Your first 100 Chinese characters

Which characters should you learn first? You could start by learning the most common characters first. Many common characters are simple (e.g. 人, 了, 个) but many others are more complex (e.g. 要, 着, 睡). Alternatively, you could start by learning the radicals, many of which are also characters. This can be useful. Once you learn the radical 鱼 (fish), for example, you will recognize that 鲸, 鲨 and 鲶 are types of fish (or animals that resemble fish). Other radicals are reduced forms of characters (e.g. 犬 becomes犭), though, and the resemblance is often lost.  Read the full PDF here: Your first 100 Chinese characters

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Chinese characters

Consider the Latin alphabet of 26 letters. Each letter is a symbol that represents a sound in an arbitrary way. We then combine these symbols to form words. For example, the letter combination h-o-r-s-e does not resemble a horse or anything horse-like. But the Chinese character for horse is 马 (= ma3), which does resemble a horse. This is because Chinese uses characters (or logograms).  Read the full PDF here: chinese-characters

Language learning skills

The four traditional language skills are: (i) reading, (ii) listening, (iii) writing and (iv) speaking.  Reading and listening are examples of passive skills because they require the language learner to respond to input.  Writing and speaking are examples of active skills because they require the language learner to produce output.  The biggest problem with learning a language at school is that your passive knowledge (i.e. what you know about the language) tends to exceed your active knowledge (i.e. what you can actually say or write) by a considerable margin. Continue reading

5 tips for learning a language

I think that language learning = 1/3 motivation + 1/3 hard work + 1/3 smart work.  Many people are not successful because they have two out of three of these things.  Motivation and hard work are important, but they are partially wasted if you are not following an effective learning method.  Smart work and hard work are important, but they are partially wasted if you do not actually love the language.  In this article I give 5 tips for learning a language: (i) set realistic goals, (ii) have the right motivation, (iii) find native speakers, (iv) don’t rely on books and (v) turn input into output. Continue reading

5 criteria for choosing a foreign language

There are many benefits to learning a foreign language.  It may help your job prospects and expand your cultural horizons.  It may also boost your social life and be a rewarding intellectual challenge.  What’s more, in many cases it is clear which foreign language will be most beneficial to you.  Perhaps you want to talk to your partner in his or her native language.  Or perhaps you already have an interest in the history or culture of a foreign country.  In these cases, your choice of foreign language is made for you.  But it is often difficult to decide which foreign language to learn. Continue reading

5 reasons to learn a foreign language

At school, I chose French as an A-Level option.  I took part in twinning activities and I stayed with a French family for a week.  At university, I completed the Student Associates Scheme and I studied abroad for a semester as part of the Erasmus Program.  Thanks to this, I was an Erasmus Ambassador for the British Council.  In 2014 I moved to China in order to teach English and to discover another culture and language.  I now have a Chinese wife and I practise my languages every day.  I love language learning and it has opened up many doors for me.

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