Should you learn simplified or traditional Chinese characters?

A common question I get asked by beginner Chinese learners is: should I learn simplified Chinese characters or traditional Chinese characters. Do I need to learn both? Should I learn one type first and then the other? Before I answer the question, let me start with some facts. 1. Simplified Chinese characters are mainly used in Mainland China, and also in some overseas Chinese communities. 2. Traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, they don't use simplified Continue Reading

Why does the West still understand so little about China?

China and the West were historically very closed off from each other. China was largely self-sufficient and didn’t trade with distant nations. It was difficult for foreigners to enter the country and exchanges were few. These days, there are dozens of flights in and out of China every day, billions of pounds worth of business between China and Europe and the US, and information travels out of China fairly freely. So why do so many people in the West have only a basic understanding of China, Continue Reading

How to Watch Chinese TV Online

Watching Chinese TV online is a great way of increasing your knowledge of China and improving your language skills at the same time. Learners who don’t have so much exposure to the language can watch Chinese TV to keep the language in their heads and make sure they don’t get rusty. Gone are the days when watching Chinese TV online was almost impossible abroad due to buffering and slow speeds. Online streaming services have improved a lot over the past year or so. Here are some websites that I Continue Reading

Can you learn a language just by living in the country?

Many people believe that they can learn a language or 'pick it up' simply by spending time in a place where it is spoken and being around the language all the time.  Is it possible to learn a language through ‘osmosis’ or through total immersion? The answer is both yes and no. Let’s look at the no part first. If you travel to a country with no basis in the language and make no effort to study the language actively, and just count on ‘picking it up’, then it is unlikely to be very Continue Reading

How to Practise Writing Chinese Characters Online

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series on how to write Chinese characters, we talked about the basic strokes that make up each Chinese character and also some basic principles behind the order in which you write the strokes in Chinese characters. These basic components and rules give you a foundation to get started, but they are not enough on their own to tell you how to write any Chinese character. In order to get into writing full characters, you need a lot of practice. First a word on the order Continue Reading

Essential Rules for Stroke Order in Chinese Characters

Basic Principles For Writing Chinese Characters In Part 1, I explained the basic types of strokes that make up every Chinese character. Now, before we move on to practising full characters, let's look at some of the principles behind which order to write the strokes in. Before I explain this, bear in mind two things 1) These are not 'rules', but 'general principles' to keep in mind when you are writing Chinese characters, and 2) Don't worry about how these principles work exactly, because Continue Reading

The Basic Strokes Used in All Chinese Characters

Types of Strokes This post is the first in a new series about how to learn to write Chinese characters. I'm not concentrating on simplified or traditional characters here, I'm just talking about the basic principles. Let's start right from the beginning. Each Chinese character is made up of different strokes. A stroke means a stroke of the pen. In other words, every time you lift up your pen and start to write again, you are starting a new stroke. Because you are writing strokes, you are Continue Reading

Anki – An Easy Way to Learn Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

Readers of this blog will know that I have studied multiple foreign languages, and one of the key concepts behind my approach to using language is utilising technology. One of the biggest ways I use technology during my language learning is by using flashcard software to get vocabulary to stick. The piece of software I use and that I would recommend to others is called Anki , which is available for both PC and Mac as well as iOS and Android. First go to the Anki website, click download and Continue Reading

How long does it take to learn to speak fluent Chinese?

'How long does it take to learn to speak fluent Chinese?' As somebody who has been studying Chinese for more than six years, this is a question that I am often asked. People often expect the answer to be 'a lot longer than for European languages', as Chinese is often perceived as a more ‘difficult language’. For a European or American learning the language, Chinese does indeed present more of a challenge that learning a different European language. Chinese is very different to these languages, Continue Reading

How to Learn to Speak Fluent Mandarin Chinese – Step 3

Moving from the Beginner/Lower Intermediate Stage to a More Advanced Level In Parts 1 and 2 of my guide to how to teach yourself to speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, I talk about learning pronunciation and building a solid foundation in the language. I mentioned how it is important not to work too fast at the beginner's stage. I have made this same mistake myself, I have read through beginners books and thought I understood a lot when actually I just had a basic idea. It is important to work Continue Reading