“Talk to locals,” “Speak it daily,” “Always practice.” These are my mantras in learning (or rather self-studying) Chinese but usually …
- When I talk to locals, I talk either in English or get away with my broken Chinese (simple phrases);
- I don’t speak it daily, only when I encounter a non-English speaking local;
- When I practice, I end up just researching something related to characters, such as why rì (day) is written this way: 日.
In my ongoing search for ways to learn and supplement my Chinese study, I stumbled upon some resources which I think are helpful. I’m breaking them down into two parts: (1) free audio-visual materials, and (2) fun game apps and links to help you memorize characters and their tones more efficiently.
With that in mind, this Mandarin Monday post focuses on free audio-visual materials that will help you keep on track.
This is probably one of the most exciting and surprising discoveries I’ve made while learning Chinese. Other laowai might have known this for a while, but for Mandarin beginners like me, it’s such a cool resource that you can use while on the subway or killing time at a cafe. And also because podcasts are downloadable, you can replay any of the episodes as much as you want.
The podcasts I use and feature here are all available on the iTunes store (if you’re using a Mac) or in the native Apple Podcast app. I’ve also begun searching for Mandarin podcasts in Android and will be writing about them in a future Mandarin Monday blog.
Learn Mandarin Now Podcast was the first podcast I discovered. Not only it is free, the speakers also give fun tidbits about phrases and words. Do you know the reasons why the Chinese like 6 and 8 (aside from them having circles, which they say is a lucky sign)? Well, I didn’t, until I heard from one of the podcasts that those numbers sound similar to some auspicious words. Listen to podcast 004 (Counting in Mandarin Chinese) to find out more!
Learn Chinese – Mandarin Chinese Lessons by Melnyks Chinese is another podcast that I like listening to. Its first lesson, as Mandarin teachers usually do, is about basic greetings. Other lessons are about the most common aspects of everyday life, such as what to say when seeing a doctor (lesson 021), or how to receive praises when someone tells your Chinese is good (lesson 018).
Thanks to VPN, we can access YouTube. But when studying Chinese using that site, remember to focus on the lessons, not on the trending list. I usually find that a distraction (especially when a new episode of The Voice is uploaded). But anyway, the fun thing with YouTube is that there are countless channels which teach Chinese.
For example, in a previous Mandarin Monday post, I shared a YouTube video that gave the word “what” five different meanings using the five Chinese tones.
No VPN, No YouTube? No problem. In the world of Chinese social media, there are resources you can freely access!
Of course, we’re in a WeChat country so make use of that search function in your account. You’ll go crazy when you see countless links and blog posts after typing in “Learn Mandarin,” most of which you’ll find repetitive and straight-up boring.
However, there are videos which explain the concept of characters; others use daily life situations which you can relate to. What’s cool is that you don’t need to go out of WeChat just to watch videos! Here are some of the WeChat accounts I follow:
Chinlingo (WeChat ID: ChinlingoChinese) is a formidable subscription account where I always learn something new. Aside from their daily WeChat blogs, they have a video course which makes everything easier (though you need to subscribe first by signing up via email or mobile – for free!)
EngHurry (WeChat ID: EngHurry) is another subscription app that is mostly a combination of blogs, podcasts, and videos. It has a series called “Radical Mandarin” where videos show the ideas behind the most common Chinese radicals. EngHurry also doubles up as a learning resource for English language learners.
Yes, the state TV network has a website full of Chinese language resources! The pages look antiquated, though, and some videos might not work if you don’t have Flash installed in your computer (and they won’t play on your phone either). But this website has tons of text-based resources to supplement your language learning.