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A new year is upon is, which for many people means making resolutions. Whether it’s to lose weight, quit smoking, or save money, these resolutions are all easy to make but tough to keep. One very popular New Year’s resolution is to learn a new language. Some want to do it for personal reasons, some to travel, and others just for the challenge. If your resolution for 2017 is to learn Chinese, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tips for how to achieve your goal, along with quite a few links to past posts that will help you out.
If you’re just getting started with Chinese, chances are you’re not going to be fluent by the end of the year. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it isn’t exactly realistic. With its tricky tones and thousands of characters, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Rather than set yourself up for disappointment when you aren’t being asked to appear on Chinese TV by the end of the year, it’s better to start out with some more achievable goals. In one year of part-time study – not everyone has the resources to go full throttle – it’s quite possible to become highly conversational and have a solid vocabulary. You may not be able to read newspapers, but you can definitely understand train timetables and standard restaurant menus at the end of a year. Try setting incremental goals throughout the year and cross them off as you achieve them. When starting out these can be as simple as ordering your lunch or hailing a cab, and you can then progress to more difficult tasks like asking for recommendations in the restaurant and making small-talk with your driver.
While its thousands of characters can be intimidating, keep in mind that you won’t be using them all on a daily basis. In fact, if you can get a firm grasp on the 100 most common Chinese characters, you’ll be surprised at how far that can take you. We’ve even got a 5-part video series with all of them for extra practice. Check out the first one here and head to our YouTube channel for the rest.
For starters, make sure you sign up for our Chinese word of the day. Get it delivered straight to your e-mail and you’ve got 365 words in a calendar year. Not only do you learn a new word every day, but you also get an example sentence that gives further practice. When learning new words, try to group them together. Keep different lists in your notes so that you can start to associate words in groups and not get them all mixed up. When you have one list for food, one for clothing, one for transportation, and so on, it’ll be easier to remember them. We’ve already put together a ton of lists for you, so bookmark these and you’ll already have a few hundred words at your fingertips:
Be happy you’re living in the year 2017 and that you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips for learning any language. In fact, there are tons of them that you don’t even have to pay for! There are plenty of ways to learn Chinese online for free, so why not check them all out? While it’s not entirely free, you can give Transparent Online a trial run for a whole week. You can read all about my experience trying it out for a week, then give it a whirl yourself.
As is the case with any foreign language, the best way to get ahead is to really immerse yourself in it. Of course, this is much easier if you’re already in a country where the language is spoken or at least have a community of people who speak it nearby. That being said, you don’t have to be in China to immerse yourself in Chinese. As a matter of fact, I even planned a full Chinese immersion day for you that you could do anywhere. If you make a conscious effort to always be listening, speaking, reading, and writing Chinese, you’ll see vast improvements in no time. In addition, do your best to dive into the culture. If you’re going to be studying the language, you might as well get into the literature, art, music, and food. When your language skills are eventually up to par, you can then start talking about these topics or researching them in Chinese.
Whatever you do, make sure this resolution isn’t like that gym membership you never used or that piggy bank you ended up cracking open. Learning a new language – especially Chinese – is never easy, but with the right mindset and a good plan you can most definitely do it.