Learn Chinese Mandarin Faster

7 Tips for Learning Chinese Mandarin Faster.

My journey to mastering Chinese Mandarin was anything but easy. Unlike most languages, Mandarin is actually pretty complex. Trying to piece together how characters are turned into phrases, and how phrases become grammatically correct Mandarin sentences is not something you should expect to accomplish in a matter of weeks. It takes a lot of patience, effort, and time to learn how to read the language properly, let alone speak it fluently.

If there’s anything that my Mandarin learning experience taught me, it’s that everything can be made simpler using the right system. Through trial and error, I managed to create a system of tips and tricks. Any Mandarin learner, whether a beginner or an advanced student, will definitely find them useful.

These are the tips that helped me improve my Mandarin gradually, but continuously, and I am living proof that they are 100 percent effective. Interested? If so, read on to see 7 tips that will help you learn Chinese Mandarin a lot faster.



1. Pick a Mandarin System.

Mandarin writing exists in two systems. The first system uses traditional characters that typically contain more strokes than their simplified versions. You’d be wrong to think that one of them is a niche system. While traditional Chinese characters are native to Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the more recent simplified system is the main writing system in mainland China and Singapore.

What does this mean for the Chinese Mandarin learner? You will have to decide whether you want to learn the simplified system or the traditional system first. This is because taking them all at once in the beginning just isn’t advisable. Simplified Mandarin was introduced in the 50s and 60s and it is the most commonly used version of written Mandarin outside of the Asian continent. Traditional Mandarin, on the other hand, is known for its beautiful script and rich history. The decision to pick one system over the other is entirely yours to make, because most people just go with their personal preference.



2. Set Detailed Goals.

Once you’ve selected a Mandarin writing system that you’d like to learn, the next important step is to set good goals.

This is very important, because when I was starting out, I made the mistake of setting vague, non-specific goals. I would say things like I need to improve my spoken Chinese by the end of the year, and I should be able to read and write Chinese Mandarin by the time it’s July, and so on and so forth, but alas, I never made any progress.

Goals shouldn’t be vague, they should be very, very specific. It is much easier to accomplish a detailed goal than it is to attain goals with no specifics. So instead of setting general goals, I decided to be a little more detailed.

I started setting goals like I should listen and dissect a minute of this Chinese podcast by the end of the week, and I should learn ten different Mandarin characters and how to use them in phrases by the end of the month. This way, I knew exactly what to do to get better at Mandarin, and it worked a peach!

When you’re setting goals for learning Chinese Mandarin, the more detailed they are, the less you’ll flounder and hesitate when it comes to learning the language and practicing what you’ve learnt.



3. Sign Up for an Intensive Mandarin Program.

If you’re really serious about learning Mandarin, then you absolutely have to invest in an intensive Mandarin program. There’s no way around this. You need a solid foundation before you can delve into the intricacies of the language, and this is what most people tend to ignore.

Let’s take the four tones for example. To an English speaker, those tones might as well be baby talk, because they make absolutely no sense, and they all sound very similar. However, learning how to make and distinguish these tones from each other is part of the basics of learning Mandarin. This is also true for mastering the Pinyin, which is necessary when pronouncing logo graphic characters.

Fundamentals are everything when it comes to learning Mandarin. This is a conclusion I made after observing two of my friends who also wanted to learn Chinese Mandarin.

The first friend, we’ll call her friend A, watched Mandarin teaching YouTube videos twice a week for a few hours. Friend B bought online course and registered for Mandarin class that she attended for three hours a day, three days a week. At the end of the eight months, friend A had not made any measurable progress in both her speaking and writing skills. In contrast, friend B could comfortably write and speak Chinese Mandarin at a rudimentary level.

The lesson? Don’t waste your time on free Mandarin resources. Get a professional program if you want to make REAL progress.

4. Get Some Language Buddies.

I credit my language buddies for the speed at which I got better at spoken Chinese. Language buddies are important when familiarizing yourself with a strange dialect. A tip that I could have really used during my first days learning Chinese Mandarin, is selecting language buddies who didn’t have English as their native language.

This is because we had no other common language to communicate with. Hence we stuttered and blundered our way through the little spoken Chinese we learned each day. Slowly by slowly, our conversations became longer and more fluent.

You need a lot of practice to familiarize your mouth with the shapes and sounds of Mandarin words. I was lucky enough to get someone I could practice with at the end of every class when the lesson was still fresh in our minds. Finding a language buddy will improve your confidence as well as your pronunciations over time, so I highly recommend this for beginners.



5. Watch and Listen to Chinese Shows and Music.

This was one of the more exciting aspects of learning Chinese Mandarin. I got to watch a lot of Chinese shows and listen to their music, all in the name of studying.

Turning to Chinese pop culture is actually not a bad idea, because it helps you build a better vocabulary and also tests your listening and understanding of the language. To make it easier for yourself, however, pick one show that you like and stick with it. Some of my favorite TV dramas were “The Way We Were“, “Lost in 1949“, “Patriot” and many others. 

Over time, as I started to recognize the different voices that the characters had, I could understand what they were saying without having to look at the subtitles. You also learn a lot about intonation and how to pronounce Mandarin characters from watching and listening to Chinese media.


6. Practice in Front of a Mirror.

Practicing in front of a mirror offers more of a psychological boost than an educational one. Most of the people I studied with tended to shy away from speaking Mandarin in public. This is because they were afraid that they would look and sound weird. A legitimate concern, no doubt, but one that’s completely unfounded.

I was shy too at first until I started practicing my spoken Chinese in front of a mirror. After that, I was comfortably rattling off Chinese phrases without worrying about the movements of my mouth and how I sounded.

What I learned from this is that as important as understanding the vocabulary is when learning Mandarin, confidence is just as crucial. It was much easier to speak fluently once I developed that level of confidence.


7. Take the HSK Exam.

Since my only goal was to learn how to speak and write Chinese Mandarin, I decided to set an end goal. The main purpose of this was to gauge my learning progress as well as give me a general idea of the academic requirements of mastering Chinese.

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) proficiency exam tests your Mandarin prowess. It starts from the very basic level of achievement, which tests your knowledge on 150 words, to the advanced test that encompasses up to 5,000 words in total.

The reason I took this test was because I wanted a concrete goal that I could work towards. At the end of it, I was immensely happy that I had made that decision. The HSK exam allows you to really grade just how good your Chinese is. It tests not just your written Mandarin, but also your speaking, comprehension, listening, and composition skills.

The test helps you decide whether to advance to the next level of learning Chinese Mandarin or to give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve achieved exactly what you wanted. Even though it isn’t free to take, I can tell you right now that it was worth every penny.

If I had followed this list of tips when I first started learning Mandarin, I would have made a lot of progress much faster. These tips can help you skip a lot of steps as well as avoid common pitfalls that either slow down your progress or frustrate you endlessly.