11/30/16

How to remember Chinese words

After starting Chinese lessons with full energy, you will soon notice that it keeps getting harder and harder to remember the words you have learned as new words are coming your way every lesson. It’s time to create a system for reviewing and remembering words!

Chinese textbook

Chinese textbook

Reading textbook dialogues

One easy way to review is to read the textbook dialogues out loud, even better if you do it as listen and repeat after the textbook mp3. By listening you will hear the correct model audio and by repeating you will practise pronouncing the words in a correct way and review vocabulary at the same time.

Tips: Read out one dialogue per day. At first you’ll be reading the same dialogue between your first lessons. Later when you progress you can choose which dialogue to read out loud as you have many to choose from those you have studied already.

Chinese flashcards

Chinese flashcards

Making paper flaschards

Flashcards are a great way to memorize and review vocabulary. By making your own flashcards you will get an extra strong review while you create your cards and a second review when you go over them. Put your cards in two piles, answered correctly -pile and answered incorrectly -pile.

Tips: Review the correctly -pile once per week and incorrectly -pile once per day.

Skritter

Skritter

Using Skritter app to review

You can also go modern and use Skritter electronic flashcards (affiliate link) on your phone, tablet or laptop. After you have purcharged a subsription (totally worth the investment!) browse word lists and find your textbook. For example for most of my students you should go to browse published lists and find Our Chinese Classroom 1 made by xuefang.

Tips: Use Skritter for 5 minutes every day. It will choose for you what you need to review so your job is to make the time for it.

10/9/16

How to learn Chinese pronunciation

Learn Chinese Pronunciation

Learning how to pronounce Chinese is one of the first big challenges you encounter when you decide to learn Chinese. The size of the challenge depends on your native language and if it has any similarities with Mandarin or not. I don’t remember having much problems in pronouncing English, Swedish or German while studying them in school, but learning Chinese was a whole another thing.

Yes, Chinese pronunciation is challenging, but it’s not impossible! There aren’t any ways to cheat around it, but with a plan and hard work, you can reach your goals and be understood by locals in China. What your goals are, is totally up to you, maybe having survival level is enough or maybe your perfectionist tendencies want you to reach for native like fluency, or anything in between.

When I started Chinese lessons back in 2008 I didn’t pay enough attention to the correct pronunciation, especially tones. I thought just speaking a bit more quickly would do the trick. But later on when I wanted to advance from survival upward, I realized learning the pronunciation well is better to be done in the beginning than trying to fix bad habits later on.

So here comes my experiences and useful resources I’ve created and found to learn Chinese pronunciation.

Where to start learning Chinese pronunciation

First of all you need some basic information how to pronounce Chinese and what pinyin is. Your textbook of choice probably has an introduction, but if you find it lacking, there are other good resources to check and learn more.

Pinyin quick start guide is a great place to start understanding Chinese pronunciation. While you are reading the theory behind pronunciation and pinyin, also listen to all the sounds and repeat after it. You can find many pinyin table applications in the App Store, for example Pinyin by Chinesepod or Allset Learning Pinyin.

Here it’s important to understand that a Chinese syllable has three parts, for example: nĭ (you). The initial is “n”, final “i” and tone is the third tone. Each of these three are equally important and should be seen as one unit. You aren’t learning “ni” + third tone, you are learning “nĭ “.

There is also a new Say it Right video course by my affiliate partner ChinesePod, I’ll be reviewing it on the blog soon so stay tuned for that.

Training your ear

Starting from the early stages, listening is the first step to good pronunciation. You will first train your ear to hear differences between sounds and tones, after that you can start pronouncing them your self.

For example the difference between initials s and sh, c and ch or the differences between tones.

A good app to train your ear is Pinyin Trainer by trainchinese.

For those of you who really want to get those tones right, try Tone Trainer. It can seem a bit difficult at first, but it’s the best tool I’ve found to learn to hear the differences between tones and test your ear.

Start speaking

When learning to pronounce Chinese on your own, go from small to big. First go with one syllable words like yī shí wŭ liù (1, 10, 5, 6), then gradually go to double syllable words and different tone combinations. Gradually go from syllables to words and then to sentences. Listen to phrases and mimic the flow of the language.

At the beginning listen and repeat a lot, you will soon notice which sounds are easier for you and which require more work, remember to pay attention to the difficulties, don’t shy away from them.

If you are unsure how you are doing, have your teacher or tutor to listen you and correct your mistakes. If you don’t have a teacher, you can try my Pronunciation Tutor Service.

Step by step plan to learn Chinese pronunciation

  1. Read a bit of basic info on Chinese pronunciation and pinyin, know what you are supposed to do
  2. Listen a lot and train your ear
  3. Start speaking from syllables to words to short phrases
  4. Have a teacher correct your pronunciation or use my Pronunciation Tutor Service
  5. Continue to improve your pronunciation along with your studied until you achieve your goals

Do you have any questions on how to learn or improve your Chinese pronunciation? Please ask away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help! 

