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Insider’s Guide to Chinese Study Hacks

Sep. 14, 2018

Vocabulary plays an important role in learning new languages and Chinese is no exception. Of course, attending a regular course is essential but it may not be enough. Everybody has a different learning style, as well. Here are 6 smart ways to quickly improve your Chinese vocabulary based on your learning style.

1. 阅读 (Yuèdú) Reading

HSK 3 quiz

The top recommendation for improving vocabulary is by “阅读 (yuèdú) reading.” Reading works well for people of varying ages and interests. By reading regularly you will enhance your cognitive ability since this hobby allows for continuous learning. You don’t even have to stop and check Chinese vocabulary while reading, you can understand it according to the context, which can enrich your vocabulary immensely. A few easily accessible reading resources include Chinese Reading and Slow Chinese 慢速中文.

2. 善用工具-平板电脑 (Shàn yòng gōngjù-píngbǎn diànnǎo) Use a tablet tool

HSK 3 quiz

Reading e-books rather than hard copies has one advantage in particular. You can “善用工具-平板电脑 (shàn yòng gōngjù-píngbǎn diànnǎo) use a tablet tool.” So the next time you read an e-book, pay attention to words you don’t know, pick them out, and look them up using the dictionary. Many tablets have a dictionary function so you don’t have to leave the page you are reading. This simple feature helps you expand your vocabulary in a completely natural way. Many e-books now have this feature and if you read a lot it will definitely be beneficial.

3. 看电视剧 (Kàn diànshìjù) Watching TV

HSK 3 quiz

If you don’t have the mental energy to sit down and focus on strictly reading then the second best option is to watch Chinese movies or series. This is not just a pleasant way to relax, it can also increase your vocabulary. “看电视剧 (kàn diànshìjù) watching TV” and reading the same subject is an efficient way to learn. This phenomenon, called “dual coding”, is when you read something and then see it on the screen. Then you will remember the content better because it is a visual enhancement of what you have read.

Even if you feel that you don’t learn well visually, this method is very effective. One free and highly recommended show is “家有儿女 (Jiā yǒu érnǚ) Home With Kids” on Youtube. This mini-series has a simple story line, a rich plot, and is easy to follow while being funny and charming. This drama has been written as a textbook for teaching Chinese as a foreign language and therefore, is a good choice for self-study.

4. 看动画片 (Kàn dònghuàpiān) Watching cartoons

HSK 3 quiz

Although cartoons are mainly intended for children, they can be a good resource for learning Chinese too.

While watching TV programs and movies are a fantastic way to improve vocabulary, it may seem too fast paced if you are brand new to learning Chinese. There is an alternative, however. Have you thought about “看动画片 (kàn dònghuàpiān) watching cartoons” instead? Don’t underestimate cartoons. They generally use everyday language and can help you learn basic vocabulary that you need as a foundation for understanding Chinese. Check out “成龙历险记(Chénglóng lìxiǎn jì) Jackie Chan Adventures)”, “大头儿子小头爸爸 (Dàtóu érrzi xiǎotóu bàba) The Big Head Son and Little Head Father” or even “天线宝宝 (Tiānxiàn bǎobao) Teletubbies” for starters.

5. 学中文歌 (Xué zhōngwén gē) Learn Chinese songs

HSK 3 quiz

The best method for retaining information is to say it out loud. In this case, singing out loud is just as good. Some people have the ability to memorize every lyric to all of their favorite songs. For those of you who love to sing along to music try applying this method to learning new Chinese vocabulary words. If you “学中文歌 (xué zhōngwén gē) learn Chinese songs”, it can stimulate your interest in learning Chinese. Learning to sing Chinese songs has a deeper theoretical foundation. It’s very useful as a listening exercise as it can train your ear and stimulate your brain to retain new information more effectively. Try singing along to one of the most famous Chinese love songs “月亮代表我的心 (Yuèliàng dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn) The Moon Represents My Heart” or “明明就 (Míngmíng jiù) Obviously.”

6. 旅行 (Lǚxíng) Travel

HSK 3 quiz

For those of you who are able to “旅行 (lǚxíng) travel” it is a highly beneficial way to increase your vocabulary knowledge. If you travel and experience something new, you will have naturally gained new knowledge as well. You can accomplish this by simply going to a museum or taking a walk down a street in a new city. If you open your eyes and look for new experiences and meet strangers, you will encounter many useful words. People who are interested in the world around them inevitably become more knowledgeable than those who are not curious and are not exposed to new information. You just need to choose the destination that interests you and then set off for your new adventure.

Choose a few of these study hacks to help learn more vocabulary words in an effective manner depending on your preferred learning style. Whether it’s reading, singing, exploring China, or even watching cult classic Chinese films, you are sure to pick up a handful of vocabulary words that aren’t common in textbooks. These methods have the potential to enrich your learning experience and allow you to enjoy the process. Comment below to share your favorite Chinese movie, book, or song titles.

Further reading on study tips:
● How to Improve Your Spoken Chinese
● Tips on Writing Chinese Characters
● Learn Chinese Pinyin-Consonant

HSK 3 quiz

1. Read the dialogue and then answer the question.

A: Nǐ gāngcái zuò shénme le?
A: 你刚才做什么了?

B: Wǒ gāngcái kàn le Chénglóng lìxiǎn jì.
B: 我刚才看了《成龙历险记》 。

What does “成龙历险记” refer to in this dialogue?

A. 歌曲 (Gēqǔ)

B. 舞蹈 (Wǔdǎo)

C. 动画片 (Dònghuàpiān)

See Answer Analysis

— Written by Julia Liu —
Julia Liu teaches Chinese with eChineseLearning. She has been successfully teaching for 5 years and loves reading and practices her passion of drawing in her free time.

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