How to learn Chinese by yourself: 6 useful strategies

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Maybe you want to learn Chinese, but are not interested in group classes. This article contains 6 methods for studying Chinese by yourself.

Why learn Chinese by yourself?

First of all, why not take an evening class, or find a private tutor? Well, not everyone has the time or resources for group classes or tutoring. Personally, I stopped taking Chinese classes because I moved to a new town, and needed to focus on finishing my studies.

Besides, you might want to consider whether group classes are sufficiently effective.

Instead, you could absolutely learn Chinese by yourself. In the remainder of this article, we will offer 6 methods that you can try.

Tips for learning Chinese by yourself

1. Use an app

I have a friend who would never want to join a group class. However, he thoroughly enjoys using a mobile app to learn Chinese. Indeed, apps can be a great way to learn Chinese by yourself. Apps are fun and engaging, so it is likely that you will use the app often.

Here are some of our favorite apps:

2. Find good study material

If you are going to learn Chinese by yourself, good study material will be essential. Here is some of my favorite material.

Textbooks

Textbooks can be a good way to dive deeper into the Chinese language. My favorite textbook is New Practical Chinese Reader Vol. 1 (2nd.Ed.). I especially like the dialogues in the book, which are original and engaging, and offer the right level of challenge. The series also has a nice workbook. The exercises are very useful: you practice what you learned in slightly different contexts, which helps you to remember the material.

Dictionaries

Learning Chinese means: looking up a lot of words. For your mobile phone, we recommend the Chinese dictionary app Pleco.

Are you looking for a Chinese dictionary for PC? Try Vocamate, our free Chinese dictionary app for PC.

3. Make learning Chinese a habit

Instead of studying for hours once a week, it is much better to study a number of minutes every day. Try to make learning Chinese a habit. For example, you could use Duolingo for 10 minutes every day before bedtime.

If you would like to learn more on the topic of habit building, I recommend reading The Habit Guide by Leo Babauta and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

4. Practice Chinese with native speakers

To learn Chinese quickly, if you can, try to find a native speaker who can chat with you in Chinese. Try to resist the temptation to switch to your own language. Try to learn new words by pointing at objects and asking your conversation partner for the Chinese translation.

5. Keep a diary in Chinese

During a student exchange (in Japan actually, to learn Japanese), my host dad recommended me to keep a diary. I must say that as a teenager, I found it difficult to keep up this habit. But I managed to keep a diary for a while, and noticed that it is a good way to discover new words. When writing the diary entry, you will realize that, in order to describe your day, you need new words that are not in your vocabulary yet. Look them up, and try to write what you wanted to write. The words that occur in your diary are typically also useful for day to day conversation.

6. Sign up for a Chinese language test

Signing up for a test can be a great motivation to study a bit extra. Try to find out if you can sign up for an HSK test in your area.

Last updated: January 23, 2022