How to improve your Mandarin Chinese fast? In more than one language, the expression “It’s all Chinese to me” is used for showing someone’s confusion, which, in a sense, indicates the difficulty of the Chinese language. And yes; Chinese really is hard, even for Chinese people. But things have changed quite a lot, since more foreigners have begun to learn Chinese, and many Chinese language learners realizing this old yet spoken-by-many language is actually different from what they thought.
Once we start doing something, we always wonder if there is any way of doing it better and faster. So how on earth are we going to learn the Mandarin Chinese language faster? Maybe the following methods could help you speed up your learning process.
How to improve Chinese speaking & listening fast
First, know what is meant by “欲速则不达” (yù sù zé bù dá-haste brings no success)
For an era where everything is ‘fast’ — from fast food to automation — everything gives us the illusion that everything can be completed in a short time. But fast things aren’t always healthy, nor will they last for too long. After knowing this, we can adjust our mentality firstly and then proceed to the next step. After all, a good attitude is half the battle.
Second, determine your learning goals
Whether you want to use Chinese to make like-minded friends, or need it to work in China — you must be clear about what language you need to learn and to which degree of fluency you want to master it. When you run toward your established goal, no matter the speed is slow, you are getting closer and closer to the end, which will strengthen your sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, you can use the HSK exam to force yourself. After all, the closer the exam comes, the faster you have to learn Chinese. It’s a good motivator.
Third, lay a solid foundation
In Chinese, there’s the saying ‘磨刀不误砍柴工 módāo bú wù kǎichái gōng’ (Sharpening the axe won`t interfere with cutting firewood). The professional sprinter runs fast because his training and configuration have reached the best condition. Pinyin can be said to be a pair of running shoes for your Chinese learning stage. Wearing suitable shoes is a kind of help. Speaking in a standard phonetic tone is not burdensome for the listener, and likewise, it’s also satisfying for the speaker. In addition, Chinese characters are like sportswear you wear when running. Wearing it, you are a professional athlete, not wearing it, eh~, this is a bit crazy. Some people think it’s okay not to learn Chinese Hanzi characters, and there is no big obstacle to communicating with others. But in fact, Chinese characters are precisely the carrier of Chinese cultural exchange. Of course, you can learn fast with only Pinyin, but without Chinese characters, you can never learn far. In any case, it won’t be the fastest way to learn Chinese.
Fourth, practice, practice, practice!
A professional teacher can help you avoid detours while learning, and tell you effective methods while understanding the rules. But still, to take running as an example, the best coach can’t replace you to run the championship. The coach can tell you how to run, but you are the one who really runs. So the more you practice, the more you will feel that you are running faster and faster. The same is true for the Mandarin Chinese language. If the method is correct, you will learn as fast as you practice.
Talk to yourself
Most of the students get more or less a bit nervous when speaking a foreign language, and Chinese as a tonal language makes it even worse. Why not talk to yourself in Chinese first, listing your to-do list for the day, describing the surroundings you’re familiar with, or even complaining. Make the most of your inner world to get rid of the nervousness and get used to Chinese. Then make friends with intermediate or advanced Mandarin speakers, or better, natives via apps or local communities and chat with them with high frequency if impossible on a daily basis.
Find a language partner
Fast and slow are relative. Finding a partner with whom you can learn Chinese together, and ‘compete’ with. It’s good to encourage each other. At the same time, you can also develop your own circle of Chinese friends, either in China or try to find Chinese people in your local community. It is best to find someone who either isn’t good in English, or you choose what is ‘Chinese time’ and you can only speak Chinese during that time. Because if his or her English is good enough, then you will not only have less time to communicate in Chinese but also less opportunity to give full play to your thinking and search for Chinese vocabulary. This is one of the fastest ways to improve Chinese, and also a very fun one.
Online, you can find many Mandarin speakers on the following apps and websites:
Another way of learning Chinese speaking fast is shadow reading. Shadow reading is just listening to an audio or video and simultaneously talk. For instance, you can try our Chinese listening practice stories. You’ll talk with a tiny delay, but don’t pause the recording; just *shadow* the narrators. You can replay the video or audio file to improve on a second or third attempt.
Learn in bits
Use well your fragmented time to learn Chinese fast. Find some suitable Chinese audio materials (with at least 70% contents understood), such as broadcasts, textbook recordings, familiar TV programs, or films and just listen to it when driving, taking the metro, or before sleep. It doesn’t matter whether you can understand every single word or not, but just listen. This is an effective way to learn Chinese listening fast, backed with approval from plenty of Chinese students & teachers.
How to learn Chinese characters (Hanzi) fast
Nightmare or attractive experience? People have their own points of view towards Chinese Hanzi characters, which are by many considered as the mountain in the way of learning Chinese. But in fact, those box-like little ‘Chinese letters’ have their own logic. What you need to do is work out the meaning of different parts of a character (radicals and components) and get accustomed. It is, indeed, brain torture at the beginning, yet not only for foreigners but for Chinese natives as well! The only advantage Chinese people can take is all about the immersive environment; endless repetition, including seeing and writing. In this way, you can subliminally engrave very fast every stroke of a Chinese character into your mind. So, let Chinese characters around you as much as you can. Set your phone in Chinese, use Post-it everywhere if possible, and type frequently if no desire to write.
Improve Chinese reading & writing fast
It’s actually not complicated to speed up your Chinese language reading: keep reading in Chinese! Because perseverance matters when it comes to language learning. It seems an ‘of course’ suggestion, but from a practical perspective, how do we carry out this rule? Perhaps you can follow the steps below:
- Discover reading materials that are at your current level or just a bit beyond.
- Prepare a dictionary to help you eliminate vocabulary obstacles.
- Embrace all the Chinese narrative styles and do your best to understand the meaning in Chinese instead of translating.
- Instead of long hauls, make it your daily routine, to read 30 minutes to 1 hour per day.
Once you have enough intake, you may well feel like expressing yourself in Chinese, and it’s all at your hand. Then go put down whatever is in your mind in Chinese and use a diary or social apps (some online language learning communities). It can be a long article or a few sentences. Structuring sentences by yourself with what has been learned in an authentic book is apparently a great idea to enhance Chinese writing fast. At last, it would be best to find someone who’s qualified to revise what you have written.
The last but not least, always compare yourself to the previous you instead of others. If you look at your progress over a few weeks or months, it’ll surprise you. Take it easy even if you’re advancing slowly, for small steps also make a great leap! This is what we think are the fastest ways to improve Chinese.