There’s a lot of information on the internet on how to be fluent in a new language, FAST. Many of them will contain tips and tricks, offer mnemonic devices, and even “research-developed study methods” offered at a high price. And while some of these methods are effective, there’s more to learning a language than studying. In fact, to learn a language quickly, you need to have the following components:
Have you ever tried to master something you hated? It’s a long and exhausting road. However, learning a skill that you love doing is much easier. Find reasons why you love learning Chinese, or why you want to learn Chinese. Is it to communicate better with a loved one? To increase your career prospects? Keep that in mind as you pursue mastering the language. Social theorists and psychologists agree that motivation increases the initiation and persistence in activities, meaning that you will start learning something you actually WANT to learn.
Sometimes, learning a new language can be frustrating, and dampen your motivation. It is important to look at all different areas of the language and find what makes it fun again. Maybe it’s stumbling across a Chinese web-comic or discovering a beautiful ancient poem. Every language opens so many doors, and rediscovering your passion can be quite rewarding.
The best language classes have content tailored to each individual learner. This is where a lot of textbooks and traditional lectures fall short. For example, a businessman that frequently travels to China does not need to learn the sentence, “I’m buying flowers for my grandmother.” It would be much more applicable for him to learn business terminology and phrases to use at work.
Relevant content also helps keep the learning process engaging, since you can practice what you learn immediately. Context is key when learning a new language. You are more likely to retain information that you use, and this applies to common phrases.
Related: Why Lectures Don’t Work
There’s nothing more effective than 1-on-1 interaction when learning a new language. By speaking to someone in that language, you can reinforce what you’ve learned. That’s why small classes are much more effective than big lecture halls, and partly why Mandarin immersion schools are so popular.
Interaction allows you to hear how a language is spoken, and you can respond accordingly. Every language has it’s own unique cadence and rhythm. Chinese in particular, has a unique tonal system. This subtleties are best learned when speaking with a native speaker.
On top of that, interaction allows you to pick up on grammar cues. Think about how you talk in your native language. You aren’t worried about things like subject-verb agreement. You simply talk. That’s how many people learn language via interaction.
Finally, languages are quickly acquired when a student has constant exposure to the language itself. Ideally, to fully master a language, you would move to a country where there language is spoken. However, for most people that is inconvenient or impossible. The best way to reinforce your learning is to find ways to practice daily, whether it be through a 1-on-1 class or by finding a native speaker to practice with.