Apr 04 2018

What are the Best Resources for Learning Chinese? (Part 1)

As a Master’s student in Beijing, I do not always have time to take any regular courses or courses. During this period, to maintain and improve my Chinese I used online tools to help keep my vocabulary and grammar sharp for everyday conversations in China. Which online sites offer the best and most efficient tools for learning Chinese? This is a common question in any language learning community. I myself have struggled a lot with methods when beginning to learn Spanish and Chinese but now I feel I am wiser on the topic than a few years ago. This is purely in my experience and China Universities is not endorsed or have any relationship with language learning companies.

It is also important to note that the most effective way to learn a language is learning in the environment of the target language. A semester in Beijing is worth several times more than a school or using training tools outside China and Taiwan.

Language Learning as a Skill

Language learning is very much a skill. This may seem an obvious statement, but it is one you often hear about. So many of my friends and family at home tell me that ‘you have to be smart to learn Chinese’ or ‘I am no good at learning languages’. It is safe to say, language learning is not a genetic trait. I studied French and German for 2 years in high school and still can only say a few phrases in French and German.

In university, out of boredom, I bought some books and studied Spanish. Little did I know I went about it in completely the wrong way! One semester I spent a large amount of money on a Rosetta Stone course. I studied the course religiously for weeks and found it had some strengths and weaknesses I had not anticipated. This taught me a couple of things about language learning.

Firstly, spending the money on a course does not mean you will actually complete the course and be very good at the language. You cannot buy a language. Secondly, you cannot solely rely on any one method to learn a language. Rosetta Stone software is good. But it alone cannot help you develop all aspects of a language, thus the answer is to combine the best of each aspect of a language, breaking it down into parts as they do in Chinese classes in China. Listening, speaking, reading and grammar. Each of these points are just as important as the others. One cannot learn to speak purely by learning the Chinese characters (or any script in any language). You can learn how to speak and read and listen, but if you neglect the grammar, you risk sounding like a child or risk not being able to use your vocabulary to its full potential. These areas can of course overlap but I have yet to find a resource that allows you to extensively study all 3.

When we talk at language learning as a skill, its important to stress the learning process itself. We are not talking about an individual’s ability to learn words but rather to master the process of learning Chinese.

(to be continued)

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