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Things you wish you had known when you started to learn Chinese

Back on a discussion with my students for things they had realized over time that they wished they had known when they were first starting to learn Chinese. Some of them may listen to others and some of them may first start on their own, but they all have to learn something that has been ignored in the very beginning backwards. I summarize their regrets and list the seven points below.

  1. The importance of focus in learning Chinese: You can schedule, plan, use a whole variety of material and spend a lot of money, and none of it will make a shred of difference without genuine determination, focus and a willingness to succeed.
  2. The importance of learning the proper tones: Get the tones right at the beginning, however annoying it might be!
  3. The importance of learning the characters: Memorize character's appearance, the meaning, tones and the pinyin.
  4. The importance of learning things in context: The *meaning* of a character should be learned in context and the *sound* of a character should be learned as it occurs in the flow of real Chinese speech.
  5. The importance of a well-structured study plan: Evaluate your Chinese learning structure and put together a study schedule which you can stick to.
  6. The importance of finding a decent textbook: Make good use of your text books and dictionary to supplement what you have learned.
  7. The importance of getting a teacher: Unless you happen to be an experienced language learner or some kind of linguistic genius, the only things you will 'pick up as you go along' will be the common cold and bad habits. Get a decent teacher and make full use of him.