How To Improve Your Chinese Language Skills



Chinese is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. When you see the words themselves, each of them are like a picture. It is the most spoken language in the world by more than 1 billion people. I remember my Grandmother explaining to my sister and I the way each Chinese character are like a picture of the object. 火 means fire, 人 means person and 山 means mountain. If you look at them, they appear very much like the character itself. According to the NZ Chinese Language Week Trust, Chinese will be the third most common language spoken in New Zealand.

In order to improve a language, we must consistently speak it and expose ourselves to it. If you don’t speak the language with your family, it’s a good idea to find opportunities to speak it with someone. Try speaking it with a friend, language partner, on the phone or attending a Chinese event. The more you speak, the more you remember. A great app to add on your phone is Pleco. It’s a wonderful dictionary that’s easy to use. Try reading a small section of a book, text or magazine article and translate the words you don’t know by using Pleco (or your own dictionary).

Writing words down can also help you to remember what they look like. Learning and expanding your vocabulary is ultimately one of the ways to improve your skills. Listening is what we’re first exposed to when we’re a baby. We listen to the way our parents talk, and we imitate the words they speak. You can listen to Chinese music, watch a movie that speaks Mandarin, listen to a podcast or watch a Youtuber who speaks Chinese. Finding what works for you is important. Some may find certain Chinese language apps better than others. Some may work better by following a text book, taking lessons in class, having a private tutor or using an e-book.

Growing confidence in your skills is a wonderful thing. Improving is extremely rewarding. As something beneficial as Chinese, it can be encouraging to know that you will definitely be applying the language in many places. It’s a language that has a long history behind it. It is one of the oldest written language in the world. If you grew up reading Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah (I highly recommend the book!), she mentions: Chinese is a pictorial language, not a phonetic one. Our words come from images. The meaning of many characters is subtle and profound. Other words are poetic and even philosophical.

Photography of Ling BingBing by Sun Jun

10 thoughts on “How To Improve Your Chinese Language Skills

  1. So agree with this that Chinese is very much a visual language. The first Chinese character I learnt was 人 and then 山 :D Unfortunately I only had two years of Chinese classes and that was it. My parents insisted I take Bahasa Malayu or Malay as a second language and I studied that for ten years. But these days, I still do understand bits and pieces of Chinese. When I buy food from the Asian grocery store, I can understand what the Chinese cashier is saying when she totals up my purchases :D

  2. That’s really interesting to know. I grew up learning Mandarin first, and always found that English is one of the easiest languages to pick up! Haha that’s very handy!

  3. When I visited Taiwan, I bought “Chineasy” by ShaoLan Hsueh, an illustrative Chinese-learning book. It’s an amazing book that shows how the Chinese characters are built – their origins, history and culture. I have never been formally educated in Chinese for long periods of time as I’ve always lived outside of Taiwan, but I know how to speak it conversationally. I very much agree with this post, and I have (finally) found the joy in learning Chinese through extensive reading, rather than intensive studying. It’s an art if you allow yourself to see it that way!

    1. It sounds wonderful (plus isn’t Taiwan a great place to go book shopping!), that’s really great to hear, and I feel similar in that I’ve found it much more enjoyable learning Chinese through reading :) It really is!

  4. How to memorize Chinese Characters fast? I think it is very simple. One just needs a couple of minutes to analyze the Chinese character and it will be memorized for ages. See how it is done:

    汉字分解。 Decomposition of the Chinese Character 包 bāo ‘wrap’

    勹 bāo wrap,
    丿 piě slash,
    ㇆ yǐ second,
    巳 jǐ oneself,
    一 yī one,
    乚 yǐ second,

    勹丿㇆ 巳一乚

    Good luck in learning!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s