Studying Chinese (6) – From learning in a class to studying on your own


Five years now. Five years and the interest has not been decreasing, much to the contrary ! It seems that the more I am studying mandarin chinese, the more I am spending time on it, and on and on.

So, what can you tell about these five years ? The most obvious thing for me is that it’s very demanding, but also very rewarding. When you learn chinese, you have the feeling you are approaching not only one language, but three languages at the same time, since by learning one word you are learning :

  • the strokes of the character
  • the pinyin transliteration
  • the tones

And of course you must remember the sense of that word, considering that sometimes one word can have different meanings, depending on the context, like in any other language.  That means that, apart from homophony problems that are the main difficulties when speaking chinese, a written word can have different meanings, for instance 花, which can mean « flower », or… « spend money », but sometimes you are lucky when there are only two meanings.


Another thing I learned from that tortuous path, is that you’ve got to take ownership of your learning.

I had fast felt that the exercises that were given to us laborious learners were not enough, should I try to boost my level of understanding. But quite one year ago, I really felt that deeply, noticing that during the last six months attending that weekly course, the progress I was making was mainly due to my own work at home. I think during that time our chinese teacher was less concerned by our learning than by her return back home after her few years in France, but anyway, who will blame her ?

At that time I decided that after four years of group learning, it was high time for me to get a grip on my learning. I already had begun to work on written material, but I’ve been emphasizing that ever since, and I think I made a great leap forward (!) by following that fantastic MOOC I already talked about at the end of a previous post.

Not only did this MOOC make me progress in my understanding of chinese grammar, but it especially encouraged me to find video material that I can follow less harshly than, say, one year ago.


So, what will come next ?

  • Reading, mainly online with the help of dedicated platforms like Decipher Chinese or The Chairman’s Bao.
  • Watching chinese series, for instance you cand find some on YoYo Series Channels, including chinese subtitles, which is essential for understanding.
  • Again & again, reviewing characters on Pleco app, and very soon the Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters will be available.
  • Also I’d like to begin to learn traditional characters, at least for the most common. Simplified characters are by far the most widespread, but I am realizing that the traditional form is essential to really have a full approach of the chinese language, I feel I am missing something.