8 Things to Look For When Choosing a Chinese Teacher

Choosing a good Chinese teacher is one of the key factors that will determine whether you can be successful and persist in learning Chinese, or whether you just end up giving up or becoming demotivated. If you are in China or another Chinese speaking area, at first it can seem like you have an unlimited supply of teachers. After all, you are surrounded by native speakers, who could all potentially help you to learn their language. You might even get offers of help with your Chinese, in return Continue Reading

14 of the best Chinese TV shows to improve your Mandarin

When I was studying Chinese at university I used to watch a fair number of Chinese TV shows, with the aim of improving my spoken Chinese and listening ability. It can be a pretty light-hearted way to keep the language going, even when you can’t face a full page of Chinese characters, or if you’re feeling tired and you’re not in the right frame of mind to practise speaking. When you first start watching Chinese TV shows, you may not be able to understand a lot, but it will give you exposure Continue Reading

15 of the best Chinese movies you won’t want to miss

Watching Chinese movies is a great way to relax if you're learning the language. It's also a great way to get more in tune with Chinese culture, and get into the rhythm of the language. BUT, it isn’t the most effective way to learn Chinese.. Chinese films can also be really hard to understand. The dialogue is often really fast, and there is often a mix of different accents and a lot of slang that beginners wouldn't normally learn. I found them really tough to understand for a long time, Continue Reading

How to get your iPhone/iPad to read out Chinese texts

You might not know this, but all of the recent iPhone/ iPad and iPod Touch models (with iOS 6+) have a Mandarin and Cantonese text-to-speech function built in. Or to put it another way, you can highlight any section of text on the screen and have your device read aloud for you in standard Mandarin or Cantonese. You can get text read from any application, and you can even slow down the speech as you go so you can keep up and read along. For Chinese, there are three voices built in, a Continue Reading

How to remember the tones in Chinese, forever

If you're just getting into Chinese, one of the first things you'll hear about are the tones. And it makes sense, because 'tones' are one of the most essential and distinctive parts of Mandarin. Mandarin actually has fewer sounds than many other languages, and so the language 'makes up' for that by having four different ways in which you can pronounce any given syllable. There are also some syllables which are unstressed. They are always the second or third syllable of a word and they Continue Reading

3 things you need to master Chinese

Everybody has their own methods of learning a language, but we can talk about some general principles to guide your language study, however you like to study. I've identified 3 crucial things you need in order to learn a language to a high level. 1. A lot of input - both listening and reading To put this simply: the language has to be in you in order to come out of you, therefore you will need as much exposure to the language as possible in order to learn key vocabulary and Continue Reading

How analysis and critical thinking will make you a better language learner

I've often thought about what distinguishes successful language learners from people who learn a language less successfully. I think one of the key factors is how much you are able to analyse and think critically as you are learning the language. You might find that you do a lot of reading or listening to a language, but when you come to speak or write in the language, you are not able to produce the same structures and vocabulary. One of the reasons for this is that you may not have Continue Reading

How to get from ‘understanding odd words’ to complete comprehension of Chinese

You know the story. When you start to learn a language, you learn to understand the texts on your CDs or in your beginner's course pretty well. But then when you go out into the 'real world' or visit the country where the language is spoken, you find that people are talking much quicker and they're not just using the simple 'textbook vocabulary' you're so familiar with. You start to get discouraged, or you feel like you 'barely understand anything', and start tuning out completely, Continue Reading

How to train your brain to start speaking a foreign language

One question people ask me a lot about my language learning is: how is it possible to practice speaking English/Chinese when you don't have access to a lot of native speakers around you all the time or you don't have any friends who are native speakers of Chinese/English? It's often a good idea to try to build up some speaking ability before you start talking to native speakers. That way you can be more confident when you start to speak in a real-life situation, and the words and phrases will Continue Reading

30 Chinese characters with multiple pronunciations that you should know about

Every Chinese character is pronounced as one syllable. A two character word will be two syllables. Most of the characters in Chinese have just one pronunciation, but there are a few that make life difficult. In this post, I'm going to cover all the common characters that can be pronounced different ways. You don't have to learn them by heart, but if you've been learning Chinese for a while, you might be able to avoid some of the more subtle mistakes by having a look through. Most of Continue Reading