If you are learning Chinese, you may hope to one day speak Chinese fluently. While the definition of fluency can vary from person to person, you can absolutely reach a level of fluency in day-to-day Chinese. However, there is no “magic pill” you can take to make yourself fluent. Becoming fluent in Chinese requires hard work and a multifaceted approach in order to succeed. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I have personally done to achieve fluency in Mandarin Chinese.
1. Take Chinese Classes
Never doubt the power of a good teacher and regular Chinese lessons. Having Chinese lessons weekly or even more often will also keep you accountable for studying and practicing your Chinese regularly. As they say, practice really does make perfect.
If your teacher follows the HSK or another curriculum, this will also be a good way to measure your progress. You can use the textbook or mock HSK exams to gauge how your fluency in Chinese is improving.
I highly recommend that you check around for a school or private teacher that meets your needs and style and start studying. You will want to make sure you choose a good Chinese teacher！
2. Get a (one-sided) language partner
Do not fall into the trap of a language exchange. Often, speaking Chinese part of the time and another language for the rest of the time means that neither you nor your language exchange partner will improve very much.
Instead, find someone who is willing to speak only Chinese with you. This will ensure that you will have plenty of opportunities to speak Chinese, make mistakes, and learn from them.
Having a language partner also gives you a safe space in which you can practice new vocabulary and grammar that you learned in your Chinese classes.
Yes, you have almost certainly heard the immersion recommendation before. However, I do not mean simply traveling to China. I mean full-on, total immersion. For everything you do, do it in Chinese.
Listening to music? Choose Chinese songs. Want to watch some Netflix? Pick a Chinese series. Reading a book? Pick up a Chinese one for your level. Even try changing your phone settings into Chinese if you are feeling brave enough!
If you are already located in China, avoid going to areas that are popular among foreigners. If you go to spend time where all the foreigners in your city hang out, you will inevitably end up speaking a language other than Chinese, which will certainly not help you achieve your goal of Chinese fluency. It may be difficult at first to speak to strangers completely in Chinese, but if you try your best, you will find that people are friendly and often very happy to chat with you.
If you see other opportunities in your life where you can use Chinese, go ahead and make the switch. The more you immerse yourself in a Chinese environment, the more your Chinese fluency will increase.
4. Take notes
Remember all the Chinese music, television, books, and friends you will be immersing yourself with? Make sure to keep a notebook and pen on hand to jot down the new information you come across.
Do not trust yourself to remember every new word or phrase you encounter; there will be too many, and you will forget them all very quickly.
This also means it is very important that you learn how to handwrite Chinese characters.
Review your notes at the end of the day or go through them at the end of the week and practice the new Chinese words or grammar structures with your Chinese teacher or language partner for maximum retention.
5. Be consistent
People can often underestimate the power of consistency when it comes to achieving fluency in a language, especially Chinese.
Staying consistent with your studies means that you will constantly be progressing and improving. Some days you might be able to do more, and some days you might do less, but the trick is to keep Chinese fresh in your mind.
Even if you do not have a lot of time in which to learn Chinese, make sure that you are studying and reviewing at least a little bit every day. It is important to keep your brain primed and in learning mode.
If you are struggling to find motivation to study Chinese consistently, you want to consider some more ways in which you can integrate Chinese into your daily life.
6. Don’t give up
Learning a language can be difficult, and Chinese is definitely not a language for the faint of heart!
There will be days when you speak Chinese with little to no difficulty. On those days, you will feel unbeatable! However, there will also be days when you struggle to string a sentence together, even with words you mastered long ago.
This is a natural phenomenon and to be expected during the language-learning process. It will take determination and a stiff upper lip to power through the hard days.
The difficult days may be disappointing, but if you remember that there will be ups and downs along the way, it will help you to push through the tough times. Eventually, the hard days will grow fewer and farther between, and those moments of triumph will happen more and more often as you become more fluent in Chinese.
These are some of the tricks that helped me achieve fluency in Chinese. While there is still a lot that I do not know when it comes to Chinese, I am continuing to use these methods to improve and maintain my Chinese fluency.
If you can take Chinese lessons, get a language partner, immerse yourself completely, and take notes on all you learn, you are certain to see an improvement in your fluency in Chinese. If you can only do one or two of these suggestions, that is also fine.