Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post from the fabulous Agness of eTramping.com.
How many times have you heard that Chinese is impossible to comprehend as it is the most complicated language in the world? Yes, that’s true – Chinese is considered to be one of the most difficult and challenging languages on this planet, but I can ensure you that it is going to be a snap to pick up some words and make some simple sentences within a couple of months once you arrive in China. The reason being, the Chinese language has probably the easiest grammar structure in the world. In order to build a sentence, you simply place words in certain order. There are no tenses and no gender-specific verbs – just words. What a blessing!
Imagine you are coming to China to work as an English teacher and you are planning to live and travel here for the next 6 months. The crucial thing for you should be learning Mandarin as soon as possible as it might save your life and make it much easier with everyday activities such as shopping or dining out. Here are some steps you can follow to make the process of learning easy, smooth and more fun:
1. Start with the tones.
While in China, you can notice that picking up some words from locals in the street can be more than enough to survive. Try to listen carefully to what people are saying, then try to repeat after them in exactly the same way. Do not worry if you say some words in a wrong way, the Chinese will always correct you in a very polite way.
Knowing the tones is important because one word in Chinese can mean completely different things when you change the tones. Therefore, you need to say the words in exactly the same way as you hear them. It is better to know 5 words pronounced perfectly than knowing 50 pronounced in a wrong way. Tones matter, but don’t be limited by them. Have a good sense of humour and take it easy on yourself when you do mess up. It happens to all foreigners. Be patient and never give up.
2. Find your best learning method.
If you are seriously thinking about learning Chinese, the best learning options for you are studying with a private teacher or self-study supported by online teaching resources. Most of the schools are willing to provide private tutoring for you so you can study Chinese every day either in your flat or in a language school. This is a great option and most of the time it’s free. If you work better through self-study you can buy a notebook and write down all tones and words you listen to on a regular basis and keep learning them by heart. If you are not sure how to pronounce a word, you can always ask one of the teachers or locals for help; they will be more than happy to help you. You can support your study by using various online dictionaries. Remember that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in the country where the language originates, so do not miss this opportunity to be able to learn as much Chinese as possible.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
The only way you can improve your Chinese and step up your language skills is to practice incessantly with drive, persistence and determination. There are many ways of practicing Chinese while being in China:
- Use as many Chinese words as possible when preparing your classes – Your students will go crazy when they hear you talk Chinese. If you are having a class on travelling, try to write down some Chinese words related to this topic, then read them aloud to your students. You will all have a great time and you will learn some new Chinese words. Of course, you are not there to speak to them in Chinese, but if you translate something after introducing it in English, it will be more effective for everyone.
- Hang with Chinese – You are surrounded by native speakers of Chinese, why not use it as part of your lessons? Try to speak as much Chinese as possible when going out with your Chinese friends. Do not be afraid of asking them what something is called in Chinese or how to pronounce the words properly.
- Watch Chinese movies or TV shows – You are in China so accessing Chinese TV should not be a problem. Turn on some fancy Chinese channels and try to hear the proper tones, hear them in context to the storyline and in relation to the human connections being made, so you can really encompass more of the language as a whole.
- Listen to Chinese songs – Pick up your favourite Chinese song, translate it into your native language and keep listening to it, then try to learn it by heart. It can be tough work, but it will pay off as you can impress your Chinese friends and students by singing a song in the language while getting to know new words and practicing new tones.
4. Never stop learning.
Once you stop using Chinese on a regular basis, your Chinese will start dying. If you do not use Chinese words, you will simply forget them, so never, ever stop learning. Learning Chinese must be a daily process, a daily habit and a daily practice in order to succeed.
Have you ever learnt Chinese when in China? If so, how difficult/easy did you find it?
If you would like to read more about China, you can check out my “Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up my two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.
Agness is a Polish travel blogger who has been travelling and living in different Asian countries since 2011. She is well known for travelling the world for less than $25 per day and she shares her tricks and tips with the readers of her blog called eTramping.com. Moreover, she is a food lover obsessed with Chinese cuisine, yoga passionate, life enthusiast and photography freak.