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January 6, 2019

7 Unusual Ways to Learn Chinese

A lot of people know how to learn a language:

Repeat sentences. Flashcards. Books. Phone app. Take a class.

Those are good, they work, but sometimes they feel like work! In fact, a lot of language learners give up because they’re so bored. Actually, learning a language doesn’t have to be hard or boring, but someone told us a long time ago that learning only happens from books/teachers/classes, and we believed them.

But don’t worry, there are many ways to practice and learn that are fun AND will help you improve your skills.

1. Learn like a child.

Children’s books are very simple stories. They have simple plots, grammar, and vocabulary. Most children’s books also have pictures. So even if you don’t know a lot of words you can pick up some words. They also usually have simple grammar patterns.

Children’s books are everywhere. You can go to a local bookstore. You can ask some friend’s to donate some to your learning. And with Chinese, there will be many options for books with pinyin and characters!

2. Get out of your “bubble.”

Stop hanging out at Starbucks or going to parties with people who just speak English. Grin and bear it, but in order to learn quickly, hanging out with native speakers is a must. Also, it will help you learn more real-life language instead of sounding like a textbook.

Try to find people who have similar hobbies. Be brave, try NEW hobbies. I know you hate KTV now, but maybe, after you learn more Chinese (like how to politely decline all the drinking and how to order the songs YOU actually like) then it won’t be so bad!

3. Watch/Do sports.

If you watch sports on a weekly or daily basis in your native language, you will see a huge benefit from watching sports in Chinese. This is because of a few reasons. The first is that sports are a universal language.

Secondly, you will already know the patterns of what the announcers are saying. You know that they are describing who is passing the ball to whom and when someone shoots.

The third reason is that the ability to watch sports in your chosen language is accessible to most people. OR join a local team. Go hang out at a sports center and make new friends!

4. Take a taxi. Have a chat.

Or , you know, Didi works, too. But the point is, instead of thinking about the money you’re wasting on a car when you could take a 2rmb bus ride, imagine it as a Chinese lesson with a private tutor instead! They usually ask similar questions, so you can prepare. Or if you’re a little more advanced, try talking to them about your hometown, or their hometown.

  • Where are you going?
  • Where are you from? Are you from X?
  • How long have you been here?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you like China?
  • What’s your job? Are you a teacher?
  • What’s your salary?
  • Do you like Chinese food? Can you use chopsticks?
  • Are you single? Are you married?
  • Why don’t you have kids (yet)?

5. Learn “Something” in Chinese.

This tip is not “Take a Chinese Class”. There are so many classes online these days and they are offered in different languages. In larger cities in China there are all sorts of dance, yoga, art, and more! If you’re learning Chinese there’s something out there for everyone. If not, try online. There are a few apps and video sites with short classes.

6. 你好Siri!

If you change the language on each of these devices/accounts, you will immersed. If you’ve got an iPhone, Siri is your new best learning buddy!

If you don’t, you can still practicing speaking without any fancy app, just use WeChat! Try speech-to-text functions in Chinese!

7. Call McDonald’s! 4008-517-517

Many people use apps to order. But to practice your speaking/listening skills, use a phone call instead! They speak fast, but follow a script. They also have to be very very patient with you… Plus you get a hamburger or fries!

Don’t like fast food, the main idea here is, force yourself to use Chinese! Stop using apps and translators and English speaking services if there is a Chinese alternative. It’s difficult at first, but gets easier over time.

So, what do you think?

Language learning is all about exposure and practice. These tips allow daily opportunities to practice your language. Study each day the traditional way, but don’t forget to have fun!

These tips are waaaaaay easier to do than dedicating time to study, because these are things you do every day anyway.

No more “I don’t have time to learn” excuse! Find ways to use Chinese, even just a little bit, into your daily life and you’ll watch yourself improve quickly!

Keep working smart!

This post was inspired by Josh Gibbs of SwiftlyLearnChinese.com. SwiftlyLearnChinese is a site that helps people learn Chinese quickly for free with Chinese learning tips, strategies, and vocabulary lists. Check it out. It was adapted/edited for a more “China” feel.

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