It’s not as difficult as you think to learn Chinese! In this post I will share my reasons for choosing to learn Chinese, how I will try to become fluent, as well as some of my favorite resources for Chinese language learning (so far). While I absolutely love language learning, I’m also very impulsive and terrible at making decisions. That’s why I’ve started learning 7 (yes I counted) languages in the last few years but am not fluent in any of them (because I stopped again after a month or two). So, I have decided to pick ONE language and stick to it. The aim of this post is to hold myself accountable. The idea is to track my language learning progress and at the same time share useful resources that I find.
Why I want to learn Chinese
I first began to learn Chinese when I was living in China for a few months. Unfortunately I didn’t put too much effort into it, as I was also working full-time AND studying for my Bachelors degree full-time. Now that I have a bit more time (and soon a lot more time as I will graduate in June 2017!), I thought ‘Why not try to learn Chinese again’. I really enjoyed learning Chinese when I was in China, mainly because I think learning characters is one of the most fun activities ever (yes, I know I’m weird). As we’re going to pass through China anyway on our way to India and my husband wouldn’t mind staying there for a while, we are currently considering spending 6-12 months in China. Which means, I better start learning Chinese again!
Chinese is also the most widely spoken language in the world. It’s becoming increasingly important in business, as well as tourism. I’m hoping that adding a HSK 6 Chinese proficiency certificate will boost my CV a bit in the future! I also think it would be awesome to be able to speak to Chinese tourists abroad.
Resources I’ll be using
Memrise is basically a flashcard app/ website and has lots of ready made courses. I’m currently doing “HSK level 1 – Introductory Mandarin with Audio” which goes through all the HSK 1 Vocabulary. The great thing is that it comes with audio, so I don’t learn any wrong pronunciation. I always make sure to say the words I’m learning out loud, as it seems to help me remember all the new Chinese vocab I’m trying to learn. Memrise is very similar to Anki. So why am I using both? Well, Anki is great but it can get a bit boring. I love Memrise because it has a fun interface, you earn points for studying and there’s a leader board. Whenever you learn a word, you get different tasks: Multiple choice questions, scrambled words/ sentences and writing the word yourself.
Anki is my best friend. Seriously. Without Anki I would have failed last year’s university exams. Without Anki I would probably forget my own name. What is Anki you ask? Anki is an SRS: a Spaced Repetition System. It’s essentially a flashcard app that knows when to show you which flashcards in order for them to go into your long-term memory. It’s simple: You see a question (Or a vocab), you try to answer it and then you rate yourself how well you know the answer/ vocab. If you didn’t know it, it will ask you again and again until you do. If you did know it, it will asked you 10 minutes later, then a day later, then 2 days later and so on. The intervals between each time a flashcard appears get longer and longer each time you tell Anki that you know the flashcard.
You can find some ready made shared decks on ankiweb, or you can easily make your own flashcards. I will probably use a mix of my own and other people’s decks. My main objective with Anki is to enter all the vocab that I encounter elsewhere into the app so that it will all stay in my long-term memory. This is especially useful considering the sheer amount of Chinese characters I will have to remember!
Cost: FREE (Except the Ipad/Iphone app I think. But you can use it for free on your computer and on Androids)
I’m a huge fan of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and was beyond excited when I discovered the HSK Test preparation Specialization by Peking University on Coursera. Specializations on Coursera are basically groups of several courses about the same topic. You can pay to get a certificate for each course, and if you complete them all you’ll get a certificate for the specialization. The HSK test prepartion specialization will go through HSK levels 1-3 and consists of 4 courses. Each course includes 6 weeks of study, as well as 1 week of ‘final test’. The next session for the first course (HSK 1) will start on November 14th, which is just perfect for my plan.
Cost: FREE (Unless you pay for a certficate)
I found Yoyo Chinese when I was studying Chinese last time, and Yang Yang (the GENIUS behind Yoyo Chinese) is absolutely amazing. At the time, I was also attending Chinese group classes in China and I believe that I learnt much more from Yoyo Chinese than from my course book/ teacher at school.
If you sign up for Yoyo Chinese you’ll get access to a huge library of video lessons, that all come with class notes, audio reviews and ANKI DECKS! You already know by now how much I LOVE Anki, so you can probably understand why this makes me so excited. I’d normally recommend adding all the words you learn into Anki…except you don’t have to make your own flash cards, because Yang Yang did that for you. Because she is awesome. Go sign up for Yoyo Chinese now!
