We live in a hectic world today, where it’s common to relegate activities because we are too busy. This is true when learning a language such as Mandarin Chinese. Although being bilingual brings about an array of professional, cultural, and social benefits, it is a long term investment some of us may not be able to afford.
But if you are trying to become fluent in Mandarin without spending a lot of time per day, here is some good news: you can learn Chinese spending only a few minutes of your time. Want to know how? Keep on reading and find 3 tips to learn Chinese in only 5 minutes a day!
1. Learn a New Word Every Day
Experts claim that you need 150 words in Chinese to be able to hold basic and intermediate conversations. Those 150 terms include frequently used nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions you need to get by in China or in any Chinese-speaking setting. Some of these crucial words include 爱 (to love), 北京 (Beijing), 电视 (television), or 儿子 (son).
So, if you are interested in learning these 150 words for free and from the comfort of your home, you can sign up for the HSK Level 1 course offered by Memrise. This course consists of a vast array of exercises, videos, and audio recordings so you can acquire the most basic vocabulary in Chinese and advance from there. All the lessons are designed for busy people, so they won’t take you more than 3-4 minutes. Other apps with similar courses include Busuu, Duolingo, and Babbel.
2. Get Familiar with the Chinese Tones
When learning new vocabulary, don’t forget to focus on pronunciation in addition to meaning. Different from English, Chinese is a tonal language. As a result, the same character or word can have an array of different meanings depending on the tone with which it’s pronounced. Luckily, there are only four tones in Mandarin (neutral, rising, falling, and fall-rise), all of which exist in English.
For example, the word ma with a neutral tone means “mother”, while with a rising tone means “hemp”. Quite the difference, right? So, why not try to listen and repeat the same word with different tones every day? You can try to model after videos like this one, record yourself and then check how well you did it.
It won’t take you long and, with just 5 minutes of practice every day, soon you’ll master the Chinese tones like a pro!
3. Learn the Most Useful Phrases
You’ll need a lot more than just words and sounds if you plan to travel to China soon. Luckily, the internet is full of materials and series you can use to acquire the most basic phrases to get by in China. One of them is the Learn Chinese in 3 minutes series by ChineseClass101.
In this course, you’ll find videos that range from how to ask for a price to greet an elder or ask for help on the street. The videos are hosted by a native speaker with teaching experience, so it’s easy to understand them even if they explain complex grammar or pronunciation rules. Plus, at the end of each video, you’ll find short exercises to put your skills into use.
Extra Tip: Learn With Music!
Once you know a bit of Mandarin Chinese, you can start training with music! In our Chinese Spotify playlist, for example, you’ll find plenty of trending songs in Mandarin. Sing along to them and practice your pronunciation! Plus, you’ll get familiar with new words, learn collocations, and overall develop your ear for the language while enjoying great music.
All in all, you don’t need to spend 4 hours a day studying to become fluent in Chinese. If you don’t have that much free time, you can still make progress and learn Mandarin in just 5 minutes a day with these free sites and apps.
But if you are looking to progress much faster and learn the language with a communicative, multicultural approach, do contact us at Listen & Learn. We will pair you up with an experienced native Chinese instructor who will design motivating lessons that suit your every need!
Editor’s note: Published on November 9, 2020. Updated on October 4, 2021.