Chinese characters are often cited as the scariest part of learning Chinese. As a language filled with pictographs, speakers of English (and other Latin origin languages) may feel intimidated by a language that is not alphabet-based. Not to worry, this daily trick will help you learn and remember Chinese vocabulary fast in your everyday life!
- When you leave your house in the morning, you want to be in a learning mode. Stick a post it by your door to remind yourself to learn new words today.
- As you walk to work or go about your day, keep an eye out for things around you. Maybe you see a car. Ask yourself, “do I know how to say “car” in Chinese?” If you do know, say it to yourself. (Hint: it’s “车 (chē)”.)
- Every time you do know a word, try using it in a sentence. Maybe the car is red. “那个车是红色的.” “That car is red.”
Here’s where the unknown vocabulary comes in
- Every time you see something you don’t know how to say in Chinese, write it down on your phone. You may know how to say “car” but not “taxi.” You may encounter a street food vendor selling skewers or Chinese snacks. You might see a pigeon fly away. You don’t have to look up the word right away, just make sure you have noted it down.
- At the end of the day, sit down at your desk and take out your list of unknown vocabulary words. Go through each one and write it down on a notepad. We recommend anywhere between 5 and 20 new words a day.
- Look up the word online in Chinese. We like Pleco among other dictionary apps, but Google Translate will also work. Listen to the pronunciation and write the pinyin down.
- Write the characters down underneath 5 times. This is build character recognition.
That’s it! The next morning, you will probably encounter some of the same things you saw yesterday, and you can remind yourself what you learned. “Oh, that’s a pigeon, which is “鸽子” in Chinese.”
This learning method seems basic, but works wonders if you keep it up every day. It will rapidly expand on your vocabulary by using things you see every single day.
This method was inspired by English With Lucy. You can watch her video here.