5 Ways to Learn How to Read and Write in Chinese
With increased global trade and financial opportunities across Asia, more and more individuals are choosing to learn Chinese. For more people, this prospect is quite daunting. The Chinese characters look nothing like the English alphabet. The sound of the language, whether Mandarin or Cantonese, is quite unlike English and romance languages with which English speakers may be familiar.
Despite all of these worries, it is quite possible to learn Chinese. It typically takes some time and effort, but with enough practice you can improve your speaking and reading ability. Remember to be patient with yourself and try, try again whenever you make a mistake.
Use a Mobile App or Website
There are a huge variety of resources out there that can help you learn Chinese. Many are appropriate for all skill levels, so you can start where you are in learning Chinese. Whether you know no Chinese at all, have some vocabulary knowledge, or are a formerly fluent speaker who wants a refresher, sites like Pandanese can help you to hone your skills. You can boost your vocabulary and run through the lessons as many times as you like — perfect if you are trying to fit your Chinese lessons with the rest of your commitments.
Take a Class
Signing up for an in-person class at a neighborhood house, language school or community college has many benefits. There is an instructor available to ask questions and you benefit from the combined knowledge of other students in the class. You can have interactive exercises, speak with fellow students in Chinese, and set up study groups with people also learning the language. Perhaps the best part of learning a class is the comfort of knowing that others are also trying to conquer a new language and are experiencing similar challenges.
Hire a Tutor
Especially if you need Chinese for business and want to ensure you get it right, a one-on-one tutor may be your best bet. Because the world has so many native Chinese speakers, however, and because there are so many dialects of the language, it is a good idea to find a Chinese tutor who is also a trained teacher. Merely meeting up with someone who speaks Chinese can be helpful, but you may not receive the best instruction on how to develop your grammar skills appropriately.
Like with all languages, it can help to travel to areas where Mandarin or Cantonese — depending on the one you want to learn — is the dominant tongue. That way, you can get a feel for the sounds and rhythms of the language. It may be impossible to simply “pick up” Mandarin or Cantonese by cultural absorption, but once you have more exposure to the language it is easier to proceed with your studies.
Self-Study With Books, CDs, YouTube
Depending on how you learn best, you may want to read books in Chinese, practice writing traditional or simplified characters — depending on the ones you focus on — and watch video instruction. A lot of reading and listening allows you to get a sense of the structure and use of Chinese. From there, it’s easier to dive in and learn the rules of grammar and pronounciation. Indeed, because pronounciation is so important in Chinese — the four tones do not exist in English but can vastly change word meanings in Mandarin and Cantonese — watching videos can be a useful way to learn.
At the end of the day, it’s best to choose the method of learning that’s right for you. You may find you want to combine online instruction with in-person classes and self-study. Over time, you’ll find you’re learning more and more, and the language is less of a mystery.