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How to Learn Chinese from Scratch

As an online Chinese teacher, I always have foreign friends ask me: “I have an American friend who wants to learn Chinese. What textbook should I choose? Where can he study better?” Every time I encounter such a problem, my first reaction is to look for the universal answer. Sadly, there’s no such thing. So, let’s talk about how to learn Chinese for beginners today, do not rush to discuss which textbooks to choose and how to learn. We should help learners clarify some basic information.

The basic information includes: how old are they? Is it a man or a woman? Can you speak any other language besides English? What’s their highest educational attainment? What are your hobbies? Why suddenly want to learn Chinese? How long can I learn Chinese every day or every week? What’s your purpose for learning Chinese? What are you going to do with Chinese? Where do you work and live? Can you contact Chinese people often?

chinese learning skills
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From time to time, I leave a message to my friends to ask them these 10 questions and then discuss the teaching plan in detail. However, I usually end up waiting too long for a response. I’m sick of the waiting, that’s why I don’t do it anymore. When the speaker is unintentional and the listener is intentional, or when we meet our compatriots who are too enthusiastic and eager to be teachers, we will see that “you should take care of others. People have forgotten to mention it for a long time. So I’m very much in favor of the idea of “only offering help when asked.”

Chinese Learning Skills

In fact, there are no prerequisite skills in Chinese learning. We can achieve fluency through the following six points. It is not difficult to learn a language efficiently.

1. Focus on understanding the whole meaning first, and then clarify the meaning of the word.

Memorizing words is OK, but you should first grasp the big picture of the word. You must deeply understand the meaning of words in the article, instead of reciting words from a to Z through a textbook.

2. Make the language directly related to images in the brain.

For example, when you think of the word fire, you need to associate the image with the word in your mind.

Studies have shown that memorizing words in this way can stimulate the brain and deepen memory.

3. Listen more – it doesn’t matter whether you understand or not. Just listen!

Listen to the rhythm and patterns of language.

“Listen more” in this does not mean how much you understand, but to listen to the speaker’s language rhythm and pronunciation.

4. You don’t need to limit yourself to listening, you can also read a lot.

Studies have shown that follow-up readings are more effective than memorizing words, which can combine vision with hearing and leave a deep impression on the brain.

5. Find a partner.

It’s not necessarily a person who can correct your mistakes. Instead, look for someone who’s able to give feedback on your performance in the right language.

6. Observe the facial expressions of native speakers and imitate their mouth shapes when they speak.

The Important of Asking Questions

But before we decide to learn Chinese, we still need to clarify the issues I mentioned in this article. These questions play a great guiding role in your later Chinese learning, which to learn Chinese for beginners.

1. How old are you?

Age plays a huge role in learning the language. Different age brackets need different teaching approaches.  After all, the thinking level when they begin to learn foreign languages is very different. There are significant differences in physiological, psychological, and social needs, which can affect language acquisition.

2. Is it a man or a woman?

Men and women have different advantages in the study of language elements, such as pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and characters, acquisition of language skills such as listening, speaking, reading, writing and translation, learning ability, and learning strategies, such as encoding and decoding, memory enhancement, and the use of bottom-up or top-down strategies.

3. Can you speak any other language besides English?

This is to understand the qualifications and potential of learners in language learning.

4. How educated are you? What do you do?

These two are relative to adults. The level of education indicates the degree of training and thought processes. Farmers all know the great difference between wasteland and good land. What kind of cognitive style and learning model can be used to predict future learning.

5. Why suddenly want to learn Chinese? How long can I learn Chinese every day or every week?

These two questions can help to understand the types and intensity of learners’ learning motivation and facilitate the rational arrangement of learning intensity.

6. What are you going to do with the Chinese?

This is to know the learner’s goal. People have different learning goals. Some settle only for the ability to hear and communicate, to be able to read and write. Others want a more technical application of the language. Most of these people want to assist in professional learning and research. In particular, the Chinese have a relatively independent writing system. There is an insurmountable gap between listening and speaking and being able to read and write.

7. Where do you work and live? Can you contact Chinese people often?

These two questions are aimed at the great regional differences between the United States and the external environment. Although the external physical environment factors in the Internet era are becoming increasingly irrelevant the susceptibility of each person to external environmental factors still plays a significant role. I have to be careful.

Once a friend introduces a friend who wants to learn Chinese for beginners, teachers should remember to ask these questions. First, Chinese beginners who can’t answer will basically give up the idea of pursuing Chinese. Instead, they can help beginners find out the answers and clear their learning objectives, which will promote their later learning. Basically, it is difficult to give up Chinese learning easily.

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