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How the best way to learn Chinese

Hi guys,

What is the best way to study Chinese?
How to incorporate studying pinyin, pronunciation and chinese writing?

I’ve been learning for almost year without any progress.

Will be happy to hear your advice!



Besides consistency, I would say to try to find native speakers to talk to. Join a Meetup group or something, or go to a restaurant or place of business and speak Mandarin (if you know the people there speak Mandarin… oh and you should probably buy something too).

Otherwise, consider taking classes if you can. You’ll learn more and have an opportunity to engage in regular conversation.

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Learning chinese is a longterm job. You progress by stages. Most learners experience that feeling that they do not progress or that their progress are too slow. Don’t be disheartened.

Chinese in fact is two languages a spoken language and a written so it takes the double amount of time to learn that another language.

For the written language you have to learn to read and write chinese characters. For beginers I think the best is to handwrite characters do not use pinyin on your computer. The order of stroke is very important there are a lot of online dictionary which shows how to write characters like :

It is also important to learn the radicals because it help you to memorize the writing of chinese characters.

For the spoken language the best is to exchange with chinese friends or to have private lesson with a chinese teacher. It is very hard to learn the chinese pronounciation from books.

Do not try to go to far to fast !

For beginers learn only a list of basics characters like this one (200 chinese characters):

7 pronouns : 我你您他她它们
45 basic verbs : 是有要能可以应该吃喝去来走跑开始写念说看见听学用生等点买卖回到想出进帮忙助叫死知道做喜欢爱
40 basic grammatical words : 不没非了就过因为什么怎和跟吗个这的地得很几也上下里在再把每都对当然肯定起还自所以后前
14 numbers 零一二三四五六七八九十百千第
20 adjectives 大小好多少男女慢快高兴坏长短新老公贵便宜
8 colours 颜色白黑红蓝黄绿
12 noums family人家爸妈夫妻儿子朋友邻居
15 nouns locations 世界国中美北南东西欧亚洲海土山
19 nouns 工作字书钱元饭水电机意思问题结果事街路
7 nouns body 头发手脚眼口脑
13 time 时候间日天明昨月年分常星期

Delete from the list the characters that you already know, and then learn the remaining characters each days only 5.
Learn the 5 characters before to go to bed, and the next morning write these 5 characters to check that you have memorized them.
You can use a software like anki or made your own flashcards. No doubts that whithin one or two month you can master this list.

Then you can try to read very easy text like this chengyu I have copied from a book for children.


他就把土里的每棵小苗苗都往高提了一截—— 回到家,

Bǎ miáo zhùzhǎng

yīgè nóngfū zài dì lǐ zhǒngle màizi, kěshì màimiáo zhǎng dé fēicháng màn.
Tā děng bùjíle, xiǎng ya xiǎng ya, xiǎng chū yīgè hǎo zhǔyì.
Tā shuō:“Xiǎomiáo bù kěn zhǎng, wǒ lái bāng bāngmáng!”
Tā jiù bǎ tǔ lǐ de měi kē xiǎomiáo miáo dōu wǎng gāo tíle yī jié—— huí dàojiā,
nóngfū gāoxìng dì duì línjūmen shuō:“Wǒ zuòle yī jiàn hǎoshì,
bāngzhù xiǎomiáo miáo zhǎng gāole!” Línjū yī tīng, zhīdào huàishì
erle, gǎnjǐn pǎo qù kàn——guǒrán, màimiáo dōu kūsǐle!

Help the seedlings to grow

A farmer had planted wheat in the ground, but the wheat was growing very slowly.
He can not wait, was thinking about it, and came up with a good idea.
He said: “seedlings do not want to grow I help out!”
He pulled upwards each small seedlings
then went back home,
The farmer was happy to say to the neighbors: "I did a good thing, I helped the seedlings to grow taller! "
The neighbor listened and knew that was a bad thing.
The children quickly ran to see - as expected, the wheat seedlings were all dead!

The text contains 121 chinese characters ( 72 differents) only 15 are not in the list of basics characters I have previously given.:slight_smile:

Then you can go to the next stage and write a larger list of characters. But you need always to review the previous list from time to time.



Thank you very much!

Where Can I find radicals which I need to learn?

Should I start from pronunciation, then writing? Should I learn pinyin first?

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Here you can find the complete list of the 214 chinese radicals :

This picture gives the 40 most used radicals (in a first step you can forget the 174 remaining) :

Chinese is really two languages one spoken and one written. The best is to learn both at the same time.

Of course you have to learn pinyin . But pinyin is a bit tricky. You have to listen to the sounds because if you try to pronounce the pinyin as it were english in some cases you may be wrong. I recommend the Say It Right serie on Chinesepod. You can also have a look at :slight_smile:

You can also download this pinyin table with audio :

Last but not least tones are very important.

