2019-06-05 水滴的思绪 7123 0
What is the best way to learn Chinese?
Daniel Tedesco, Recent Fulbrighter in China
When I started learning Chinese, I took a bunch of classes. I took tests, made flash cards, memorized lists of vocab words, wrote thousands of characters. After a year, I realized how slowly I was learning and decided to go my own way. I started using some of the techniques below, but didn't realize the best ways to learn until I was already pretty fluent.
If I had to start over, this is how I would do it:
I wouldn't spend a minute in formal classes. Don't pay thousands of dollars to sit silently in a room with 30 other people and listen to a teacher for six hours a day. If you're going to spend that time learning Chinese, then spend it actively.
From the beginning, I would find 2-3 Chinese students to tutor me every day each day (probably still less expensive than enrolling in a school). I would spend the entire six hours reading dialogues *aloud* from Chinese language textbooks. If I got caught up on a word or sentence, I would ask the tutor to explain and then move on. This teaches you to read, speak, and listen all at once.
Skip everything else in the book. No fill-in-the-blanks. No 听写. No lists of vocabulary words. No flash cards. If a word is important, you'll see it again. Most importantly, with this method, every time you see a word will be in context of actual usage and *you* will be using it.
When you get through all the dialogues in a book, get a new book. Get a slightly harder one.
In your down time, watch TV and use WeChat (China's major messaging app).
You probably have Chinese friends. Add them on WeChat. They definitely use WeChat. Talk to them all the time. They're probably interested in learning about where you come from and your perspective on the world. Tell them. Force yourself to type in Chinese. It will be incredibly slow at first, and you might need to look up every other word. That's fine. You'll improve quickly, because your brain will want to make communication easier for you. (This assumes you don't need to learn how to *handwrite* Chinese characters. Realistically, unless you're a tattoo artist, you will probably never need to.)
Start with children's TV shows online. But spend the entire time listening and reading the subtitles (Chinese TV shows almost always have subtitles). I suggest 喜羊羊与灰太狼. When you get good enough, stop watching cartoons. Watch the news and Chinese movies. Keep reading the subtitles, though.
It will be hard. You will think there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There will be weeks when you wish you never started learning Chinese. But, if you do these things every day (no cheating), you will become fluent in 6 months or less.
Kevin Dewalt, Startup founder (5), Investor (25+), and mentor (a lot). Now working on SaaS.
Short Answer: Find a Westerners in a similar life situation as yours who learned Chinese to the level of proficiency you desire and ask their advice. Most likely you'll discover that they best (and perhaps only) way to learn a language is to use it.
I asked this Quora question when I arrived in China and was struggling to learn Chinese. I've recently turned the corner and can now have day-to-day life conversations with Chinese people. Although I'm nowhere near the level of proficiency I desire, I have found a process that is working for me and feel bit more qualified to answer my own question.
I moved to China in the Spring of 2012. It was a hard landing for me, much harder than I expected. In America I spent about 6 months studying part time with software products like Memrise, Chinesepod, and Anki flashcards as well periodic lessons with 1-1 tutors. I continued this practice in China, and by May of 2012 I was intensely frustrated with my progress. Chinese people had a hard time understanding even basic words I was saying and I understand almost nothing of what I heard. Fortunately my hours using Memrise had given me a good grasp of pinyin and knowledge of about 1,000 characters, so at least I could use SMS to communicate as a last resort. But overall I realized that if I didn't find a better approach to start rapidly improving I was on the road to becoming another Westerner who tried to learn and gave up.
Out of sheer frustration I started reaching out to people like Daniel Tedesco (see his answer) and others for advice. I took Benny Lewis ("fluent in 3 months") to dinner and got his advice. I was shocked at the wide range of opinions. Some of the advice was helpful, some (like "just get a Chinese girlfriend") was useless to happily married me.
出于极度的沮丧，我开始向Daniel Tedesco等人寻求建议。我请Benny Lewis(在3个月内中文达到流利程度)去吃晚饭，听取了他的建议。各种各样的观点令我感到震惊，其中有些建议很有用，而有些(比如“找个中国女朋友”)则对我的幸福婚姻毫无帮助。
I met a lot of Westerners who started working when the first arrived in China, took few hours each week of lessons, and never really got to the point where they could use Chinese as well as I can now. I commonly hear the regret, "I wish I had first focused on Chinese when I arrived."
Every Westerner I met who was "fluent" (1) spent at least several months studying Chinese full time, and (2) spent massive amounts of time speaking 1-1 with native Chinese people.
Of course this doesn't mean that software products, classrooms, and studying part time don't help - I just didn't meet anyone who had used them successfully.
So in early June I decided to give myself a 3-month deadline of getting to basic efficiency or give up. I stopped taking meetings in Beijing, stopped work on any other projects, and dedicated myself full time, 7 days a week to learning Chinese.
I increased my 1-1 time with Chinese teachers from ~8 hours/week to ~25. I found two great teachers（one from a school in Beijing http://www.livethelanguage.cn/, one referred by another American expat) and worked with them 1-1 for 3-6 hours per day, 7 days/week. These 3-hour sessions were exhausting at times.
Outside of class I got stacks of spoken Chinese textbooks with MP3 recorders. I spent hour after hour listening to MP3s, reading dialogs, and asking my teachers for help whenever I didn't understand a word or grammar. Whenever I could listed to the MP3 at full speed and read and understand the entire dialog I would move on, never going back, always moving on to the next dialog.
No flashcards, no textbook exercises (unless part of speaking with my teachers).
I started watching episodes of 喜羊羊与灰太狼 per Daniel's advice. I could not (and still can't) follow the dialog at full speed, so my teacher would transcribe the dialog for me and I would study it as well. With my teacher I would explain the entire episode to her, ask questions, and attempt to use the new words and grammar from the episode. When I could watch it at full speed and understand everything I would move on. Sometimes I would have to see the same word multiple times before getting it.
Since I never hand write English, I decided not to learn how to write Hanzi characters except 一 、二、三 :-). But I did type Hanzi everyday, typing out homework assignments, creating my own fictional dialogs, and writing stories. Every day I read them with my teacher, get errors corrected, and talk about them.
I looked for every daily life opportunity to speak Chinese. Before going to get a haircut/buy something/to a restaurant I would write out fictional dialogs about what I planned to do, then I would read and discuss them with my teachers. Then I would go out and use the language in the wild, making mistakes and stumbling through it.
I tried (not always successfully) to not use English. If I took an evening off and watched an English TV program or spoke English with friends I found the next day's class particularly tough. In retrospect, my episodes of progress came when I went into Chinese and never came out for long stretches of time. But it has been very hard and many times I just wanted to quit.
And...it worked. By the end August, my 3 month deadline, I was able to carry out basic life conversations.
I still plan on working 1-1 with teachers a few hours a day, reading Chinese, and writing at every opportunity.
In retrospect, my advice is…
1. If life allows it, dedicate 6 months, full time, 24x7 to studying and using Chinese when you arrive in China. There is so much basic life stuff to organize when you get hear anyway and you can use your time with teachers or students to learn how to use the bank, get a haircut, etc.
2. Find a way to spend 20-30 hours/week in one-on-one dialog with native speakers. Professional teachers are the best if you can afford it ($5-$20 USD/hour) but you can also get students and tutors if necessary.
3. Be patient, be determined. It is so hard but it gets better.