Updated: May 18, 2020
In this lesson, we will give you tips on how to swiftly improve your Chinese speaking, listening, reading and writing skills as a beginner. This is a commonly asked question among our Everyday Easy Chinese students and many are unsure of where to start! These tips are provided by the Everyday Easy Chinese team who have had experience of learning other languages themselves. We know the struggle and want to help you overcome this initial barrier to becoming fluent speakers!
Listening is a somewhat passive learning skill but it is nevertheless extremely important as it can help you train your Chinese pronunciation. We hear many Chinese learners speak with a strong vocabulary and grammar base but often neglect their tones. Tones are a significant element of the Chinese language and a tiny difference in your tone can dramatically change the meaning of a word! For example, the difference between the number four 四 (sì) and the word death 死 (sǐ) is small but the meaning is completely different! If you are interested in commonly confused Chinese words, check out our quick lesson here.
How do I improve my listening?
To improve your listening as a beginner, start getting into Chinese dramas and movies by:
Watching the Chinese drama and movie with the subtitles turned on first.
Listening out for useful phrases that you think will be useful for you in the future. For example, if I hear the phrase "我们几点见面?" (What time are we meeting?), I will write this down because I know that I will use it in the future!
Making sure to catch the pinyin down too: "wǒmen jǐ diǎn jiànmiàn?" You can double check online if you are unsure.
Watching the Chinese drama and movie again. Watch it with subtitles off this time.
We share the pronunciation of new Chinese words daily on our Everyday Easy Chinese Instagram and TikTok accounts so remember to follow our accounts to start improving your understanding of spoken Chinese.
Reading is also another passive way of learning and there are studies that show that you retain less information if you only used to this method to study compared to other active ways of learning. However, being able to read is essential in getting around China as nearly all shop signs or restaurant menus are only available in Chinese!
How do I improve my reading?
As a beginner, a structured approach to learning how to read is the best method to take so make sure that you learn those radicals. A radical is a component of a Chinese character that carries a specific meaning and if you see this radical in a character, you will be able to guess roughly what the meaning of the word is. For example, a commonly seen radical is: 氵(三点水) which literally means “three drops of water”. As you can guess, characters with this component often has something to do with water. For example: 河 means 'river', 海 means 'ocean' and 游 means 'swim'. This will then be a strong base for you to start understanding the meanings of words that you might have never seen before as you might be able to decipher the general meaning of the word by just looking at the radical.
Speaking is an active way of learning. If you are a beginner Chinese learner, we do not recommend starting a language exchange yet. This is because for a language exchange to run smoothly, both speakers must have at least a conversational level of Chinese. If not, there will be too many breaks in the flow of the language exchange which may hinder your improvement.
How do I improve my speaking?
The best way to improve speaking is to memorize. Yes sometimes we have to do the boring stuff to get to the great stuff! One way can be to say out and repeat a new word and sentence everyday. If you follow this method, you'll be able to build up a base of sentences to string together in conversations. Take this suggested step by step approach:
Start by saying the word out loud and then the sentence out loud too.
Repeat! (Practice makes perfect).
Once you get comfortable with the word and the sentence structure, trying creating a new sentence with the word which you think will be useful for you in the future and repeat.
Over time, you will sub-consciously develop sentences that you can string together to create a conversation.
Another active way to learn is writing. The best way to learn how to write new words is similar to improving your reading skills. Learn the radicals first so that you understand the relationship between the words and their meanings.
How do I improve my writing skills?
Buy squared paper and write the same character out many times. You can make it fun my making your writing look calligraphic. Make sure to test yourself on a regular basis so that you don't forget the words!
Watch the video to learn the best way to improve your Chinese skills as a beginner:
Thank you for going over this Chinese lesson on how to improve your Chinese skills as a beginner. Please let us know if you have any questions, comment below if you do and we will answer them as soon as possible!
Remember to subscribe to our Youtube channel where we will also be sharing how to improve your Chinese skills quickly as an intermediate and advanced learner soon.