Build Your Chinese Foundation: 4 Tips To Master The Basics
Taking up Chinese as your second or third language is easily one of the best investments that you can make for yourself. Not only does it pay dividends that benefit your growth, but it can potentially boost your career to greater heights as well. And when it comes to language learning, it’s not uncommon for students to go for the path that leads them to their desired fluency as quickly as possible.
However, rushing the learning process will ultimately mean there won’t be much time to dedicate to learning the basics. Given the complexity of the Chinese language, it’s best to follow proven strategies to speed up their learning process, all of which rely on a solid understanding of the basics as your foundation. As such, one mustn’t overlook the basics and move on before they’ve learned them by heart. To help solidify your foundation in the language, get to know these four tips to progress with Chinese smoothly.
Don’t learn words in isolation
The gist of this tip is that it’s recommended to learn the dialogue and not solely focus on vocabulary lists. All students will eventually encounter an extensive range of Chinese phrases and idioms when studying the basics, and these lengthy lists can take a hit to students’ morale. Nonetheless, they can be incredibly useful when used in the right way.
To make the most out of these vocabulary lists, it’s better to use them as a word reference instead of something you must memorise. Even if you are adept at memorising the words, they won’t be of much use if you don’t have a grasp of their context and usage. A wiser choice might be to perform an in-depth study of Chinese dialogues and texts and only consult vocabulary lists when necessary.
Learn and memorise measure words
In Mandarin, measure words are required between a number or specifiers, such as “this” and “that”, and the noun they refer to. For instance, “this book” translates to zhè běn shū in Chinese, wherein the measure word for the noun shū is called běn. Beginners may know of the measure word gè by now. However, as you continue to attend Mandarin courses, you’ll realise that many more words are specific to various kinds of nouns.
As such, it’s recommended to learn all of them and not just be content on using gè, even if it does serve as a last resort if you’re unsure about the specific measure word to use. Doing so will ensure you won’t be held back in the more advanced stages of the language, while gradually honing your writing and speaking skills to be more native-like.
Don’t focus too much on Chinese handwriting
Handwriting Chinese characters is an important skill to have if you wish to attain complete fluency but, it can impede your early progress by making you spend hours on this alone. For the most part, typing these characters with Pinyin characters is more than enough.
What’s worth learning early on are the rules behind the stroke orders of the Hanzi characters. Knowing the general steps to follow when writing these characters will make it easier for you – you’ll only have to deal with a few exceptions from then on. You can apply what you’ve learned about these rules by checking the stroke orders of the characters and seeing the rules in action. Try copying the steps until you get a feel for a character, but don’t spend too much time on them unless handwriting Chinese is your main reason for studying the language.
Love your materials, and have fun!
Understandably, going over and over the basics until you’ve mastered them can be boring for some. Therefore, adding a bit of fun to your studies is an excellent way to keep you motivated to continue!
Leverage your interests and find a way where you can combine them to master the basics. For instance, if you’re fond of music, why not try listening to beginner-level songs and use them as study materials? Or, if you’re an avid reader, there’s plenty of physical and online materials to consume and learn about the Chinese culture, and of course, the basics of the language.
Before advancing to more intermediate grammar concepts, vocabularies, and the like, it’s best to have a solid foundation in the Chinese language. Finally, for the most effective learning journey, taking a Mandarin course in Singapore is recommended to ensure you nail the basics and steadily progress onto the more advanced topics.