Learn Chinese at Home – Media
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Chinese movies: Netflix and other platforms have a pretty decent choice of Mandarin movies and TV shows both from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Start watching them.
Often soap operas are a good way to start, especially for beginners because the story lines are not very difficult to follow even if you do not really understand anything they say yet.
Switch on the Chinese subtitles to help with understanding and practice reading and listening at the same time.
And of course: No English subtitles ever!
Chinese Music: Often difficult to understand, but a great way to immerse yourself into Mandarin.
Listen to Chinese music at home and wherever you go. Spotify has a huge selection of Mandarin music, as do all the other popular music apps, just do a search in Chinese characters.
There is also loads of great Cantonese music out there, however that will not help you with your Mandarin, so leave that away for the moment.
Also, when singing there are no tones, so for anyone who isn’t that great with Chinese tones yet, you might not be able to speak yet, but you can sing!
Learn Chinese at Home – Social Life
WeChat Look around: Anyone who wants to learn something about Chinese culture needs WeChat, so make sure you get it.
How to learn Chinese at Home – Make friends
WeChat has a “People Nearby” function, in the “Discovery” section. Because WeChat is the most Chinese software there is, wherever in the world you are, most of the people using this feature will speak Mandarin.
If you find them on “People Nearby” that means they are also in your area.
Send them a message, practice your reading and writing and if the person seems sane (be a bit careful, there are some strange characters around on there too) go and meet them for some Chinese food.
Chinese restaurants: Chances are that wherever you are there is a Chinese restaurant at least somewhere close by.
While not all waiters in Chinese restaurants are actually Chinese, most are and this is a great opportunity to practice your Mandarin.
Ask for the Chinese language menu – they will most likely have one. Speak Mandarin only.
If they say they do not understand you (probably your tones are wrong), just smile and keep speaking.
Sooner or later people will accept that they have to speak Mandarin with you. If you do not understand ask them to repeat.
If you still do not understand just nod and smile. You might not always get the food you wanted, but you will get to practice your Mandarin in very real life which is what it is all about.
And you will see how your speaking skills improve.
Note: Try not to always get the same waiter, as at some point that person will know what you want anyways and bring it to you even if you say it wrong.
Go and challenge yourself with different people.
Chat: There are endless platforms and opportunities to meet Chinese people online. Chat with them.
Make sure they do not want to practice their English with you and are ok to speak Mandarin only.
During chat you have plenty of time to look up characters you do not understand using Pleco (not google translate – see above). With some people it might be possible to use pinyin at the beginning, which is ok, but switch to characters as soon as possible.
Tip: Knowing Chinese characters is a required skill to get to speaking Mandarin fluently, so do not fool yourself thinking that you only want to speak and not read and write. You need them, if you like them or not – though of course its all about reading, not hand