If you are as busy as we are, you only have so much time to study Mandarin Chinese. This really means two things. First, you will benefit if you set specific learning goals. How fluent do you need to be? Do you need to learn to write Chinese characters? Second, you will also benefit if you identify the right tools. These tools should support the goals you listed above.
Your Chinese Language Learning Goals
We’ve already discussed how fluent you need to speak Mandarin Chinese. We have even argued that most people should not strive for fluency in Mandarin. We developed our basic 12 week course with the idea of giving you what you need to know to do business in China. You can learn more about what we think you need to know here.
Should You Learn to Write Chinese Characters?
For most people the answer is again no. You should not invest the time it takes to memorize two or three thousand Chinese characters it takes to write articles. Before you go down this path, consider how you will use the characters. Will you be writing essays in Chinese by hand? If not, consider the alternative of simply learning to read Chinese characters and using pinyin to type the characters into your computer. If you decide that you must learn to write Chinese characters, consider Skritter or another learning tool. We do recommend that you learn to read at least some basic characters that will help you with everyday life. You might consider looking at some flashcard apps on your smart phone.
To be useful an app should include:
- the English translation of the word (of course!)
- the ability to see the pinyin including the tone.
- and include the sound of the word.
- the correct version of characters for your study.