Not necessarily in this order.
- Conversation first
Try and settle on the idea that you might not be able to read, write, listen and speak all at the same time. Learning all four skills simultaneously is a weighty task and one not to be taken lightly. Try using it to speak first. After all, the mouth came before the pen or something like that.
Learn Subject pronouns: I, He, She, You.
2. Learn the first 100 words
Learn the words for colours, furniture, vehicles, numbers, buildings, stationary, directions, food, drinks and anything else you can think of that you may find meaningful within your life of learning. Perhaps try learning the words using apps, spaced repetition software like Anki, or book worm it.
You could post it note it, by putting post it notes with the vocab you want to learn on it. Makes your house look funny but if you say the word when you use the item it will stick in there somewhere.
Another good way to remember is to attach a funny image with the vocab in your mind.
Also try and grab some verbs in there too. Like, don’t like, need, want, Eat, swim, run, walk, speak, sing, dance are a good place to start.
3. Pick up a few connecting words
Learn the easy linking words like -:
then, and, if, so, because, but.
This is pretty important, because your now learned vocabulary (100 words) can be structured into sentences. And pretty impressive sentences if I say so myself. Instead of saying ‘one apple’ you will be able to to say ‘one apple and one orange’ and maybe ‘because I like to eat apples’.
4. Get a language exchange partner.
Getting a lnaguage exhcnage partner is easier than you think. You can grab the help of some great sites like tealit.com and craigslist. When searching on craigslist try searching in China or Taiwan.
5. Surround yourself with the language
Watch TV shows, read books, listen to the radio. Anything and everything to get the language in and around your ears and brain all the time. Immersion isn’t the answer but it definitely helps. When you feel like you are plateauing, having the language constanly around you is a great help to get back into the feel of things.
Immersion won’t help you to develop your language if you have only just begun, but it will help you understand the tone of the language and the cadence. So although you won’t understand a thing they are saying you will be able to start to understand the melody of the language.
6. Start to speak
Biggest thing is getting yourself ready to speak. Then actually speaking. This kind of links in with your language exchange. That means if you are living in the target country go OUT AND SPEAK IT. Who do i speak to?
Do you know how many 7/11s there are in Taiwan? ALOT. Go into one of them and speak to the clerk, buy a milkshake and ask for a straw and a bag. Ask someone for directions to another 7/11 or the nearest cinema. Ask someone out for a drink. Wait in a 7/11 until someone asks you what you are doing. If they speak English, speak Chinese back. Try your newly found skill!
7. Pick up vocabulary for use in common conversation
One thing I will tell you is, in Chinese learning text books there is A LOT of language you are not going to use. You have to make Chinese work for you and how you want to be using it. It’s all well and good learning a sentence for ordering a meat feast pizza but if your a vegetarian you probably wont be using that all that often.
If you will be traveling, try and search for travel language specifically and get good at that. Then move onto the general stuff.
8. Get a girlfriend/boyfriend that speak only that language
This one is a bit of an ask. But Love is a great motivator to learn a language and if you fall pretty hard you are going to be super motivated to learn. Meeting someone who only speaks the target language really works. And hey, you don’t have to find love, just find a friend instead.
9.Attach yourself to your motivation/passion
When learning anything, literally anything if you don’t have a passion for it you are not going to pick it up. In senior school, I had French, and while French is a useful language while living so close to the country I didn’t see it that way at the time. In fact I saw it as the exact opposite. And I didn’t learn anything. Still don’t know much French. Point is, find your motivation and stick to it! It’s really worth it.
10. Be ready to make mistakes
This one is self explanatory but I’m going to tell you if you are just starting out, its going to be hard, and you are going to make mistakes and you are going to feel stupid. BUT its really really worth it. Mistakes are the only way to improvement PLUS you should always keep yourself in a positive frame of mind while trying to speak, because hey, you are speaking a second language. The vast majority of English speakers only speak one. And you have another up your sleeve. Jiayou!