Immerse yourself in Chinese

When learning Chinese, or any language for that matter, immersion is the key – that is, completely immersing yourself into the language, maximising exposure and expediting the learning process.

If you are learning Chinese at home, in an English speaking country, that lack of readily available Chinese media and learning materials can make this difficult to near impossible to achieve. Even if you are learning Chinese abroad, in a Chinese speaking country, it may not be easy to ‘fully’ immerse in Chinese, simply because of the high level of English language penetration. This, together with the willingness of locals to speak English at every opportunity, means you’ll have a task on your hands trying to achieve total immersion.

The aim is to cut yourself off from your mother tongue for a prolonged amount of time, at regular intervals. Depending on where you’re learning and other commitments, a prolonged amount of time could be from a few hours every day, to a few days or even weeks if you are aboard. The important thing is that within this time you only read, listen, speak and write in Chinese.

More specifically speaking, what are some of the things you can do to help maintain an immersive environment? The following are all things that are extra to your standard study routines, things that are targeted at reinforcing Chinese around your study:

  • Don’t use English in Chinese class – If you are taking a Chinese course, ask the teacher not to use English to explain words, and only use Chinese to speak to other students.
  • Find a language exchange partner – someone who you can speak to in Chinese for a solid hour or so, you’ll have to reciprocate in English afterwards, but at least you’ll get a decent amount of practice time in.
  • Listen to Chinese language music – if you’re reading, doing house work etc, play some Chinese language music in the background.
  • Watch Chinese television (you can use TVU player for this), as with music, even if you’re not directly watching, leaving a Chinese programme playing in the background while you do something else will help with reinforcing the immersive environment.
  • Leave some Chinese books around – this way if you are studying and need a break, you can flick through some magazine or a book and see what you can pick out.
  • Put some Chinese posters up – so every time you go into your room you can”t avoid looking at Chinese characters.
  • Stick flashcards around your monitor – so when you’re on the computer and take a break to think, you can look over the flashcards and reinforce the words you are currently learning.

This list is by no means extensive and meant as a starting point to get you thinking about things you can do to reinforce Chinese and go someway to creating an immersive Chinese environment.

What tips do you have for helping achieve this? Leave a comment below and let us know:

  • Chris

    Pro-tip: put a Chinese comic/book in the bathroom and read it whenever you take a dump.