Step 1 – Learn to Speak Chinese

As promissed I am starting to describe my way of learning Chinese.

I started right after coming back from China.

Step one: Chinese schools check
This was easy. In a few minutes I found several Chinese schools in the centre of Warsaw. But when I started to read their websites it occured to me I have no idea how to choose. How am I supposed to decide if I have NO knowledge?
The answer to this was easy: call the Chinese embassy. So I did. I was directed to one of the previously found schools. Unfortunately it turned out that the courses won’t start until mid January. I chose my group (beginner’s intensive, 4 days a week), paid the money and waited.

Step two: Time cannot be wasted!
So I decided to learn on my own. I imagined my course group as people highly motivated to learn Chinese, people who will devote time and energy, people with a goal. I thought that learning things on my own means good preparation (and faster learning during the course).

I had to find some resources. I started to look for a good book with audio. I came upon this book:

My first thought was: OH NO!!!
It looked hard. Already in the first lesson there were loads of text in Chinese. Not pinyin. Chinese. It seemed impossible. But word by word and sign by sign, I tried to write and read. Then I moved to the Chinese sentences and I detected the signs I have already seen. Well, I spent almost a month over this book and I only managed to get through to the 3rd lesson. But the time was well used. It is a great book, you really can use it on your own and you fill not forget a single word! Promise!

Ok. So how did I “Learn to Speak Chinese”?
Here is a simple formula.
Each Lesson consists of: dialogues/text, new words, some theory and drills.


The audio includes the dialogues/text, new words and drills.
So what I did was very simple:
1. Listen to the audio with the Chinese in fron of your eyes.
2. Write down all of the new words in 3 colums: column 1:Chinese sign, column 2:pinyin, column 3: English meaning.
3. Play the audio again. Repeat the words. Do it 10 times.
4. Write all the dialogues in 2 columns: column 1: pinyin, column 2: Chinese sign. NOTE: I tried to write as many Chinese signs as possible from my memory – already at this point!!
5. Write all the dialogues in 2 columns: columns 1: Chinese signs, column 2: pinyin. NOTE: I tried to write as much of the pinyin transcription as possible using my memory. Believe me or not – I managed to do the most of it beginning from lesson one!
6. Write down all the signs that you feel you don’t know yet, or you feel uncertain of. Write them again and again. Whole lines of them.
7. Play the audio again. Look at the dialogues and try to read or repeat.
8. Make sure you understand all the Chinese sentences. If you don’t, you can write the meaning down with your pencil next to the sentences.
9. My favourite: DICTATION! Yes, you can do this. You just need a little obedience to yourself. Just play the audio – one sentence, and stop. Try to write it down. Play it again, even 3 times if you need it. Continue to the end.
10. Now check your dictation. Mark all mistakes in red. Then, in red, write the mistaken signs below the dictation in one column and finish the lines with them.
11. Now write pinyin of all the words form this lesson in one column. Try to fill the second column with the Chinese signs. Check it and mark all mistakes in red.
12. Repeat the dictation.
By now you should know all the words.

The first lesson (21 words, 29 signs) took me 5 days, 60 minutes each day. I think that doing all of it in one day wouldn’t work as well – at least not for me.

As you can see – it is a time consuming method. But such are all methods when you have no conversations and no teacher to help you.