Could learning how to speak Chinese be easy?
Despite what you may have heard, Chinese is easier than most people think.
I'm totally tongue-tied when it comes to learning languages, yet somehow I managed to learn Chinese. Keep reading, and I'll explain how I did it...and how you can do it too. (One size does not fit all - so take these tips and adapt them to your personal learning style)
I thought that Chinese would be the most difficult language on the planet. I mean, instead of 26 letters you have tens of thousands of crazy hieroglyphic symbols. And when you hear people speak Chinese, it doesn't sound anything like English, French, Italian or Spanish.
It sounds like Ching Chang Chong gibberish!
I'm going to let you in on a secret. Speaking Chinese is way easier than writing it. I'm telling you, it's one of the easiest languages to learn.
Do you realize how BIG of an advantage you have over someone who speaks fluent Chinese and THEN tries to learn to speak English? English has got to be one of the trickiest languages to learn - and you already know it!
Why is Chinese easy? It's logical. The structure is simple, straightforward, and way more predictable than English. And it's flexible.
And what's more - there are NO verb tenses! You don't need to think about how to speak in the past or future tense. Don't bother memorizing tables of verb conjugations.
Does that explain why native Chinese speakers don't use verb tenses when they start to speak English? Absolutely!
"Me yesterday night eat Chinese food" is grammatically correct when translated back into Chinese.
Chinese IS easy!
I'm not a linguistically gifted person:
Clearly I had a lot going against me. In fact, I was in China almost 6 months before I seriously considered learning the local language.Before I explain what worked for me, let me reveal some of the benefits of knowing how to speak Chinese. Especially if you have a Chinese girlfriend.
My friend lived in China for 8 years now, and he complained over dinner how tired he was in China. It took so much more effort for him to get anything done.
“But it's different for you - you can speak Chinese,” he said. I glanced across the table at my other friend, who married a Chinese woman a couple years ago.
He thinks he's too busy to learn a new language. All he can do now is keep pushing his bride to improve her English.
A nice side benefit is receiving compliments every time a Chinese person hears me speak for the first time.
My Chinese is not fluent. Most visitors to China can't speak ANY Chinese though (and that included me on my first visit). So Chinese people will be thrilled to hear you speaking the “home” language. They deeply appreciate your extra effort.
Truthfully, you don't want to do it exactly how I did. Because I tried a mishmash of audio programs, books, and websites. Plus I hired a private tutor. Only a couple of those methods were worthwhile.
So in the interest of giving you the most value, I'm going to skip right to the good stuff.
My 4 secrets to learn how to speak Chinese:
All I know is that this worked for me. And it worked so well that I can't just keep it to myself.
Especially when there are so many people out there who, just like me, never imagined they could speak Chinese. If I can do this, anyone can!
Are you one of those people who expects to learn how to speak Chinese by reading books? Honestly, that's how I started out learning too.
I would never learn how to speak Chinese by reading books.
I bought a pile of books on Chinese and plowed into them for a few weeks. Then I realized that I would never learn how to speak Chinese by reading books. I needed to get out there and talk.
Here's an example of what can happen when you try to learn Mandarin by reading phrasebooks.
So I tried a hodgepodge of audio programs. Most of the the programs didn't have nearly the amount of repetition that I needed to retain all that new vocabulary. Some of them simply rhymed off lists of words. In one ear and out the other.
The one I ended up settling on was Pimsleur's. It had a perfect level of repetition for me, and I actually found it easy to remember the new vocabulary. If you follow the lessons in sequence, you will review the vocabulary just often enough that it sticks with you.
I listened to a Chinese lesson each day on the way to and from work. I had a looong commute, which was perfect. That meant I had a regular, set block of time each day for Chinese study.
To succeed at self study - you need to carve a chunk of time out of your daily schedule to practice Chinese. Your speaking skills will increase leaps and bounds if you practice each day.
“Learning which does not advance each day will
-Ancient Chinese Proverb
Whenever I skipped a day, the next couple days are always *review mode*. It would set me back because I would need to listen again to the previous day or two.
Having said that, keep balanced. Take the weekend off sometimes! Find the mix that works best for you. Have FUN!
I get a kick out of walking around the Chinese university campus in the morning. Before class, the pathways are filled with Chinese students practicing English. How do they practice?
Some of them shout English phrases at the top of their lungs. One of them told me that the louder they shout, the better they learn.
The louder they shout, the better they learn.
You don't need to go to that extreme to learn how to speak Chinese. You do need to speak out loud though.
You've got to be like the child who watches Dora the Explorer on TV and actually responds out loud to her questions. You need to repeat the words aloud as best as you can when you hear them.
As silly as it might sound at first, you will get better.
If you are really feeling self-conscious about practicing in a public place, pretend to be talking into your cell phone or headset.
When you repeat new words out loud, your memory is being activated more fully!
If you have a Chinese girlfriend already, this is easy. Just talk with her some of the time in Chinese. Here are some basic mandarin phrases to get started.
And if you're in China...no problem. You can barely walk down the block without meeting someone who wants to trade English practice for Chinese practice.
What if you're outside of China? You might be in luck. I sure was. My city has a large Chinese population. When I rode the bus every day, I could usually find a Chinese person to chat with.
Yes, I know, I said I was too shy to practice with strangers. And that was true at first.
Once I tried talking in Chinese, even the most reserved Chinese girls would open up. Possibly a combination of surprise, shock and respect - but whatever it was, every person I practice Chinese with is delighted to chat with me.
And the shyness disappeared quickly!
Thank heavens for the Internet. There are many, many websites where you can meet Chinese people who want to help you learn how to speak Chinese. In return, they usually want help with their English.
You can even meet Chinese language study partners on Facebook. One of my best Chinese friends started out as a random connection in Skype.
If you self study, you should practice Chinese with a real person at every opportunity. If you need more Chinese friends, there are places online where you can find them.
Before you sign up for a Chinese language course, be sure to check out the “Nine Keys to Rapid Success in any Chinese Language Class”. You'll learn even more ways to maximize your language learning, and how to steer clear of the 2 pitfalls that cause some noobs to give up.
And here's what they don't teach you in the travel phrasebooks...read these valuable tips whether you are visiting China or you just want to learn Mandarin...»