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Guest Post: Learn Mandarin now

English: Made in China - in Chinese

I want to learn Chinese…, but where do I start? So, you’ve decided that you want to learn Mandarin Chinese? Read the characters and master the tones? Well, starting to learn any new language can be an enjoyable challenge, but possibly more so when there is a new “alphabet” and “tones” to learn, as with Chinese.

And whilst there are a wealth of resources available to help learn Chinese, it can all be very time-consuming, maybe even confusing, for the new student to find the right materials to help get ahead.

Don’t worry… as we at our Mandarin learning site recently decided to undertake a survey to find out the preferred methods that smart, modern, Chinese language students use. We asked 50 or so top bloggers about the resources they use to get ahead with learning Chinese—as, after all, they should be well placed to know!

We also asked a wide cross-section of people including native speakers, local teachers of Chinese, plus new and experienced students from China and overseas and, of course, the top bloggers.

Our aim was to get a wide variety of suggestions and opinions to help you on your way!

The top 10 recommendations

Perhaps, not surprisingly, in view of reasons such as the ease of being able to study whenever the student wanted to and the variety of options on offer, the results showed that the preferred methods to learn Chinese are primarily web-based.

Pleco, an integrated Chinese-English dictionary/flashcard system, which allows students to learn via Smartphones, as well as a variety of other features, such as being able to look up unknown Chinese words ‘live’, came out on top with 42% of votes.

22% of respondents went for human interaction, either learning or practicing with Chinese friends, work colleagues or via other language interaction with native Chinese speakers.

Multi-media which includes watching Chinese documentaries or films, TV dramas, or listening to Chinese songs in order to hear the various tones, and learn more common words and colloquial phrases, won 20% of the votes.

The MDBG Dictionary, a dictionary which allows students to look up huge numbers of words in Chinese, Pinyin or English was also a popular choice and garnered 14% of the votes.

Both also polling 14% were: (i) WeChat (Weixin), which offers voice and group chat, free calls, video calls, and the obligatory message stickers; and (ii) Anki, a spaced repetition software programme which makes remembering things easy. This programme 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 scored 12%, as did Memrise which offers a wide variety of online courses and aims to make learning exciting.

Rounding off the top 10 with 8% was Line Dict, a very useful online Chinese dictionary which translates both words and phrases from Chinese to English and vice-versa, 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 to do this survey to help you with learning Mandarin 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 or one of our other related articles.

Keith is the author of the articles, features, blog posts and Infographics on the Learn Mandarin Now website about the various ways of studying Mandarin and Cantonese. He has been living and working in Hong Kong and Mainland China for over 20 years. Contact info: Facebook fan page or Contact page.

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