Please note that this is not an affiliate link and I am not paid at all to promote this (Ha, I wish). I just genuinely believe that this is the best Online Chinese course for beginners.
Cost: starting from $13 USD a month if you buy a 12 month subscription (Shorter subscriptions are also available. 1 month subscription for $45 USD) / You can access some of the content for free
Skritter is the best way to learn Chinese characters. Seriously. Skritter is an app that teaches you how to read and write in Chinese. I’ve used it before and it makes it so much easier to learn than the traditional way of just writing a character a thousand times. It’s pretty similar to Anki, as it is also an SRS, but rather than just think the correct answer, you have to write it yourself. With the correct stroke order! (Works great on a tablet!)
What I love about Skritter is that, similarly to Anki, there are lots of ready-made lists available. You can study the HSK vocabulary or you can choose from a huge variety of different Chinese books. Most Chinese language learning text books are available, so you can study all the Chinese characters that come up in your text book. You can also make your own lists and easily add vocab to it – for example all the super useful words you’ve learnt on Yoyo Chinese!
Skritter offers different subscription options which are all quite affordable. The best part? They all come with a 7 day free trial period! But let me warn you: it might be very difficult to just stop after 7 days because Skritter is kind of addictive!
Cost: $8.33 a month if you get a 12 month subscription (Shorter or longer subscriptions are also available. 1 month subscription for $14.99 USD, which comes with a 7 day free trial)
I’m also planning on listening to Chinese music whenever I can and watch Chinese movies. Once my Chinese is somewhat conversational I want to find a language exchange partner (probably on iTalki) and also want to start reading short stories/ books aimed at language learners. Oh and I’ve recently stumbled upon Ninchanese which looks super cute! So I might be giving that a go if I have time or get bored with my regular Chinese language learning resources. I’m also looking into different podcasts and other online resources, which I will review once I’ve tried them (not everything out there is good, believe me!). I’ll put all the new vocab I encounter into Anki in order to remember it. Once in China, I might also enroll in classes if we do end up staying for a while.
Time and effort
The first step on my way to learn Chinese is setting a start date and deciding on how much time and effort I can put into this project. So, I want to start learning Chinese on Monday November 14th (2016). From then on I plan on spending at least 2 hours studying every day. This is the maximum amount of time I can put into this, as I’m also a full-time student until June 2017.
Every day, I want to spend at least:
- 1 hour doing Anki, Skritter and Memrise
- 30 minutes on Yoyo Chinese
- 30 minutes on Coursera
In addition, I will try to listen to as much Chinese as possible. I think I will make a calendar where I will write down how much I’ve studied to keep track of my progress and hold myself accountable.
Language learning goals
Before arriving in China, I want to reach:
- HSK 1 Level (150 words, 174 characters) by: January 1st, 2017
- HSK 2 Level (300 words, 347 characters) by: February 1st, 2017
- HSK 3 Level (600 words, 617 characters) by: April 1st, 2016
- HSK 4 Level (1200 words, 1064 characters) by: August 1st 2017
The idea is that when we arrive in China, I’d at least know the vocabulary up to HSK Level 4. I want to take 1 month each for HSK 1 + 2. As the workload doubles after that, I’m giving myself 2 months for HSK 3. Finally, I’m planning on completing the HSK 4 Level within 4 months. I also want to attempt a practice/ mock exam when ‘completing’ a level.
When we arrive in China I want to be able to:
- Have basic conversations
- Order food and let people know what I can’t eat
- Do basic day-to-day tasks like going to the post office
- Find an apartment through a Chinese speaking agent, without needing to translate anything
The ‘end goal’ after leaving China would then be to:
- Pass HSK 6 (5000 words, 2663 characters) Exam by: August 2018
I want to achieve this whether we are staying in China for one month, six months or a year. No quitting this time!
I’ll be checking in with you regularly and update you on my Chinese language learning progress. I will also share any cool resources that I’ll find. I’m hoping that way I’ll actually stick to it this time! Oh and I know that passing a proficiency exam does not equal fluency. I will of course be doing a lot of speaking practice as well, not just prepare for the exam! But as I am hoping to boost my CV a bit, a proficiency exam looks like a very attractive option.
Do you know any Chinese language learning resources? Are you also studying Chinese and have any advice for me? Let me know and leave a comment below!
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(Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.)