What is the best way to learn the Chinese language? Learning a new language can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially when the language you’re trying to learn is much different from your mother tongue. There are a lot of different theories about the best and easiest way to learn a new language. Many of them suggest that you read newspapers, watch movies, and listen to music in the language you’re trying to learn.
However, in practice, this advice can be frustrating — when you’re in the early stages of learning a new language, many TV shows, movies, and radio programs can feel too challenging for your current language ability, making the whole exercise a vexing waste of time instead of a useful tool.
The solution? Comprehensible input!
What is comprehensible input?
Comprehensible input is language input that’s one level above your current language ability. Even though you don’t understand all of the individual words or grammatical structures, you should still be able to understand the general meaning.
Theoretically, reading or listening to comprehensible input helps you acquire new words and structures more naturally, as opposed to sitting down in front of a textbook and memorizing vocabulary words and grammar rules.
It should feel challenging, but not overwhelming. So far it’s one of the best ways to learn a language – including Chinese.
How to use if while learning Mandarin Chinese?
As you read or listen to increasing amounts of Mandarin, you should feel yourself growing more and more comfortable with the language. Eventually, what was once difficult will become much easier to understand.
Then, you’ll know to seek out slightly more challenging material to serve as comprehensible input! Comprehensible input is always changing.
What counts as comprehensible input for a beginning language learner might be way too easy for a more intermediate or advanced learner. Likewise, what counts as comprehensible input for an advanced language learner will probably be far too challenging for a novice.
Finding the right material is all about gauging your comfort level with Mandarin, and then seeking out texts that challenge that level just a little bit.
Where I can find resources for that?
1. Short Stories
A really great resource is graded readers or short stories written at different reading levels. If you’re trying to gauge an appropriate level of Mandarin comprehensible input for your current language ability, websites like Mandarin Companion and Chinese Breeze are excellent places to look.
2. Apps and Youtube Channels
Additionally, Apps and Youtube channels are two more fantastic places to find material suitable for your level. The benefit here is that a lot of them were created for people like yourself who are learning the language. Plus, they’re fun to use!
Furthermore, movies, television shows, and podcasts can be wonderful resources for comprehensible input.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced Mandarin learner, try watching Disney movies or children’s television programs in Chinese. Since these programs are geared towards children, they won’t be overly difficult to understand, but they’ll still be engaging and challenging.
4. TV shows
You can also try watching Chinese TV shows, like 家有儿女 and 爸爸去哪儿. These shows are easier to understand than most TV shows since a number of the characters are kids. This way, you’ll gain exposure to brand new characters and storylines that you aren’t already familiar with, but at an appropriate level of difficulty that challenges you to pay attention without leaving you completely in the dark.
If you prefer literature over TV, you might also want to consider trying reading a book in Mandarin about a topic that you’re already familiar with in your native language. This way, you have your own personal knowledge to fall back on if you find yourself overwhelmed by unfamiliar words.
Finally, podcasts are also a fun and easy way to expose yourself to Mandarin at the appropriate difficulty level. They’re a great option for busy people who love to multitask.
Listening to a Mandarin podcast during your commute to work, while cooking, while cleaning, or while doing laundry is a perfect way to maximize your time and gain regular exposure to the language. There are lots of Chinese podcasts with lessons available at various language levels.
If you’re a beginner, consider trying one of the podcasts that are directly targeted towards new Mandarin learners. Once you’ve reached an intermediate or advanced level, you can graduate to Mandarin podcasts that are about other topics, such as Chinese current events, history, and culture.
Comprehensible input isn’t enough by itself.
Of course, in order to learn Chinese, you’ll need to do more than just listen and read. Comprehensible input is an excellent strategy for helping you improve your reading and listening skills. But that’s only half the battle — in order to know a language, you have to be able to speak it!
Working in tandem with a teacher or tutor is absolutely crucial to help you reach fluency. Combining self-study and regular lessons with That’s Mandarin would be a wonderful launching pad to an enjoyable Chinese-learning process.
By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to Chinese proficiency!
Now you know the best way to learn Chinese!
If you don’t feel too inspired by this, try reading our article about 13 celebrities who learned and mastered the Chinese language!