5 Great Ways to Brush Up On Your Chinese
So you are studying Chinese or maybe you learned from your parents, but you are looking for ways to brush up. In fairness, any language requires you to go above and beyond the classroom to gain real fluency, and while studying literature and writing is very important, it is not everything.
How fluent you get in Chinese depends largely on you. Maybe you are more interested in reading the classics or being able to understand the newspaper, so it makes sense to focus on written fluency. However, for many, just being able to communicate on a regular basis in Chinese is the first priority. The following are five simple activities that will help you gain better spoken fluency and give you a chance to practice your Mandarin, even in your own backyard.
It always makes sense to have a language buddy when you are learning Mandarin. This is someone that you get together with perhaps once or twice a week and speak Chinese. The first and most obvious place to find a language buddy is, of course, in your Chinese class! However, you might like a bit of a challenge, and for that you will need a language buddy that is a native speaker. If you don’t already have a friend that speaks Chinese, a great place to scout for one is at a local university or college, where exchange students are often looking for the chance to perk up their English or local language skills.
Almost every town across the world has at least one Chinese restaurant. Granted, not all of them are necessarily run by Mandarin speakers, but many (if not most) are. What’s more, many servers, chefs and restaurateurs are delighted when they meet someone who wants to practice speaking Chinese, and this is a good realm in which to learn fluency in food items and everyday conversation pieces, like the greetings, the weather and background.
Singapore has one of the largest and most authentic Chinatowns in the world, making for a virtual playground for your Mandarin skills. You can chat with shop owners, sales people and vendors about a variety of subjects. This is a great place to test your question and answer skills, as well as your numbers, as you can come up with a variety of questions about prices, size, materials and place of origin. If there is no good Chinatown near where you live, seek out your local Chinese restaurant, as suggested above.
Though not a substitute for a proper Chinese language course, there are many resources online to supplement your Chinese studies. The best among them are the numerous podcasts (like mini radio shows) themed around Chinese language. These can dramatically help your listening skills, as well as teach you new words and context. Alternately, watching Chinese language TV shows, movies or even listening to Chinese pop radio are all great methods for bettering your Chinese in the digital age.
Obviously, this particular activity requires a bit more time and effort, but you will be duly rewarded in your language abilities. Spending time in a place where Mandarin is the native language, especially somewhere like China or Taiwan, is perhaps the best way to solidify your Chinese proficiency. Once you put yourself into an environment where you are forced to use the language everyday, you will start to see your skills increase dramatically!