How to Learn Chinese The Most Effective Way

Hi All,

TLDR: I watched Looper a couple of years ago and now want to learn Chinese. What is the best way to get started?

From the days the good ol "Make in Japan" wasn't a thing anymore, we all kinda suspected that, sooner or later, China is going to cross the leap from being a good copier and labour intensive doer of things to a worthy powerhouse which can create a significant amount of knowledge. This was basically like an oxygen to the heat and fuel and there we had fire (a good fire I should stress). They could utilise decades worth of manufacturing knowledge to give birth to their ideas in a fraction of a time to the creators sitting in California and pressing print.

And here we are. Every day I bump into more products and interfaces which talk Chinese to me and some even expect us to speak back to them in Chinese, such as the latest Xiaomi 70 Minutes Car Camera (AKA, Xiaomi 70mph Dashcam, apparently).

Haha. However, consumerism aside, having a basic knowledge of Chinese language adds us a fair bit of value on the job marketability side of the things. For example, my job title as an R&D Electronics Engineer, would sound a whole lot better if I could understand Chinese, so I could interpret the latest datasheets for the Chinese made electronics modules, radios etc., communicate to our fabrication houses more efficiently or even find better alternatives for lots of the things from websites which don't have a word of English in them.

I am no stranger to learning languages as you might have already guessed English is not my 1st language. And in fact, it is 3rd. (Forth if I want to be bragging off top of my head and include the one that I cannot make a sentence in it anymore even if I tried the hardest.) But CHINESE is whole new ball game. In a couple of times in the past, I have tried and gone nowhere.

What would YOU suggest? Have you learned Chinese and now can get your boat across? How hard was it? What is the realistic time frame for me till I sit in a room full of Chinese native speakers and could guess the main topic of conversation after 10 mins of listening to them talking.

Or even, if you are from the future, and believe I should totally forget about Chinese and learn, I dunno, Dothraki or something. Keen to know.

If you're voting, the option #1 is proven to be effective but dunno how, other than going and living in China for a significant amount of time. So please elaborate on that.

Poll Options

  • 17
    Submerge myself in Chinese.
  • 2
    Mobile Phone Apps
  • 0
  • 0
  • 1


  • get a bf/gf with cn background

    • Very very good point. Got an Aussie partner though. That's how I learned most of my Australian English hahah… :D
      but again. Very valid point. Had a Chinese colleague for a while but he wasn't keen on teaching me much (No motive you know lol)

    • Can be problematic depending on which region and country they're from. I pronounce words differently to how most mandarin speakers would.

    • I have a gf from Shanghai, and so far I can say Hello, you're welcome, and big boobs

      It limits conversation

  • Watch 'If you are the one'.

    • This. Watching that show would give one the impetus to learn that language. Credit to all the non Chinese on the show that not only nail the tones but also known what Chinese girls want.

    • Op should watch kids shows in Chinese, they use basic language

    • Looking at startup scene in Beijing and hardware scene in Shenzhen, I'll beg to differ.

  • +1 vote

    Chinesepod was great a while back. No idea what it's like these days, but it was a great tool for basic to intermediate language skills. Loads of Chinese language TV shows and movies around too. I'm sure there's audiobooks too.

    Immersing yourself in a language doesn't always mean living there, but also getting familiar with the language from every available source at every opportunity. Even if you can't understand what they are saying while watching the Mandarin news on SBS, listening to the tones and patterns of the language will help and as you get better, you'll find you're picking more and more up every time.

  • +1 vote

    get a stern asian dad to beat you whilst you learn and repeat chinese logo-grams until you get it in your (profanity) head

    or, you know, you can try memrise lol, its a pretty good app and they use visual material and known context to help you learn

    • Haha. That's hilarious. And thanks for the recommendation on Memorise. Will definitely look into it

  • I am no stranger to learning languages as you might have already guessed English is not my 1st language. And in fact, it is 3rd. (Forth if I want to be bragging off top of my head and include the one that I cannot make a sentence in it anymore even if I tried the hardest.)

    I actually didnt guess that. Funny.

  • Combination of taking lessons and watch Chinese tv with subtitles

    If you want to get fluent you’ll have to live there for a short period of time at least

  • Like any language, once you get a grasp of some basic phrases/words, you must not be afraid to make a fool of yourself. In my neighbourhood, when I go for walks, I meet Mandarin-speaking people, especially the older people who are not in a hurry and glad to stop for a chat. I struck up conversations with them using the limited vocab I know, most of the talking are done by them, I listen, and try to converse. If I can follow what is said, and I try to answer, they usually help me fill in the words/phrases (that helps me learn). I have gotten intonations wrong, ended up saying wrong things, probably embarrassing ones, as evidenced by laughter from the other side. But I still persist, and try not to be embarrassed and laugh along.

    I still have a lot of trouble listening to news broadcast, not sure if and when I will ever achieve this. Contrary to popular belief, I found that watching Chinese movies and reading subtitles is not an effective language learning tool. When I do, I often lose the flow/enjoyment of the movie, as I will be fixated in mentally repeating phrases etc.

  • Watch the Catherine Tate sketch- it will have you speaking several languages in just a couple of minutes. 😂

    • Thanks. Went searching for it after your comment, 'cos I have watched her a fair bit in Dr Who and know she can be funny. Guess you meant this sketch. Have me laughing till the tears roll …

  • i'm curious are you trying to learn mandarin or cantonese?

    i've been using this on youtube to learn little easy sentences and sayings.

    i first taught myself by watching that chinese dating show "If You are The One" when it first came on tv about 5 or so years ago.

    or this will teach you some chengdu dialect lol gua laowai

  • Download the WeChat app (chinese version of whatsapp with more features). Go to your area or cbd or a uni and open your app. There is a feature were you can discover Wechat users around you, start adding. Chinese people are generally very friendly. Many international students actually wants to learn english but struggles at making english speaking friends, so there's your chance, hangout with them and learn from eachother. Or just use tinder and swipe and cute chinese looking girls, if your girl friend find out, you can just say you're learning chinese, maybe land a 3some, win!

  • Don't know if it's the most effective way, however Duolingo recently added Mandarin for English speakers and I've been enjoying completing the lessons. They have an iOS app (which is what I use) and an Android App.