Want to learn Chinese.…? Just where do I start?
So, you want to learn Mandarin Chinese? Really get to grips with the language? Master the tones and read the characters?
Well, we all know that starting to learn any new language can be a challenge. Maybe more so when there is a new “alphabet” to learn or where, like Chinese, the language is “tonal”, whereas many European languages are not.
There are an abundance of resources out there to help learn Chinese, yet it can all be very confusing and time-consuming for the new student to find the best way and the right materials to help.
Wanting to provide some assistance to students, at one of the regular meetings of the Learn Mandarin Now team, we decided to commission a survey to find out the preferred methods savvy, modern, Chinese language students use. After some thought on how to do this, we agreed to ask 50 or so top bloggers what resources they use to get ahead with learning Chinese—after all…, they should know!
Just who did we ask?
Actually, we asked a wide cross-section of people including teachers of Chinese, native speakers, new and experienced students of the language (both Chinese from overseas and foreign students) and, of course, top bloggers.
The aim: to get a wide variety of opinions and suggestions.
The top 10 recommendations
For reasons such as ease of being able to study whenever the student wanted to and the variety of options on offer, the results, perhaps not surprisingly, showed that the preferred methods to learn Chinese are primarily web based. Other students, however, still preferred to learn and practice with other students or people in their day-to-day lives or via hard copy items such as books.
With 42% of votes Pleco, an integrated Chinese-English dictionary/flashcard system, which not only allows students to learn via Smartphones, but also offers a variety of other features such as being able to look up unknown Chinese words ‘live’, came out on top.
22% of respondents went for human interaction, either learning or practicing with Chinese friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, work colleagues or via other social interaction with native Chinese speakers.
Multi-media captured 20% of the votes, and this included watching Chinese TV programmes, dramas, documentaries or movies, or even listening to Chinese songs in order to listen to tones, and learn more common words and colloquial phrases.
The MDBG Dictionary, a comprehensive dictionary which offers the ability to look up a huge number of words in Chinese, Pinyin or English was also a popular choice—easy to use and readily available—and it garnered 14% of the votes.
Both also polling 14% were: (i) WeChat (Weixin), “the new way to connect with friends across platforms”, offering voice and group chat, free calls, video calls and the obligatory message stickers, and thereby especially popular with the younger generation looking to instantly chat in and learn Chinese; and (ii) Anki, a spaced repetition software programme which makes remembering things easy. As it’s considered more efficient than traditional study methods, time spent studying can be decreased or the amount learned greatly increased. The programme is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific mark-ups.
Skritter which is suitable for Smartphones or PC’s and allows the student to learn how to correctly learn to write Chinese characters—even suggesting corrections to any mistakes if they appear, scored 12%, as did Memrise which offers a wide variety of on-line courses and aims to make learning joyful and exciting.
Rounding off the top 10 with 8% was Line Dict, a very useful on-line Chinese dictionary which translates both words and phrases from Chinese to English and vice-versa, using Chinese characters and Pinyin—plus offering handwriting recognition and the ability to view stroke orders for characters, and also Chinese Pod which promotes itself as a site offering “Chinese learning for busy people”, with over 3,000 short, self contained, award-winning lessons.
It was both exciting and rewarding for us at Learn Mandarin Now to do this survey and we may well repeat it at some future date. If you’d like to know more about the results in detail you can also read: How to learn Chinese: great tips from 50+ top bloggers, one of our other related articles.
Finally, we can’t go without giving many thanks to Sam for letting us make a guest post here on Lingholic, we appreciate it.