6 Mandarin Learning Aids for Noobs
When I first started learning Mandarin back in 2013 I had no idea what I was doing. I was preparing to move to Beijing in the fall. I had gotten a job teaching English. I lived in a small New England town and everyone was white.
The only thing I knew about China was that they liked the color red.
Now I speak Mandarin with my colleagues at work. I have passed the HSK 4 and I am preparing for my HSK 5. I have lived in Beijing for over three years.
Sometimes I forget how hard learning Mandarin was in the beginning. This post is for those noobies just starting out, just like me back then in that small New England town.
There is no magic pill when learning a language. Actually, in a lot of ways it’s more similar to developing muscle memory than anything else. However, quality learning aids are still essential in helping the learner to understand the rules of the language.
- Chinese Forums. Chinese Forums is perhaps the most popular resource for Chinese language learners today. Specifically their forums offer a wealth of information on language, cultural, and other practical matters.
- Chinese Grammar Wiki A lot of people say that Chinese grammar is simple. That simply isn’t true. Chinese Grammar is complex in it’s own way and you NEED to understand the rules. Otherwise you will sound like a fool.
- Yellow Bridge. You can use your mouse to draw characters in this online dictionary. Highly useful if you don’t want to fork out the $35 dollars to upgrade your Pleco App.
- Memrise. Memrise is a flashcard website that also has a great App. It allows you to enroll in courses that other users create, create your own courses, and compete with your friends.
- Hanban The official website of the Confucius Institute, the Chinese Government’s organization for Mandarin language learning and the HSK (the most internationally recognized test for Mandarin proficiency).
- CUCAS. Short for the Chinese University and College Admission System, this is the online database and application form for studying in China. While this site is notoriously finicky, it does have a solid database and online application service.
I have wasted a lot of time sifting through the internet in search of quality learning aids for studying Mandarin. This short list contains most information you will need as you progress in your studies.
It should be noted that these are learning aids. They are only useful after you have put in the work. I, for example, found the Grammar Wiki extremely useful while studying for my HSK 4. It helped to explain specific grammar points better than any teacher or Chinese friend.
So, get out there! Go through some textbooks and underline all the words you don’t know. Use those words to make flashcards. Take a Chinese friend out for lunch. Only after you start dealing with the language will you need these resources.