There are many people learning Mandarin Chinese as a second language. Some are learning so that when they travel to China or Taiwan, they will be able to greet and talk to people there. Others are learning because their parents want them to be able to talk to relatives in Asia. There are also those who don’t plan on traveling overseas anytime soon but want to be able to communicate with friends they’ve made at school, work, or even online from Asia. So what is the best way to learn Chinese?
There are many Chinese learning programs available both online and offline. However, many do not have a plan for helping students to remember what they’ve learned. For example, there are tutoring programs where students spend time talking to a tutor on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. However, once the students stop taking the tutoring sessions, they have no one to practice with. Eventually, they will forget everything they’ve learned.
Others will have students do a lot of writing characters which takes a lot of time. Eventually, these students learn how to write maybe, a few hundred characters at most. But when they stop taking the classes, they forget most of what they’ve learned because they don’t need to write once the classes are over.
Our approach is to have students learn to read Chinese online. By providing students with new and interesting stories about various topics such as fictional stories, STEM, nature, geography, and culture, students are enticed to continue reading for fun. This way, they will remember what they’ve learned and continue to learn. As long as they continue their subscription to the Mandarin Reading Club, they will have access to new reading material, in both Simplified and Traditional characters, which is interesting and challenging for their level. The monthly subscription fee is a tiny cost compared to tutoring sessions or classes. Eventually, by the time students grow out of the Mandarin Reading Club, they will be able to comprehend much of the online media available to them on the Web and mobile apps such as articles subtitled movies, TV shows, and Karaoke enabled music videos.
When students learn to read Chinese online, they are also able to read text messages from social media platforms and messenger apps. In this day and age, the main form of communication with our friends from Asia is through text messaging. The ability to read Mandarin Chinese is a critical skill for anyone wanting to communicate or do business with Chinese speakers in Asia.
Some may ask if you don’t teach writing, how can students write Chinese to communicate? Well, the good news is that in the process of learning to read, we teach pronunciation using Pinyin and Bopomofo. Both Pinyin and Bopomofo are also used for writing input for messenger apps. Therefore, in the process of learning to read Chinese online, students are also learning to write online! This is why our method of learning to read Chinese first is the most beneficial to students and provides a long term strategy to help them remember the language through reading online material and text messaging friends and potential business partners (in the future).