“There is no single way of learning something.”
This maxim, spoken by Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC), well illustrates the fact that any learning methodology needs to be not only efficient, but tailored to each individual student as well in order to better learn and assimilate.
For example, when learning Chinese, some students find it more difficult than others to memorise, pronounce and reproduce the tones of the Chinese language, while others have difficulty remembering the Chinese characters, or understanding written Chinese.
Our memnonic capabilities are not created equal. Some people have a more oral memory, others a more visual one - in other words, some retain anything they hear spoken while others remember better if they read something, as if their eye were taking a mental photograph. Still others need two or three times as long to memorise Chinese characters, for example.
Taking Chinese language courses doesn’t just mean showing up at your Mandarin lesson: it’s a long and hard road that requires motivation, discipline and diligence.
It requires a daily dose of independent work. Here on Superprof we have worked out four tips to help you arrive at your Chinese class perfectly prepared - a necessary step in the process of learning Mandarin Chinese.
Also read these tips for the best ways to learn Mandarin...
Re-read the Previous Lessons Carefully Before Your Next Chinese Lesson
It bears repeating: learning Chinese is not easy.
This millenia old language goes back to the dawn of history and even the most educated of Chinese - academics and other men and women of letters - don’t know all of the Chinese characters by heart.
As you can see, any beginner Chinese student has a long, steep road ahead of them!
However, notwithstanding the prospect of rapid progression, getting better at the Chinese language is obviously not impossible.
In fact you “only” need to know about 400 Chinese characters - about 2/3 of the most frequently used characters - to get along tolerably after three years of Chinese language courses.
But how to get there when you are just starting your beginner Mandarin classes?
The main thing is to carefully re-read your lessons as you go. Don’t let it slide or you will be overwhelmed or find yourself with gaps in your knowledge.
It is all the more important if you are taking beginner Chinese lessons. Remember:
Being attentive in class and listening to your teacher is 50% of the work
Re-reading your notes and reviewing regularly with a clear head makes up the remaining 50%
“Memory is the best camera there is” - Kevin Spacey.
Here are our recommendations to help you prepare your Chinese lessons and memorise them:
- Make sure the conditions during your lessons are suitable to learning, allowing you to focus your concentration and keep a good posture
- When you are revising your previous lesson, disconnect all your devices: computer, smartphones, tablets…
- Take a small break every half hour: 5-10 minutes to have a glass of water or air out your mind
- Avoid time-consuming distractions such as Facebook or television
- When re-reading your Chinese lessons, make notes of things you did not understand so you can ask your Mandarin teacher the next time you see them (a specific translation, Pinyin transcription, the order and direction of the lines in Chinese calligraphy, the meaning of certain Chinese symbols…)
- Re-read your Mandarin lessons and notes every day: the best time is at night, shortly before going to sleep, as we memorise best at night.
You still have trouble learning Mandarin despite these good habits?
You still need to take the time to sum things up at regular intervals.
Summing Up Your Chinese Lessons and Making Flashcards
Summary flashcards are an excellent way to help you memorise your Chinese language lessons - or, indeed, learn French, English or Spanish - more rapidly.
Don’t hesitate to put up posters with Chinese characters to help you work on your Mandarin pronunciation and vocabulary.
While I was a student at University, I was rarely stressed out when studying for exams because, instead of re-reading dozens and dozens of longhand A4 sheets, I had previously summed up the main points of the lessons in bullet points on little flashcards. This helped nudge the brain into retaining only the important information, to help me understand without learning by heart.
You’re not very organised, even a little lazy?
Here are some tips to help you learn Chinese:
- After each Chinese language class, take up your notes and reformulate them digitally or longhand
- Sum up each part of your Chinese lessons in a few simple bullet points, keeping sentences short
- Restructure your class notes so they follow a clear progress: titles, subtitles, bullet points
- Colour-code your notes: underline, highlight or circle the essential points
- Look over the key words, definitions, translations of Chinese words
- Figure out mnemonic devices to remember Chinese characters
- Make charts and graphs to illustrate points of Chinese grammar or the order of Mandarin characters
- Make one flash card per idea: Pinyin transcription, pronouncing the Chinese phonetic alphabet with its 23 initial consonants and 35 final vowels, the tones of Mandarin speech, Chinese grammar rules, the direction of strokes in Chinese calligraphy, Chinese vocabulary by theme…
By grouping each lesson into summary flashcards, vocabulary and pronunciation exercises will become easier. For example, you might try repeating these words aloud every day:
- Learn how to say “hello” in Chinese: « nĭ hăo » (你 + 好)
- Learn how to say “good-bye” in Chinese: « zài jiàn » (再 + 见)
- Review your numbers: 八 (two), 五 (five)
If you can’t contact your Mandarin teacher, get help from the internet.
