Knowing where to start on your ‘learning a foreign language’ journey is not easy. You have to overcome many obstacles before the hard work can begin. What language should I learn? Why do I want to learn it? How will I learn it? These are all difficult questions and without the right tools, they might appear impossible to answer.
However, impossible they are not. You just need to know where to look.
On my own personal quest to learn a foreign language, I decided I would learn Mandarin Chinese. I am interested in China’s rich culture and given China’s rising stature on the global stage, I figured it would be a useful language to learn. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but like most things in life, if something is easy, why do it?
With my language chosen, I just had to figure out a way of learning it.
Historically, one of the proven methods of learning a foreign language is to attend weekly classroom lessons. This way, you get to interact with a native-speaking teacher and you can learn in an environment where there are no distractions. However, I knew this wasn’t for me. In my opinion, having 1 hour lessons only once a week isn’t enough and I wanted to practice every day at a time to suit me. Furthermore, I didn’t think the costs of attending the classes represented good value for money. Surely there are cheaper ways to start learning Mandarin Chinese? Therefore, I decided I would teach myself.
One of the resources I discovered on my quest to learning Mandarin Chinese was Yoyo Chinese. Yoyo Chinese is a website which focuses on teaching conversational Mandarin Chinese and starts from beginners level all the way through to intermediate fluency. Yoyo Chinese consists of many lessons taught by the website’s creator, Yangyang, which are placed into specifically designed courses. Each lesson consists of a video and an audio review, and in each lesson, Yangyang teaches a host of new words and grammar structures which help develop your Chinese conversational skills. There are 6 different courses in total and although you have to pay to access many of the premium features, you can watch many videos for free. Personally, I would recommend the 6 month premium plan because although it sounds expensive as an upfront cost, it works out at around 40 pence a day. Given I was using it for around an hour each day, I believe it represents excellent value for money. It truly is a brilliant resource.
Another brilliant resource to help with the reading and writing side of Chinese is a book by Tuttle publishing called Learning Chinese Characters. It does exactly what it says on the tin and what makes this book stand out from thousands of others is the method it uses to help users remember the characters. Instead of using the standard teaching method of repetition, this book uses the methods of visualisation and story creation. This enables users to easily remember the character meanings and, more impressively, how to pronounce them. These methods do take some getting used to but the methods are worth persevering with as they do save users heaps of time in the long run. The book takes you by the hand in your solo learning journey so you never feel too overwhelmed and there are character tests at regular intervals so you can check whether the characters you are learning are actually sticking with you. It’s the only book you’ll ever need to learn Chinese characters and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Learning Mandarin Chinese won’t be easy but with the right tools and resources, conversational and written fluency are no longer unreachable goals.