Chinese is not an easy language to learn in adulthood, especially in the beginning. But don’t let that keep you away from this amazing language. A little bit of extra effort and a handful of smart tips can help you master the basics in a reasonable time and then the rest will come relatively easily.
Here are four smart tips for learning Chinese.
1. Decide what you’re going to learn: simplified or traditional Chinese characters?
Mandarin writing has 2 different systems: simplified and traditional. Simplified characters are easy to write because they require fewer strokes.
Here’s an example. Let’s see the traditional character for ‘fei’ (which means to fly) followed by its simplified character.
Traditional character: 飛
Simplified character: 飞
As you can see, the form is different in the simplified script. The simplified script is the official writing system in Singapore and mainland China while traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong.
Some people debate which one is better. In truth, it all depends on where you are located and your purpose for learning Chinese. For instance, if you are doing business in Singapore or mainland China, learn simplified characters. You will be taught simplified script in Mandarin classes Singapore.
You are much better off starting with simplified characters even if you are currently living outside China but in future might want to work or live in Singapore or mainland China. If you start with traditional characters, when you come here, you’ll have to switch to the simplified script, which might prove a handful.
2. Invest in a solid Mandarin program
If you are serious to learn Chinese in Singapore, you must join an intensive Mandarin course. Having a strong foundation is a key to learning any language, but more so for Chinese, as you need to learn four different tones, understand the Pinyin so that you can correctly pronounce logographic characters, and comprehend many other fundamentals like the stroke order required for forming characters.
You can’t learn the basics of Mandarin Chinese by attending an hour-long class twice a week. To master the basics, you need to study for hours and practice listening, speaking and writing Chinese.
3. Find language buddies, preferably non-native speakers like you
The thing is that if you speak Chinese with natives when you are still at the basic or intermediate level, you are bound to feel self-conscious. On the other hand, you can speak freely, even if you are incorrect at times, with non-natives who are learning Chinese like you.
You are not going to feel embarrassed or worry about mistakes when conversing with non-native speakers. You can revise what you have learned in the class by conversing in Chinese with your language buddies afterwards.
4. Watch a Chinese TV show or listen to Chinese music
Watching Chinese TV shows or listening to Chinese pop music is a great way to improve your listening skills and learn new words. You should listen or watch something you enjoy. For instance, if you are a cartoon buff, watch Chinese cartoons. Similarly, a regular dose of Chinese movies is recommended to those who love movies.