Many expats learning to speak or write Chinese will find that basing their language study on a systematic study course, such as a textbook or audio course, is the best way to stay consistent in their Chinese study. Excellent resources are available from Beijing University Press, Rosetta Stone, the Pimsleur Approach, and other sources, many available locally in Chinese bookstores. In addition to a basic course, however, many tools and resources can make studying Chinese both more enriching and more fun.
Set a Goal and Make a Plan
Whether or not they are using a textbook or another learning system, students of Chinese should set a manageable goal for language learning and break it down into weekly and daily study sessions. Studying to take the HSK exam (the Chinese language proficiency exam in China), for example, can be an achievable, yet challenging goal.
Online Language Tools and Software
Websites like Chinesepod.com have created language podcasts conveniently geared to those who prefer to learn on the go, and some of the podcasts are free. These websites also offer, for a subscription fee, study and review materials as well as online tutoring. One major benefit of these websites is that they offer glimpses into modern daily life in China, and offer Chinese lessons specifically geared to daily tasks such as going to the hairdresser, setting up a bank account, and more.
An electronic flashcard system can also help Chinese language learners review and reinforce material that they have already learned. Anki is a popular flashcard system that allows users to upload their flashcard deck onto the web, so they can review on any computer. Anki also has an application that allows the flashcards to run on an iPhone or an iPod Touch.
Hire a Chinese Tutor
In China, where labor costs are low, hiring a tutor is surprisingly affordable. Hiring a university student can cost as little as a few dollars an hour, and can help language learners stay accountable to their learning plan. For those in beginning levels, hiring a Chinese tutor who is fluent in English (such as an English major) can make explanations easier to understand, and provide insight into the local culture. Of course, some learners prefer a total immersion environment and a tutor who does not speak English, which can be just as beneficial.
Get a Scholarship and Study Chinese Full Time
The Chinese government has reached student exchange agreements with the governments of several other countries, and under the management of the China Scholarship Council (CSC) , provides scholarships for foreign students who wish to study in China. Prospective students should apply at the Chinese diplomatic mission in their home country between January and April. In addition to the CSC scholarships, many Chinese universities also offer scholarships to foreign students. Students should apply directly to their preferred university.
Make Chinese Friends
There are astounding numbers of expatriates studying and working in China who do not make friends with local Chinese people. Making some Chinese friends is the best way to learn and to practice Chinese, and to understand it in context. No matter how diligently students may study the language on their own, it is impossible to gauge whether or not progress is being made without using it in the real world. Chinese friends can also be a valuable source of guidance, companionship, and assistance, and can make studying Mandarin Chinese a natural and enjoyable experience.