Work daily in smaller chunks
Whether you are learning to play the piano or guitar or learning Chinese, there is no point in revising just before your lesson.
To assimilate the Chinese language, it’s better to work on it 5 to 10 minute a day than during an intensive, hours-long revision.
It can also be helpful to pretend you are in China right now…
Why not make use of some of these great Mandarin learning tools, too?
Immerse Yourself in the Chinese Language Just Before Your Lesson
Immerse yourself in the language? Already? But why? Your trip to China isn’t until next year!
It’s quite simple: it lets your brain soak up the music of the Chinese language.
Since the language of Confucius is a tonal language, its phonemes sound odd to our ears.
In order to better understand the aids your teacher will give you in class, it can be helpful to hear Chinese spoken every day by native Mandarin speakers for listening practise.
Let’s look at the possibilities:
- Listen to Chinese, Taiwanese or Singapore news
- Watch Chinese movies (if need be, with English subtitles)
- If you live in a city with a Chinese quarter, go do some of your shopping there
- Download Chinese podcasts suach as this one or these.
- Speak Chinese on social networks or with Chinese friends you’ve met on your travels (if you know any)
- Install a free Chinese learning app to listen to one lesson a day and get ahead of your Mandarin course.
Watch Chinese videos
It has been frequently noted that online videos - from YouTube, for example - can help you learn a language easily. Learning Chinese is no different.
However, YouTube is not available in China. They use a similar site called
Youku.Of course, a beginner Mandarin student will not understand anything and it is important to know some basics of the Chinese language and understand spoken Chinese to follow the videos.
However, even before you understand what they say your brain will learn to identify the tone and sounds of new words better in the future.
Find a native speaker
One last tip to soak in the language while learning Chinese at home: find a native Chinese speaker. Hook up with a language partner - a native speaker who will help you learn Mandarin while you help them with their English.
Mosalingua has created a page with links to various tools that will help you learn to speak Chinese like a native. Among them is Italki https://www.italki.com/home, a site that lets you find a language partner or else a native speaker to help you with Chinese lessons.
It’s like a Chinese Superprof!
The app is very easy to use. The catch? It costs about $15 to $27 per hour to for a teacher who is also a native Mandarin speaker. However, the language partners are is free - a true intercultural training programme, with a free, internation exchange of linguistic competence.
A must for preparing your Chinese classes London!
Discover how to find the perfect Chinese teacher for your learning needs...
Train on Your Favourite Chinese Learning App
Are you looking for a smartphone app that will help you revise for your Chinese lessons?
How better to work on your Chinese vocabulary everywhere you go than to have it on your smartphone?
There are more than 500 million Chinese watching videos online, and giving Chinese lessons is a way for them to make some money while learning English, French, Spanish, German or Portuguese.
Here, we’ll be describing Hello Talk, one way among many to learn the Chinese language and speak to native Mandarin speakers.
This app has more than one million users throughout the world and fits you to one of the thousands of language partners.
It’s a bit like the Facebook of foreign language courses: you can send a message to whomever you like and start trading languages!
Here is what you need to do (it’s quite simple):
- Download the app onto your smartphone
- Create a profile (e-mail address, password, name, birthdate, profile photo)
- Enter the information about your native tongue and land of origin
- Mention Chinese as one of the languages you want to learn
- Indicate your level of proficiency
- Find a language partner!
It’s ideal for a free Mandarin lesson and for practising your written Chinese.
Is your trip to China coming up soon?
The Internet is a gold mine for discovering Chinese culture between two lessons, practice your Chinese and take a language immersion course before even setting foot in China!
How much do you think Mandarin lessons should cost? Find tutors to learn Chinese with Superprof. No mater where you live, you'll be able to learn Mandarin London to Lincoln, from Plymouth to Portsmouth.