5 tips to get yourself well-prepared before learning Mandarin
Many have said that Mandarin Chinese is one of the most difficult language to learn. Yes, it may be true due to the four distinct tones and long history of the language or one may feel intimidated to learn a new language. However, it is not a tough one to take on a long as you have goals and determination. You can become a master in one of the most spoken languages in the world. How should you prepare yourself before diving into the world of Mandarin? Well… Let’s dive in!
Determine realistic goals
As humans, we hope to achieve quick results for our plans– a successful diet, learning how to become a master chef, mastering a new language etc. It is rare (not impossible though) for one to be as fluent as a native speaker and understand Mandarin in a few months or even a few years. Sure, you can hold conversations and write after months of practice, but to fully understand a language to its core takes time. Even the native speakers learn something new about their mother tongue occasionally, despite speaking it for their whole life.
Once you have made up your mind to learn Mandarin, decide on your final goal. Is it to learn about the culture of China through its language? Or perhaps you hope to converse with your company’s Chinese shareholders. Next, decide on the mini goals that will eventually help build up to your final goal. These gradual achievements can be completed daily or weekly, and most importantly, they should be realistic. For example, when learning basic Mandarin, improve on your pronunciation of 3 words per day or 10 new vocabulary each week. While these may seem minimal, it makes a huge impact on our state of mind, it makes you feel good upon accomplishing it, and improvement is on your way. There is no point setting unattainable goals and feeling defeated for failing them. Often, it is not because you are bad at succeeding, but because you had set unrealistic goals. Remember that these goals may be achieved in a few weeks or years, the results of studying takes time but do not slack off as well.
2. Find your motivation
What motivates you to learn a second language after your childhood? This motivation gives you a great push for those days when you are feeling lazy. We have all experienced those days when we drown in the waves of procrastination.
Small rewards after studying can motivate you to start doing the work. If you have not found your motivation, think about what you like. Watching TV series? Shopping? Painting? Make yourself study for an hour or two. Once you start, it is not that difficult to continue. After that, reward yourself with the well-deserved break.
While small motivations are helpful, it is crucial to find something that keeps your grounded over the long-run. It should be something that inspires you to take action and follow through. One way is to find out the study style best suitable for you and make learning Chinese fun. No one procrastinates when doing something fun, right? Always focus on the benefits of your hard work, but also accept that one cannot feel motivated every day. So, do not be too hard on yourself on days like those.
3. Go for classes
Speaking of motivation, working with a Chinese tutor is also a form of motivation. In fact, it is one of the best way to learn Chinese. It is a much quicker way to be fluent in the language because you are exposed to the language weekly and there is a professional to correct your mistakes immediately. In a classroom setting, the influences from your classmates also triggers your motivation. This atmosphere pushes you to study on whereas when self-studying, you may lose determination after some time. In a class, everyone is working towards a similar goal – to master Chinese language. In addition, everyone has the same fluency level. This makes one more comfortable to speak out and more forgiving to oneself when mistakes are made.
Not sure about whether you should go for the group class or private class, check on this article and get your learning style assessed before making a decision.
Study plans are also set up to save you the hassle and tutors are available to pinpoint your weaker areas, thus providing effective solutions. In terms of pronunciation errors and doubts, they can be clarified immediately, as compared to studying alone and being confused if you have gotten it right or not.
Should you decide to study Mandarin in Singapore, Han Hai Language Studio provides classes ranging from Beginner to Advanced levels, as well as private classes where the study plan, lesson duration and location are tailored to your needs.
All classes conducted by the full-time teachers cover speaking, reading, writing and listening. With determination and practice, our students are able to understand and hold simple conversations after the Beginner level.
4. Make mistakes and accept them
Be prepared to make mistakes. There is no doubt that it will happen and you will feel embarrassed. However, making mistakes is natural and it is these mistakes that improve our learning.
As a beginner, you will often start learning the Chinese language basics that includes Chinese Phonetics (Hanyu Pinyin), pronunciation and writing simple Chinese words. You may find yourself with incorrect pronunciation or words that have a very different meaning than your original intention. For example, the Chinese Phonetics have four tones, and each word, when pronounced in the four tones, will have a different meaning (Hanyu Pinyin Chart). This could be confusing and hard to get in the first few tries. There is no need to beat yourself up over these mistakes, or what I like to call “learning moments”. When speaking with a Chinese native speaker, they are always forgiving and be more than happy to help. Most of the time, they are just really glad that people are learning their language and culture. Only when you stop worrying about making mistakes, can you truly find joy in learning through them.
5. Be prepared for total immersion
While going for classes and staying motivated to studying are essential to become a Chinese master, immersing into the language in daily life will make your journey far more effective than you would ever imagine. Change your phone’s language to Chinese, be more mindful to read the Chinese names of food, train station names and watch Chinese shows in your native language subtitles (perhaps one day you’ll be able to watch it without any subtitles!). As you level up on the language ladder, try to think in Chinese, or think in your native language then translate it to Chinese. These small actions can greatly improve your fluency.
One of the most important way of having a total immersion is to have conversations with Chinese native speakers or people of a high fluency. This could beat countless hours of trying to figure out how to hold a conversation in Chinese, by yourself. Language is something that is not learned through pure memorization.
Memorizing the answers to certain questions will never prepare you enough for unexpected situations. However, conversations will allow you to get a feel of how to speak Chinese in the most natural way. It is also more interesting that only memorizing your notes. Therefore, you are more likely to remember a conversation you had with someone rather than something you had read because there are memories and emotions attached to it. Also, why pass up the chance of a ‘free’ lesson? With a majority of the population being bilingual – both Chinese and English speakers, we have one of the best environment to learn Mandarin in Singapore.
All in all…
The above said would be wasted if you do not push forward on your journey of becoming a Mandarin master. At the end of the say, it boils down to have the positive state of mind and believing that you will succeed. It is a long journey and not a bed of roses but possible as long as you are willing to pour in determination and time. There is no shortcuts to take when mastering a new language.
Determining your goals but not sticking to them, or putting off choosing a class because it is a hassle result in a waste of your own time and energy. Yet in the end, nothing is accomplished. It is a very cliché phrase but it stands true – “no pain, no gain.”
So, which tip is your favorite? Let us know by leaving a comment below!