With the emergence of China as a power in the business, economic, and political realm, there is a need to have more people who can speak Chinese. This is especially true if the company you work for or want to work for is an international company. Many companies now offer to pay for their employees to take classes. Chinese is also offered at many schools throughout the United States including emersion programs starting in elementary school. Learning Chinese will make you more marketable and give you job security. In an economy that isn’t stable right now, this is worth looking into.
There are usually two things that come to mind when people think about learning a foreign language: It will be to hard and where do I find a good program. Okay first of all, you were able to learn your native language, so you are capable of learning another. You’ve already done this. Before you learned your first language it was foreign to you. It is going to be difficult; anytime you learn something new it is difficult. However, there are some things you can do that will make it easier, starting with knowing what syle of learning best suites you.
Now maybe you have tried learning a language before and you weren’t successful. This could have been to due to a variety of reasons. Perhaps you didn’t put in enough study time or perhaps your learning style was different than the program you were using. It is a fact that different people learn differently. There are three different types of learning: Visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual people need to see it written out or see a picture. Auditory people do best if they can hear it over and over again. Kinesthetic people need to have an opportunity to practice it. Now of course a combination of all of these is the best way to learn. However if you primarily learn by seeing something and you are trying to learn Chinese by listening to a cd while driving in your car, you are going to get very frustrated. You will still learn but it will take a lot longer. So the first thing you need to do is identify your learning style; you can do this by going here and taking the 16 question quiz.
Where to start
After you have identified your learning style then you need to pick a program that is good for you. This is where knowing where to start comes in. You need to start with a beginner level. Also, you need to decide how committed you are and how ‘fluent’ you want to become. Do you just want to learn some phrases for a vacation or are you determined to get the boss to notice you? Some programs become very expensive when you have to keep buying more cds with each level you go to, whereas others have all the cds included in one package. Also it is wise to start off with programs that are a little more popular. There is a reason they are popular–they work. If you are very dominantly an auditory learner then maybe you will do really well if you by a cd and learn in your car. However, as mentioned before, it is really best if you have access to all three styles of learning. It has been proven that a kid will learn a math problem better if the teacher writes it on the board, while explaining it and then has the kid do one just like it. You will remember words and grammar principles better if you can hear, see, and practice it. Therefore I recommend using a computer based program. You can do this by picking out a package at the local bookstore or by finding an online program. Although there are plenty of books with a cd included.
Some Programs to Consider
This is a very popular learning method. You can also have access to every level for $499. This is relatively cheap considering what it would cost to go through a program at a university. The downside to buying the cd rom is that when you have studied it, it’s finished; there won’t be more and it won’t change. However Rosetta Stone now offers online access. A 3 month subscription starts out at $199 and includes listening, reading and speaking exercises. They also offer options where you can talk to a live person and have lessons with native speakers. This means that the learning is limitless. You aren’t stuck learning what it is that’s included in the cd, but you can venture out on other topics or grammar principles by simply asking questions. Plus you get immediate and accurate feedback. They also offer games to make learning more fun. This gets you started on conversational English and then advances to other topics. The topics are useful and are things you could really use if you were in China. They offer mobile apps so you can learn Chinese whereever you go. This is method that has been proven to help people learn Chinese and it’s pretty affordable.
This is a great online resource to learning Chinese. They have places where you can ask questions and have a native speaker answer it. There are also discussion forums where you can discuss topics with other people. There are study packages where you can choose to learn on your own or you can choose the guided classes and have access to a teacher who will give you lessons to study and then call you every week to discuss the topic and give you a chance to ask more questions. Once again the feedback is immediate and you hear it spoken with real native accents. The packages start out at $14/ month for a very basic subscription and then go up depending on your needs. They also offer Newbie, Elementary, Intermediate, Upperintermediate, Advanced, and Media. You can start at any level and you can choose to study levels that are harder or easier than the level you are on.
Here’s how it works. Everyday, the Chinese Pod gang gets together and make a lesson to go with one of the levels. They use real topics that you would really use in different situations. Their topics are current and fresh because they are constantly making new ones. As par of this, there is the option to listen to a podcast while you look at the characters. Right below the characters is the English translation. If you want to see the pinyin (the romanized lettering for how to pronounce the characters) all you have to do is mouse over the character and it shows you the pronunciation. Plus after the podcast is done, each sentence has a little ‘play’ button next to it. This allows you to listen to the same sentence over and over again as many times as you need to until you can say the tones right, remember the Chinese word, or recognize the character. They also have games, flashcards and comminity forums to help make learning more enjoyable.
Their podcasts are rich with humor. They also offer podcasts that talk about different grammar points. All of these podcasts can be downloaded onto an iPod for easy access and they have phone apps. You can learn them anywhere. You definitely are getting your money’s worth with this program.
This is an online dictionary that offers a few more things. You can look things up according to the character, pinyin or English word. They also have forums that you can join. This is a free website. Here you have the option to hear a sentence with the word you were looking up spoken as well as looking at it. They have fun games and flashcards to practice vocabulary and grammar. There are tests that can be taken. They also have a place that has pictures and then you learn the word according to picture recognition. They have a unique tool which is writing practice. The computer will take a character that you want to learn and it will show you the correct way to write it and then you can take the mouse and copy it. The correct stroke order is illuminated to help you practice doing it right. This also helps you to remember the character. This also has a section of idioms so that you can start to sound more fluent when you say certain things.
Realistically, all of these are going to help you to learn Chinese. They have all three of the learning styles we talked about to make it more efficient for you to master this language. The most important part is not to get discouraged; it takes time and consistent practice. Fifteen minutes of practice a day is better than 3 hours of practice once a week. When you have time sit down and take advantage of all the tools, when you’re in a rush listen to them as you exercise, travel to work, or do other chores. Remember some aspects such as tone and character recognition are going to come over time, don’t give up. Start out by at least being able to remember the Chinese words and putting them into sentences then build from there. Eventually you’ll be writing and typing Chinese to the friends you make.
* Picture from nutrifile.com and karlonia.com