08/16/16

Chinese lessons in Guangzhou are continuing in September

Learn Chinese in Guangzhou

I’ve gotten emails asking when do I resume teaching Chinese and I thought it’s best to share the plans in a blog post as well. Chinese lessons are continuing in September!

I’ll arrive back to Guangzhou a bit earlier than planned, on the first week of September. After that I’ll need to find a nanny and then I can continue teaching Mandarin. My estimate is that I can continue lessons in mid-September.

I’ll be offering one on one or small group lessons for beginners and elementary level students. Most of my students are keen to learn the basics of spoken Chinese but I have students who are fascinated by the Chinese characters as well. In any case the lessons are always tailored to your personal needs with a flexible schedule.

If you want more information about Chinese lessons in Guangzhou or want to book a meeting with me, get in touch through my contact form!

07/31/16

How to keep on learning Chinese: Do something fun!

Can you recognize these characters?

It’s easy to lose motivation to study Chinese, especially on a Summer vacation when all sorts of things compete of your attention. Open a textbook or go to the beach? I won’t blame you for choosing the latter.

But what can we do in order to keep on learning and not forgetting everything before continuing lessons in the Autumn?

Do something fun every day!

Learning should be fun, especially on a holiday so choose a fun Chinese activity that fits your Summer mood.

For example:

  • Explore fun apps on Apple Store or Google Play, for example tracing characters on Chinese Writer by trainchinese can get addictive!
  • Listen to podcasts on interesting topics. What about listening ChinesePod podcasts At the beach or   Going on a picnic
  • Listen to Chinese songs on QQ Music app, Youku or YouTube. Follow the lyrics as you go to help comprehension.
  • If you want to improve your reading skills, get shopping on Taobao. 
  • If you live in China or close to a Chinatown, make it into a game to spot a certain character on road signs or restaurant menus. Forget catching Pokemons, try catching as many “人” as possible!

You don’t have to study for hours, even a few minutes per day is better than cramming a full day once a month. Stay consistent and your Chinese will improve. Most of all, have fun with Mandarin!

How do you make learning Chinese fun?

10/29/15

How to pass HSK level 1

IMG_6883

HSK is the official Chinese Proficiency Test that is a great way to set goals or check your Chinese level. Sometimes having a clear goal in form of a test gets you more motivated to hit those flashcards or strike up conversations with the local Chinese. Taking HSK1 is the first step on your ladder.

Just remember that you don’t study Chinese for the HSK, but use it as a tool instead. Don’t start learning Chinese by buying a HSK prep book, but try the HSK after you have studied Chinese for some time and want to see how you’re doing.

HSK1 has two parts: listening and reading. The level is suitable for those students who have learned around 150 words and basic grammar patterns. If you are studying Chinese part-time one to two hours per week, you can usually pass HSK level 1 in half a year or so.

How to pass HSK1

1) Learn the vocabulary.

As you have been studying basic Chinese at your course or with a private teacher, you have probably learned most of the basic words that will come up in HSK1. Now it’s time to review those and fill in the blanks that you might have!

The best flash card system for Chinese is Skritter that works on your laptop or on your tablet or smart phone. I started using Skritter more than five years ago and have passed many tests because of it. Skritter is also my blog’s affiliate partner. You can try it our for free and see if it’s the best choice for you too.

2) Practice your listening skills

Listening comprehension is perhaps the most important skill in a foreign language and the best way to train any skill is to do more of it! You’ve probably been listening to the dialogues in your textbook, but that becomes boring quite quickly.

Where to find more interesting materials to listen then? Podcasts like ChinesePod are good resources for all levels. For HSK level 1 check out their newbie and elementary levels. On ChinesePod, with a code “SARAJ”, you can get 20% off a premium annual plan here.

3) Do mock tests

Getting used to the test format is also important with HSK and that is easy to do with mock tests. Do an online mock test of the reading section here on the official HSK website or download paper tests. You can also buy mock exams on Amazon.

Always do a mock test with the actual time limit so see how you would do in the real test situation. Find out with a tutor why you made mistakes and practice the section more which is the weaker one for you.

4) Read short stories

A great way to review vocabulary, grammar patterns and general comprehension is to read in Chinese. These days lots of graded readers are available for different levels. For HSK level 1 I recommend the I begin to learn Chinese by Confucius Institute which contains short stories and exercises.


With these four steps I’m sure you can ace your HSK1 exam! Just remember that passing an exam shouldn’t be your sole reason to learn Chinese, but a tool that helps you to set countable goals and make you even more motivated to master Chinese step by step.