Are you starting to learn Chinese and need some study tips? Have you already begun learning and feel that your current study routine is ineffective? Learn from my experience studying Chinese in Beijing’s Peking University. Check out my best Chinese study tips and get a jumpstart on discovering your perfect study routine.
Chinese Study Tips: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Although I spent almost 12 months studying Mandarin Chinese at Peking University, it wasn’t until halfway through my second semester that I finally discovered my ideal study routine. It’s perfectly natural to struggle with finding which methods suit your style of learning and when it comes to Chinese study tips, it’s important to remember that what works for your 华裔朋友 might not work for you, and what works for you might not for others. Be persistent and continue to try new tricks and tools until you find something that works for you. To help speed up your Chinese language learning journey, here are some of my best Chinese study tips.
Repetition is Key
You mean I can’t show up to 听写 (dictation) without looking at the vocabulary list?
NO– definitely not! Although it may sound terrible, rewriting a character ten times each (or more, to be realistic) is really the only way you will learn how to write the character by heart. Because the Chinese system of writing is so different from phonetic languages, there is a significant learning curve for those who have never studied a language system that uses this style of writing. You will literally (probably?) never be able to memorize how to write a character unless you study!
This is, by far, the best of my Chinese study tips. Pinyin, tone, Hanzi, stroke order, English definition: these are the five things you will be studying each time you try to learn a new character or word, and it can get really frustrating when you memorize one part but forget another. To avoid having to memorize the tones AND Pinyin of a word, try color-coding your tones. When you’re practicing your stroke order, use the corresponding tone color.
- 1st Tone = Red
- 2nd Tone = Yellow
- 3rd Tone = Green
- 4th Tone = Blue
- 5th Tone (no tone) = Grey
When you study Chinese, associating the character’s tone with a color will help reinforce it in your memory and you’ll find yourself studying smarter, not harder.
Learn about Chinese History and Culture
This isn’t so much a Chinese study tip, but more of a general tip about language study. If you’re going to take the time to learn a language, you should learn the culture as well. Lucky for you, Chinese culture has over 3000 years of history (5000 years if you ask your Chinese friends) and many modern Chinese games, movies, expressions, and the like are taken from famous historical fables. Being familiar with Chinese history will help you down the road as your Chinese improves (prepare for the 成语!) and you begin making friends with more Chinese people.
Use Anki like a PRO
Use tags to separate each lesson’s vocabulary within a larger, generic “Chinese” deck.
- Tags like “初级 1” use the class name/level and the book lesson’s number
Using relevant tools and add-ons while also making use of multiple card styles will help you rapidly improve your Chinese level while also saving time and energy. Instead of just testing Hanzi to English and English to Hanzi, consider the following card styles (reinforced skill in parenthesis):
- English to Hanzi (reading)
- Hanzi to English (reading)
- Now you should be able to recognize the character in a text and know its meaning in English.
- Pinyin to English (listening/reading)
- English to Pinyin (speaking/listening)
- This should help reinforce the connection between what you want to say, and how you need to say it.
- Hanzi to Pinyin (reading/speaking/listening)
- See the Hanzi and then write the Pinyin with proper tones.
- Pinyin to Hanzi (writing)
- Look at the Pinyin and then write the Hanzi. You should already know the meaning in English!
- English to Hanzi (writing)
Don’t know what Anki is? That’s okay! I plan on writing another post later on going into greater detail about it, but for now just go check out their site here.
Obviously, there is no one-size fits all approach to learning a new language, especially one as difficult as Chinese. If you discover a new method or tool for studying Chinese share it with your teacher and classmates. Not only will they appreciate it, but working together and learning from one another will help you learn Chinese faster.
Do you have any Chinese study tips to share, or are you particularly proud of your current study routine? Let’s work together, share in the comments below!