5 Best Ways to Harness Technology to Learn Mandarin
This article is contributed by a guest writer.
From computers to cell phones, advancements in technology have changed the ways we learn languages, and the impact of technology for learning Mandarin has been positive, too.
To help students discover the best tips for learning Chinese with technology, this article will discuss how the smart use of technology makes learning Chinese more effective. It will also give some pointers so students can further their own studies with the most useful tools that are out there right now.
Among other effects, the integration of technology in Chinese study programs has allowed students to:
- feel more comfortable learning Chinese as a beginner;
- spend their study time more effectively;
- communicate with native speakers on the other side of the world;
- find more and better study materials;
- learn Chinese vocabulary with increased efficiency.
These are some of the benefits that Chinese learners can take advantage of with the help of technology. Let’s look at each benefit in more detail now.
Ease into Your Studies
It’s widely known that significant differences between Chinese and English make Chinese a very difficult language for English speakers to learn. This difficulty can make potential Chinese learners hesitant to start their studies, even when they’re interested in the benefits of learning Chinese.
With the explosion of language learning apps catering to beginners, getting started with Chinese is easier than ever before. Many allow learners to get their feet wet through gradual lesson progressions and engaging games, so taking that first step is less intimidating.
Apps like ChineseSkill, YoYo Chinese, HelloChinese, and DuoLingo can help you overcome the fear of learning Chinese. The apps offer approachable lessons and exercises designed to acquaint new learners with Mandarin. Users make their way through the app’s curriculum on their own, so learners can build a strong foundation at their own pace.
Spend Your Time Wisely
Technology for learning Chinese enables students to spend more study time doing activities that actually matter. Digital and pop-up dictionaries are good examples of this.
If you encounter characters you don’t know when you’re following a purely paper-and-pencil study program, then you have to look them up using a physical Chinese-English dictionary. These dictionaries can be difficult to navigate, and you can easily end up wasting precious study time just finding the entry you need.
If you read a book on your mobile device or computer with a good dictionary installed, you can instantly call up information about a specific character or word. If you need to refresh your memory of what tone a word is or what it means, you only need to spend a few seconds. The time you save this way can be used to get further in your reading or to brush up on other skills.
Get Your Mandarin Vocabulary to the Next Level
Get ready to say goodbye to your paper flashcards, because technology makes your Mandarin vocabulary practice easier to manage, more efficient, and more effective.
A well-developed example of this is spaced repetition software. While you can keep track of how well you know words and characters in Chinese manually, it becomes exceedingly hard to do so as your vocabulary grows. Keeping track of hundreds of paper flashcards can be difficult to manage; keeping track of thousands can be near impossible.
Technology can take care of this burden for you. Hack Chinese is a great tool for refreshing your memory because it uses the methodology of spaced repetition. Using this technique, Hack Chinese schedules vocabulary reviews for you when you’re at risk of forgetting certain words and characters. This ensures you retain what you’ve already learned while saving you time.
Connect with Native Speakers
There’s no better way to practice speaking and listening to Chinese than conversing with a native speaker. However, not everyone lives in a Chinese-speaking region where in-person conversations are possible.
With the internet, you can easily find friends, language exchange partners, and teachers to learn Chinese online, effectively eliminating the distance between you and native speaker conversation partners. You can find someone to help you practice right where you live right now.
This is how tools like HelloTalk can help. HelloTalk is a language exchange app that has over one million users. It’s easy to find native speakers from China willing to help you practice Chinese, so you can take advantage of practicing with native speakers while saving yourself the cost of a plane ticket.
Access the Best Resources
A good Chinese learning program will expose you to many different learning sources so that you expand the breadth of your knowledge. Technology for learning Chinese increases your access to learning materials.
While in the past students were limited to textbooks and perhaps a few other resources like cumbersome CDs, today you can find almost unlimited audio and text reading materials online.
ChinesePod is an example of a Mandarin podcast app that can supply you with a wealth of content. It offers thousands of audio lessons, something which would never have been produced without a global market.
Technology has really brought about a revolution in language learning, but it’s a tool that needs to be used wisely. Technology on its own won’t get you fluent in Mandarin. You still need to keep yourself motivated and be smart about how you study, making sure to incorporate a variety of activities into your study plan that target your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills while also building up your knowledge of Chinese grammar and vocabulary. So, don’t throw out your textbooks just yet.
As long as you do keep your studies balanced and consistent, technology will revamp and enhance the way you study Chinese. Check out some of the apps mentioned in this article to get started.
This article is contributed by Daniel Nalesnik, Founder of Hack Chinese
Daniel moved to China in 2009 for a year of full-time Mandarin immersion at Peking University (in Beijing) and Fudan University (in Shanghai). In the years since he has worked with teachers throughout China to discover what learning methods are most impactful for Mandarin Chinese learners. This experience inspired Daniel to found Hack Chinese, a spaced-repetition platform for learning Mandarin Chinese.