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Guest Post: Three great tips to learn Mandarin Chinese effectively

English: A sign in the city of Lishui, Zhejian...

With the huge upswing in the numbers of people across the world planning to learn Mandarin Chinese, we often get asked for tips and advice on the best ways to effectively learn the language. So, we’ve put together 3 great tips to help you on your way:

1. Learning Mandarin Chinese in China—how to make the most of it?

According to most people, going to live in China to learn Chinese has proven to be the most effective way to learn and improve your Chinese. Yet the big question is: How do I make the most out of my time in the country?

From the various interviews we have undertaken, we've found several great tips to make the most out of these experiences, and they may be especially helpful if you have never been to China:

(1) Live in a second-tier city

Actually, living in a second-tier city is becoming more and more favored by many students of Chinese.

After speaking with several foreigners currently living in Chengdu, they advised that there was more chance to practice speaking Chinese with locals as compared to living in a big city, mainly as English is not widespread in Chengdu—plus, the cost of living is much cheaper!

In addition, if you like spicy Chinese food, definitely give living in Chengdu some thought.

(2) Finding a Chinese Tutor—some tips you should know

Most people we talked to agreed that one-on-one instruction is usually more effective than learning in a group setting, plus it’s more fun if it's a teacher you feel comfortable with.

But what are some of the additional things you should know to make the most of your experiences?

 Ask your tutor for feedback

If you’re talking a lot in the lesson and your tutor is just smiling and agreeing with what you are saying, then maybe something is wrong—especially if you feel that you've been saying some incorrect or cumbersome things.

You need to ask your tutor on a regular basis question such as: Is there a better way to say this/that? Did I say anything wrong or did that sound awkward? Is there another word related to this topic that I should know?

This is where a good tutor adds the most value and is absolutely vital if you wish to get ahead.

 Try to use different tutors

If you have one or two tutors, you may find that they will have a different style of teaching and one will advise/ correct you better than the other. In addition, with several teachers, you will get exposed to a wider variety of different accents and ways of saying things.

2. Find the learning style that works best for you

Learning any language requires long term effort so it’s important that you enjoy the language whilst you are learning it.

Many students suggested starting by learning something that interests you. For example, some bloggers enjoy playing Chinese video games and found that these games helped to teach them some Chinese words and phrases in order to get through the next stage.

Of course, as you develop your language skills to an advanced level, most people graduate to talking about topics suitable for your level of Chinese.

3. Choosing the right resources to accelerate your efforts. 

Our research showed that people have many different ways to achieve success with learning Mandarin Chinese. Some people prefer to learn by books, whilst others are keener to use different learning Apps.

Obviously, everyone is different and there are no single tools and/or resources to guarantee your success. The best advice is to try different things, see what suits you and go from there. If you are a beginner, you can check out our research about learning Mandarin Chinese here and see a great list of resources that you can choose from.

After reading through our post, maybe you want to get some more great tips about how to speak Chinese or advice from others in a similar situation to you.

Last, but not least, many thanks to Teddy for letting us share these tips with you! Happy learning!

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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