How to learn the Chinese language as an adult

Flag of China, with inscription denoting language spoken withing the country

Just like with other second or third language acquisitions, learning the mandarin can be overwhelming, demand a lot of commitment and interest but here’s how to make it

1.     Relax your nerves. Learning a new language comes with a lot of tension and nervousness, and Chinese, with the complex outlook of the characters, is not left out from the bunch of languages that are assumed to be difficult. The characters will not be part of your lessons in your early days as a beginner so it is advisable that you ease up your tensed up nerves and visualize success. The state of your mind is key.

2.     Gather momentum to make progress. I can recall a couple of persons who started off excitedly with us in our early days of learning Chinese language and dropped out for a couple of reasons which un-sustained interest was part of it.  After a while, some of them wanted to return but with their mates in higher levels, they found it difficult to adjust with new learning partners and withdrew again. You will achieve nothing if you are not willing to give yourself the push you need. Chinese mandarin is a language worth learning. The encouragement to read and write and listen should come from you first.

You remain your own energy source.

3.     Focus on listening. Steve Kaufmann was right when he said that reading aids your vocabulary accumulation, but listening helps you connect with the language and prepares you to speak. One of the challenges in Chinese language learning is the tones, which may not be very difficult for learners whose first languages (L1) are tonal but no matter your background, it might be difficult be remember the tones and internalize them for use when speaking. Listening gives you the chance to know how a sound is made and the opportunity to repeat after the speaker. You may find it interesting to repeat what you hear and decide to learn the #mandarin_in_bits in order to improve your conversational Chinese skills on Survival Chinese with Oge.

Here is a playlist of videos, each clip lasting for just a few minutes, and lessons taught in small, concise, assimilable chunks:

You may also always check out for materials on Chinese learning.

4.     Speak. Speak. Speak. It’s okay to make mistakes. Language learning can be likened to when a child is learning to speak and like young kids, it starts from hilarious stutters and babbles to complete words and grammatically correct sentences. Recognize the patterns of the phrases and sentences. Speak to yourselves and speak to/with other people. Imitating who and what you are listening to is key to be becoming verbal, speaking and practicing as often as possible are important to becoming fluent. So speak. Don’t ever stop.

Find texts for which you have the audios, listen to one phrase or sentence, then try to imitate the intonation without worrying too much about individual sounds. You may find it fun if you try recording yourself to compare with an original clip, not only will your ability to control the tones you pronounce improve, but your choice of words will also become more native-like.

5.     Have a goal. You know you are busy so make your goals achievable. I carved out the term “#mandarin_in_bits” before I ever saw it anywhere because I know adulthood comes with lots of responsibilities and challenges. Making realistic targets while bearing “#mandarin_in_bits” in mind, not only reminds you of the good old phrase – “one step at a time”, causes you to maintain consistency and take small bites, but it also calms your nerves helping you to enjoy taking those little steps and achieving your small goals.

6.     Explore. Read. Inquire. Research. See movies. Travel. Have Fun. There are a lot of simple Chinese movies, video clips and dialogues for mandarin beginners online, you may develop interest on checking out some of these free mandarin materials online. You can also learn simple Chinese songs, and IF you can, travel to places in China, or better still, make efforts to communicate with the non-English-speaking Chinese around you.


Feel free to check up on the following videos – 

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It’s also important to note that this post was first made on Opera news