Qiānlǐ zhī xíng shǐ yú zúxià
A 1000 miles journey starts from the first step

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I’m looking to schedule my chinese studies.

I am working full time job, have family but still have a strong desire to learn chinese. Have very limited free time.

How should I study?

I was listened to chinesepodcast and then making exercises and tried to learn hanji but it doesn’t work.

So how to do it in a better way?

Thank you!!

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This is one way to do it.

Start with the newbie lessons. Whenever you have down time listen to them. That means, washing the dishes? Listen. Commuting to work? Listen. At the gym? Listen more. Don’t think you have to be paying full attention to get in some study time. Kill 2 birds with one stone.

Second, download the ChinesePod pinyin chart and play around with it. Try to devote atleast 15 min a day at the beginning to get a strong foundation. Pinyin is detrimental to learning the language.

Next. Once your comfortable with pinyin, use arch Chinese dictionary to look up the stroke order of the characters in a Chinese pod lesson. Then write them out with a pen and paper. Do this everyday for the next year, even if it’s 5 minutes a day, by the times the years up you will be so familiar with how characters are written, learning new ones won’t be an issue of difficulty just time.

Now also, when your learning at the beginning stages it’s crucial to have fun with the language in order to further motivate oneself. That means, learn basic greetings and things to say to people you don’t know. Then whenever you see someone who looks even remotely Chinese, say whatever you can remember to them. This is the fun part and will motivate you to learn more.

The key is just do something everyday in Chinese and before you know it you will know the language at some kind of level.


I feel i’m making more progress since i moved away from pure (written) Pinyin.
I’ve started using Skritter (in combination with Pleco) and went through the basic characters using the HSK 1, 2 and 3 vocabulary and then started adding all the vocab from the CP lessons which I don’t know when i need it. I’ve also switched all the CP exercises to use Chinese characters.

Old Martin,

Thanks for the radical links and charts. They are very helpful for me.

感谢激进的链接和图表。 他们对我很有帮助

Gǎnxiè jījìn de liànjiē hé túbiǎo. Tāmen duì wǒ hěn yǒu bāngzhù

all depends on what you want to be able to do. I decided to skip learning characters. In one way of course this limits me a bit in understanding - on the other hand however I got within 3 years besides my job to advanced level and fluent for daily life. Being able to understand most tv shows and slowly also most drama or movies. News are still impossible to me. I did have some Chinese classes many years before but never made it far at all. Not getting to much more than greetings or super simple phrases.

I always try to immerse and never learned vocabs during those 3 years. Even skipped the audio review of the lessons.

Now I’m slowly trying to just read the Chinese subs on easier content to learn reading that way. No-one needs to write with a pen anymore and I absolutely hate it (also in latin alphabet). If you can read, you can type on a pc/phone. And the algos choosing the characters get better and better - it*s actually easier to write than to read.

From most people I know who managed to get to C1/C2 on writing - it was 6 months full time going through flashcards to learn the most important 4000-5000 characters. While kinda everyone trying it slowly failed. That’s besides people studying Chinese at university or Sinology. Must say - most of them even with a Masters degree talk pretty poorly, understanding even worse considering the amount of time they spent.

If you have the endurance to start with characters - likely it’s faster. Met a couple of people passing HSK6 within a year from starting to learn. But that was 14 hours per day learning characters. I could not do it this way. I’m way too lazy. I only consume and immerse - but never sit down and learn. But I used a lot of time listening to chinesepod while doing sports or driving in a car, sitting on public transport. I

I still kinda freak out when I think about I have to start learning characters one point to achieve my goal of reading too. But I think being already fluent makes it easier. I know the grammar, know the sentence structure, no the translation - so can guess a lot of characters while reading now. But it’s the opposite way around of how most people learn. If you love drawing characters - do that. If you hate it - don’t listen to all those saying learning chinese without characters is impossible.

I did live in Taiwan for 5 month, and travelled once alone for 5 weeks through China. I plan to go to Taiwan again for 1.5 years or so. It’s not that much of an advantage however.

Hard to say to which level I got. Some people say it’s low C1, some high C1. I surely could not pass HSK6 because I never went through the list of vocab. I have no problems to go out with groups of Chinese and participate in talks - as long as it’s not getting into scientific topics. If someone helps me with the characters on cards - I can play werewolf for example - and usually my Chinese will be more fluent than anyones English if I play werewolf in Taiwan or China. However there will be a few people with much bigger vocabulary in English - but they are not fluent because of lack of experience talking English.
Just self studied without much structure means I sometimes miss really easy words or only understand them passively. But then I can usually describe them differently.

And yeah - forget about pinyin after the basics. At some point it becomes easy to spell a word in pinyin without even understanding it. Covid travel restrictions block my process a bit however. Otherwise I could have spent more time in China and Taiwan.

At some timepoints I would listen all night to Chinesepod - but my sleep was really bad and not sure how much it helped. Stopped it after 10 days trying or so.