After years of dreaming about it, you finally want to speak Chinese fluently. You want to be able to communicate with your friend from China and explore Chinese culture.
But what’s the best way to learn Mandarin Chinese? Textbooks, apps, classes, software... What’s the easiest, cheapest, quickest way to make progress? What works and what doesn’t?
Starting to learn a new language can be overwhelming. With all of the options out there, it's difficult to figure out what the best method is. So what's the way forward?
Resources for further reading:
Before we get to the holy grail of Chinese learning, let's take a look at these five basic approaches to learning Chinese - each with its own set of pros and cons:
The immersion approach plunges you into Chinese language and culture. You travel to China and spend an extended period of time there. This will force you to use Chinese in your day-to-day life - everywhere you go!
It is a great option for those who don't like formal study and have plenty of time and money to spare.
Reading your favorite book a second, third or fourth time is always a good idea. Why not read it in Chinese this time?
It will force you to translate between Chinese and your native language. Feel free to use a dictionary here.
Chinese-learning textbooks mostly use the grammar-based approach. They focus on teaching the grammatical rules of Chinese. You will mostly train your reading and writing skills.
This is the approach we all know from school. It involves a teacher who gives lessons to a small group of students. Lessons are usually divided into reading, writing, listening and speaking activities.
Have you thought about using a Chinese learning app or software? We bet you have! It’s one of the most popular ways of learning Chinese right now.
Most of the online learning applications make use of the vocabulary-based approach. You learn Chinese by associating words with pictures of the objects they represent. Say goodbye to lessons on grammar rules. You will pick up the structure of a language along the way.
So what’s the secret? What is the best way to make progress?
The truth is that there isn't only one best way to learn Chinese.
Keep two things in mind:
First - every Chinese learner is different! What works for others, might not work for you. Try out different approaches and find out what suits you best.
Second - the key to being a successful Chinese learner is incorporating the above methods. Different approaches will teach you different aspects of Chinese - reading, writing, listening and speaking!
The best way to learn Chinese is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Study Chinese script, vocabulary, and grammar in an engaging way - with apps, software, or classic flashcards. Speak Chinese out loud as often as you can - to native speakers or to yourself. Soak up Chinese comics, movies, music, social media.
Ideally, the best way to learn Chinese includes:
This may sound like a lot to ask for, but online courses like Rocket Chinese can provide you with many of these features. It's also easier than ever to supplement your studies with other programs either online or in person.
Rocket Chinese is an online Chinese course that incorporates various of the above methods. Our lessons include audio tracks, a pronunciation tool, language & culture lessons and extensive reinforcement testing.
Why don’t you listen to the first Rocket Chinese Interactive Audio Lesson right here?
Unlike other Chinese learning resources out there, we don’t focus on only one approach. We believe there is more to learning a language than vocabulary and grammar drills.
You want to learn Chinese to communicate with others - confidently and authentically. Rocket Chinese will teach you exactly that.
Start your first Chinese lesson right now! You can sign up to our completely free, life-time trial of Rocket Chinese here.
What are you waiting for?
Lin Ping and the Rocket Chinese Team