I moved to China to experience a new culture, new people, and a new way of thinking. When I arrived, I experienced all of those things and I picked up a few more. Unexpectedly I was fascinated by another piece of the culture as well… the new language.
Since taking on the challenge of learning mandarin, it’s been a difficult and exciting part of my time here. We’ve been taking lesson for almost 8 months now and I think I’ve reached a plateau. The problem with this plateau is that I know what I have to do to get out of it. I just need to practice more than I do now.
Where am I now?
I’ve been learning Mandarin on and off for 8 months, but I still consider my ability to be at a pretty basic level. This means that I take weekly lessons with a tutor and I speak Chinese almost daily to Chinese locals.
The official International Chinese Language proficiency exam is called the HSK exam. Passing the HSK 1 exam was a breeze for me, and I plan to take the HSK 2 exam in the next month or so.
Some of my abilities include ordering at restaurants, telling the time and date, giving directions to a cab driver, and telling my English students to sit down and be quiet.
Resources that I Use
If you are looking into learning Mandarin there are so many ways to start, some are good and some are bad. I’m going to take this time to highlight some of the resources that I’ve used in my learning process far.
One of the best things that I could’ve done was hire a weekly tutor to help me learn Chinese. Not because its impossible to teach yourself at home, but because it is almost impossible to correct your own speaking. Especially if you don’t have a native speaker in your daily life.
I also used an application called iTalki to find a tutor online. She did a great job helping me prepare for my HSK 1 exam. The tutors range in price and quality and there were so many to choose from.
A friend of mine actually gave me this course to help me pick up some beginner Chinese. This has been the simplest way to self study. The course is a series of videos that really breaks down Chinese into simple steps.
I credit my success on the HSK 1 exam to the ANKI Program. It is a spaced learning flashcard app that helps me study Chinese characters, pinyun, and definitions.
Its a great APP, but learning how to use it took some time. It was a pain in the a** at first, but then I started to see results.
Picking a textbook and sticking with it has given me a framework to learn from. If there was ever a question of what I should be studying, I would refer back to the last lesson in the book and start from there.
I used the following text book to help me study:
If you’ve every been to China then you know that you, as a foreigner, are a spectacle. Most people are looking for any excuse to interact with you. You can use this to your advantage to learn as much Chinese as possible. Just as them how to say something and they will give you more information than you asked for.
The Secret to Learning Mandarin
I am far from mastering Chinese, but even in my early stages of learning I think I’ve learned the true “secret”. PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! Whenever I practiced the most, guess what… I got better. I learned this from one of the books I read in 2019: The Practicing Mind
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