Travel, Teach, Live in China
It is a commonly held misconception that a select few people are really good at learning languages and everyone else must suffer through a long and tedious learning process just to master the basics. This is especially true of the Chinese language, as it is considered to be a rather difficult language to learn. Trust me, though, learning to speak Chinese does not have to be a struggle for you. To pick up Chinese quickly and easily, follow these three important learning strategies.
1. Work in Phrases
When studying, you have to start somewhere, so why not jump right into learning phrases that can be used right away. This method works wonders for your confidence because, as you will see, you can get a great deal done with just a little bit of knowledge. Look at the phrases below, for example.
"I want... "
"I want..." = "Wo yao..."
pijiu = beer
jiaozi = dumplings
Wo yao Jiaozi. Wo yao pijiu. = I'll have a beer and some dumplings.
See that? After learning just one simple phrase and two vocabulary words, you can walk into a restaurant in China and get yourself a beer and meal! Now imagine if you took a few hours to learn how to say more dishes and drinks. You will have what I like to call "restaurant fluency" in no time.
"I go... = "Wo chu..."
Sanlitun = a famous neighborhood in Beijing.
If you say to a taxi driver, "Wo chu Sanlitun," he will know that you mean, "Take me to Sanlitun."
Wasn't that easy? All you have to do is remember one phrase and the name of your destination, and you can take a taxi anywhere you want to go. The key is to remember that you are trying to communicate, not trying to show how eloquent you are. You can be eloquent later.
The human brain naturally likes to categorize things, so if you want to memorize Chinese vocabulary words quickly, be good to your brain and give it what it wants. You'll be glad you did. Here, I'll demonstrate.
Memorize these 25 words.
wheel, blue, apple, Thailand, electrician, green, engine, accountant, pear, Korea, plumber, purple, tire, grape, Japan, banana, China, red, hood, mechanic, Vietnam, pink, writer, fender, coconut
That's going to take a while, right? Look at the same 25 words when categorized, though. They are much easier to remember.
Places: Thailand, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, China
Fruits: Apple, Pear, Grape, Coconut, Banana
Colors: Blue, Green, Purple, Red, Pink
Jobs: Electrician, Mechanic, Writer, Accountant, Plumber
Car Parts: Wheel, Engine, Tire, Hood, Fender
Categorize your vocabulary words and you will be able to remember them very quickly.
3. Use Flash Cards
Learning new vocabulary, even if categorized, takes time. To learn as quickly and efficiently as possible, use flash cards. It's easy. Just get a pack, or two, of 3 X 5 note cards and follow this procedure.
On one side of a card, write the vocabulary word you want to learn in Chinese. On the other side, write the word in English. Do this for each vocabulary word you want to learn.
Now separate your cards into stacks by category, for example, "food," "colors," "numbers," etc.
Pick up a stack of cards, and look at the top card, English side up. Read the word in English. Now flip the card over and read the word in Chinese. Pause for a moment, look away and try to remember the word in English and then in Chinese. Put the card at the bottom of the stack. Repeat for each card in the stack.
Shuffle the cards. Look at the top card, in English. Now try to recall the meaning in Chinese. If you recall it correctly, put the card to the side. If you get the answer wrong, put the card at the bottom of the stack. Do this for each card.
Repeat step 4, using only the cards you did not recall correctly. As you do this, your "correct" stack will get bigger and bigger, until you have gotten each word correct.
Now all your cards are in the "correct" stack. Pick them up, shuffle them, and repeat the process until you can go through the whole stack without missing any.
Once you have memorized several categories, start mixing the stacks together. This will help you practice using the words outside of their categorical context.
IMPORTANT: With new vocabulary words, do not make stacks of more than 25-30 cards. It is not efficient to memorize too many words at once. Also, make sure you continue to shuffle the cards as you learn; otherwise, your mind will memorize the order of the words, and you will have difficulty recalling their meanings in a different context.
It is true that learning languages is easier for some than for others, but nobody has to struggle unnecessarily. Work in phrases, categorize your vocabulary words, and use flash cards as study aids, and you will find that you are one of those people who excels at mastering new languages.
Best of luck in your studies.
Learn how to speak Chinese for FREE at my blog, "The Live in Asia Blog."
...and don't forget, if you Learn Chinese online for free http://www.liveinasiablog.com/study-chinese-online-preferences/ with me, I'll give you a FREE copy of my professionally written e-book "Ordinary Ways to Learn a Language Extraordinarily Fast."