Chinese is one of the most complex languages in the world, even for native speakers. It takes patience and investment to master the language. However, at some point, there will always be some urgent cases that you need to improve your Chinese quickly. For example, you are going on a trip to China within the next couple of weeks, a Chinese friend is coming to visit you, you have an upcoming Chinese exam, and so on. In such cases, learning Chinese fast may seem like a daunting task.
We understand those moments of frustration. Though there is no magic key to learning Chinese quickly, this article will give you certain tips to help you improve at a much faster pace.
1. Determine your learning goals
Knowing what you are learning Chinese for will assist you in being a successful learner. Are you preparing for a trip to China next month? Are you going to have a Chinese exam next week? Is a Chinese friend going to visit you soon?
Those questions are critical to choosing a specific goal and learning method. For instance, you need to pay more attention to public interactions, Chinese history, and culture to prepare for a China trip. Meanwhile, if you are going to host Chinese friends, focusing on daily conversation would be more appropriate.
See also: Top 10 Everyday Mandarin Chinese Phrases
2. Make a specific plan with short-term and long-term targets
After determining your learning goals, let’s get them into action with a specific plan. A specific plan should include exactly what you want to complete and come with your short-term and long-term targets.
Short-term goals may target the first 1-2 weeks of your studies, such as mastering simple conversational words, while long-term goals target having a full conversation in Chinese with a native speaker within six months. You can even set a long-term goal of up to several years according to your learning purposes. Based on these targets, you can decide how many exercises you need to complete, how many chapters in a book you need to go over, or a certain amount of vocabulary you want to master per day. The more detailed the goals are, the easier it will be to follow. Even on busy days or when you don’t feel like studying, you will also be able to find a way to achieve your goals.
A common mistake that Chinese learners can make is that they start with very general goals. When setting your goals, make sure that they include these components: specificity, measurability, attainability, realism, and timeliness. These five components contribute to effective targets.
For instance, setting a goal of “Improve Chinese writing skills” is too vague and difficult to measure. Let’s try “Learn to write 40 new Chinese characters this month” instead. By this, you can easily measure how much you have achieved your goals and how far you have come in a certain period.
You should also review your short-term goals frequently, at least every month, if not every week. Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals based on how well you are doing. By that, you will maintain a realistic approach to what learning methods are working for you.
3. Make a daily learning schedule
To learn Chinese fast and effectively, you need to work on it every day. Once-a-week lessons would be helpful, but they are not enough. Short periods of learning are better than long lessons because our brain can only handle a certain amount of information at a time. That’s why the spaced repetition learning method helps keep it in your brain for the long term.
An interesting example of the spaced repetition learning method is learning with flashcards. This learning method is also an extra helpful assistant when you need to master Chinese in a short time. For instance, if you are going to travel somewhere in China, you can make flashcards related to this country, its culture, and common phrases for a traveler. You can always revise what you learned because the flashcards are small, tidy, and easy to organize and store.
FYI: Pandanese is a leading SRS Mandarin-learning platform, loved by millions of users worldwide. We offer Chinese learners unlimited Mandarin flashcards, divided into particular learning purposes. Whether you are learning Chinese for school, business or travel, we got you covered!
To make sure you learn Chinese every day, you should make a detailed schedule and stick to it. Only make plans for one week at a time so that you can adjust if needed. Your daily learning schedule should be catered to your goals and learning methods. For example, some people learn better by visualizing Chinese characters, while others find that writing things down helps them. Some people find it easier to manage the schedule with pen and paper, while others prefer using smartphones.
The amount of time you spend learning Chinese each day depends on other commitments, but it is better to start with small. For example, begin with committing yourself to 15 minutes per day instead of an hour. You can add a Chinese review to your bedtime routine, even just a few minutes while brushing your teeth or while reading, before turning off the lights. Once you form the habit of daily study, you can increase the time, but at first, the important thing is daily interaction.
4. Try to think in Chinese
To talk like a native, first, you need to think like a native. That’s why thinking in Chinese can improve your Chinese in a short time. For example, when you see an object in daily life or experience an event, try to use Chinese to express your thoughts about it.
This will help you sharpen your reflexes in the language. Start with simple phrases and then combine them into a complete sentence, you will get the key to how to learn Chinese fast.
5. Learn Chinese with activities that combine listening, reading, speaking, and writing
One of the most efficient ways to master Chinese quickly is to work on activities that combine different areas of learning Chinese. Though it is still a good idea to focus on the separate skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, you can elevate them with different combinations of the four. Find some examples of activities that you can incorporate into your learning schedule as follow:
- Reading and speaking: The simplest way to combine reading and speaking is to read out loud. Reading out loud helps you pay more attention to the tones, and you can be aware of how you sound to others when you talk. This can also help you to focus on your interests and topics that you would potentially talk about.
- Listening and writing: If you have ever been to any formal Chinese class, you would probably have been introduced to the world of Chinese dictations (听写 tīng xiě). The literal translation is “listen write,” and it is exactly what it sounds like. At first, don’t stress about writing down everything, just try to pick up the words that you can. If you have a partner, you can switch the duty of testing; if not, you can try with any Chinese dictation app on your smartphone. You can try at any level – the range varies from the first to fifth grade of elementary school. You can also listen to Chinese talk radio or watch a movie and write down what you hear.
- Reading and writing: Practicing your reading and writing skills at the same time is one of the best answers to “How to learn Chinese fast?”. Since many Chinese characters can look similar, you need to pay attention to every little difference because it can completely change a character. A simple way to do this is to read a sentence and then write it down. If you’d like a bit more challenging task, try to read the sentence, memorize and write it down without looking again.
Now you know how to learn Chinese fast and effectively, especially in a short time. Let’s try our five tips to choose which one is the best choice for you.
However, language learning is a never-ending process, even for native speakers. So, even after you have archived your short-term goals, don’t forget to keep practicing every day. By doing this, you will be well prepared for any upcoming events, whether going to China, taking Chinese examinations, or welcoming Chinese friends. Sign up for Pandanese now and be ready to master Chinese in the shortest possible time. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Pandanese blog to find more tips on learning Chinese fast and effectively!
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