Chinese is a difficult language to learn. We’ve all heard that. The tones are hard to grasp and there are too many characters to remember. Many have tried learning Chinese in the past, only to give up in frustration.
Part of the reason for giving up is that the training methods they were using didn’t match the goals they had for themselves.
When I first started learning Chinese in Taiwan, I enrolled in a local university language center. All I was looking for, was to improve my listening and speaking skills so that I could improve the quality of my daily life here. However, in the course I was in, there was a heavy emphasis placed in reading and writing, both of which I wasn’t interested in at the time.
In addition, a written placement test was given to me, so they could place me in the right class level. However my reading and writing skills were non existent at that time, so I was placed in a beginner class, despite my listening and speaking level being much higher than that of my classmates.
This resulted in a poor learning experience for me, as I spent a lot of time repeating things I already knew, while also spending time in areas I wasn’t interested in.
At CLO, we have separated the skills needed to learn Chinese, so you can focus on the areas you want to strengthen yourself in.
The 4 skills required to learn Chinese are:
The learning methods you choose should depend on what priority you put towards each of these skills.
If you want Listening to be your strongest skill, then focus on the CLO lessons, since there is so much listening content provided there. Don’t worry about characters, and just use the pinyin transcripts available for each lesson.
If you want to practice speaking, then I recommend our Skype One on one program, where you’ll be matched up with a teacher who will give you a lot of speaking practice. Since pronunciation is important, focus on the tone marks for each word in pinyin, to make sure you are using proper pronunciation.
If you want to focus on Reading, then you’ll need to look at the character (simplified or traditional) word for word transcripts provided with each CLO lesson. You can also try out our new site that helps you read and type in Chinese.
Lastly if you want to become really good at writing in Chinese, then you’ll need to learn the stroke order system. You can either use the character sheets that are provided with most lessons, or look at third party tools like Skritter that focus solely in this area.
By matching our tools with your exact learning needs you should find yourself seeing faster progress, as you’re only spending time in the areas you need to. You’ll also experience much less frustration in the areas you’re not interested in.
How about you? What skills are you most interested in developing? What tools do you find the most useful for you to improve in this area?