5 Tips To Help You Learn Chinese Vocabulary

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Mandarin By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Chinese » Mandarin
Last updated: 17/03/2017
Tags: chinese vocabulary, tips to learn chinese

Vocabulary plays a fundamental role in mastering a new foreign language. Having a good command of words allows you to further develop the all-round skills of the target language. Learning Mandarin Chinese is no exception. Here are some tips that may help you learn Chinese words more quickly and efficiently.

1.Create your own flash cards.

Flashcards are commonly used by learners of foreign languages owing to their simplicity, efficiency and versatility. Here I want to highlight making your own flashcards, which allows you to gain a good understanding of the details of words, e.g. tones and stroke sequences. Create your cards with characters and pinyin on one side and translation in English on the reverse, then, create one or two sentences around the words to ensure you know how to use them. Try to make the sentences close to reality - use real details and people in your life as it will enhance your brain to remember it better and longer.

2.Create the environment in which Chinese characters are always in sight if possible.

As there is no other way around remembering a bounty of words, make sure they are always in your sight – on your bedside table, on the doors of your kitchen cupboards or fridge, on a wall or your laptop desktop, taking flashcards with you on public transport, etc. so that you're constantly exposed to them to keep your eye in.

3. Learn words in context, rather than isolated words.

The separate words will lose their meaning without context. The ultimate objective of learning any kind of foreign language is to communicate, therefore, learn words in sentences. The issue with learning new words in a foreign language is that you don’t have any context to link it to. So, you need to find a way to make some context. Ideally pick anything relating to your life, e.g. instead of remembering ‘性格(personality)’, remember ‘我欣赏他的性格(I admire his personality)’; instead of learning the word ‘潮湿(damp)’, learn ‘我住的城市夏天很潮湿(My city is humid in summer)’.  When you take time to think about a word, your brain is in the process of taking in and engaging with it, hence it has something to relate to and can remember it longer.

4. Describe a funny cartoon/image with a sentence constructed with the words you have just learnt.

When it comes to learning words, you cannot help thinking about dull and laborious repetition, but what if the drill turns out to be word games with funny cartoons or interesting images? How about practising the word by creating a sentence set in an amusing environment? This way can not only intrigue you to remember words but also develop a good understanding of word usage.

5. Use study tools, e.g. Skritter and Memrise.

Study tools can enhance learning efficiency. Skritter, for instance, is the tool widely used by learners of Chinese language to build and improve their capacity to write characters and suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners.

It embraces such features as direct feedback, tone practice and measurable progress. Also, it has stored HSK vocabulary on the systems, so there is no need to download or type anything. Skritter is easy, efficient and fun!

There are many methods for learning Chinese vocabulary and every learner should be audacious to experiment various approaches to find the most suitable one. The key point is not to fall into boredom, but to find a way that is fun, intriguing and productive. 


Ning Chen Mandarin Tutor (Southampton)

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