyin is also used in the first two levels of the test.
The reading and listening parts of the HSK 1 last 35 minutes in total. This gives you just enough time but not much more. You either know the answer or you don’t. This means that you don’t have time to waste and are going to make sure you revise.
What are the best ways to pass the HSK 1?
Firstly, you need to familiarise yourself with Chinese vocabulary. You can easily find the vocabulary lists you need to know online. There are websites available with practice exercises for translating the characters for the exam.
Make the most of all these free online resources. You can access them whenever you want and without spending a penny. This is a good option for those who don’t have a lot of free time or don’t have enough time to attend lessons.
However, Chinese lessons can be really useful when preparing these types of tests. The HSK lines up with the levels of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) with A1, A2, B1, etc. This means it’s much easier to find which lessons are appropriate for the exam you’re studying for.
You can also learn Mandarin with private tutorials. Students and tutors can agree on what the student wants to learn Chinese for and the tutor will put together a programme that works for the student. You can also ask for advice and feedback from your private tutor.
You can learn how to relax, focus, and take the appropriate steps to pass your Chinese test.
Search for a great Chinese speaking course on our platform.
How to Learn Chinese with MOOCs
MOOCs have been around for a few years now.
What’s the point of them?
To make learning accessible to as many people as possible. With free classes available to everyone, MOOCs are a veritable goldmine of learning resources.
Every subject is taught. With maths, physics, chemistry, business, economics, and sociology courses, etc., you can find whatever you’re looking for. You just need to sign up and follow the lessons week after week. Most courses last around six and seven weeks. There are teachers available to answer your questions and correct your work.
So how can you take Chinese classes online with a MOOC?
Chinese MOOCs follow a similar format to the other MOOCs. The most popular MOOCs include Coursera, edX, Udacity, and FutureLearn. The lessons allow students to learn the basics of Chinese at their own pace.
Thanks to video lectures from Chinese speaking professors and interactive exercises, it’s easier to learn while enjoying yourself with distance learning. Since you learn at your own pace, it’s easier to stay motivated as you learn. In fact, many courses are still available to you after the course is finished. You can, therefore, download them and continue to benefit from the learning materials in them.
Furthermore, there are teachers available to answer your questions about Chinese pronunciation, grammar, and characters during the courses.
To get the most out of these courses, make sure you have enough time available to focus on your course. Don’t hesitate to use the forums to discuss the course with other students on it. This will also help you feel less alone in your learning.
You could also ask your friends if they want to do the course with you. This is a great way to stay motivated because if anyone starts to feel demotivated, you can help pick each other up.
Now it’s up to you to become a master of Chinese characters, Chinese calligraphy, and Pinyin!
How to Prepare for the Chinese A Level
Before you bury your head in the books and start revising for your Chinese A Level, you’ll need to know what it entails.
While not essential, an A Level in Chinese is very useful for those wanting to study Chinese at a university. More and more students in the UK are opting to study Chinese at A Level instead of the more commonly studied languages like French, German, Spanish, and Italian.
In terms of level, the AS Level and A Level follow on from the GCSE. When you finish your A Level in Chinese, you’ll have the equivalent of a B2 level according to the CEFR. Students should be able to understand complex texts with abstract topics, interact with a degree of fluency, and produce clear and detailed text on a range of subjects.
The reading and writing component lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and includes two passages in Mandarin Chinese. Students have to answer comprehension questions on the texts. The whole test is in Chinese and the texts will be from the last 20 years.
As with all reading exams, make sure you carefully read the texts and the questions before you start answering anything.
The essay component last 1 hour 30 minutes and students have to choose one question and write between 250 and 400 for their answer.
In the texts component, students have to answer three questions in Mandarin Chinese on three different texts. There are two sections of questions and at least one text from each section must be chosen.
Always make sure that you are adequately prepared before sitting any Chinese exam. As they say, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Make sure you regularly study the topics on the exams and regularly practise Chinese.
Don’t forget that there are private tutors who can help you with your studies, too.
Which Are the Best Chinese Dictionaries?
There are many different ways to start learning how to read, write, and speak Chinese. Whether you opt for private Chinese tutorials, group classes, or teaching yourself, a dictionary is always a useful investment for language learning.
They’re a useful way to look up new words during your lessons. You can also put together lists of words that you’d like to use or Chinese words that you don’t understand and look them up. Once you’ve found the equivalent, you can study the words and start using them.
So which is the best dictionary to help you? Which are the best Chinese dictionaries available?
There are plenty of effective English-Chinese dictionaries available. You just have to keep a dictionary by your side. However, you can’t take a massive dictionary with you as you travel. While there are smaller dictionaries available, you can also get dictionaries on your smartphone. Dictionary apps allow you to look up Chinese words on the go and find their Pinyin transcription if you need.
These apps are very useful as you’ll always have a dictionary on you and you can use it to help you when you’re reading, writing, or speaking Chinese.
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To keep learning Chinese, you can also use online Chinese dictionaries. You can use them to translate words and sentences in order to better understand them.
Each student needs to choose the dictionary that works for them in terms of their own personal needs. You don't want a massive dictionary to travel to Beijing, but it might be useful if you're reading complex texts on the language and culture of China.