Learning how to learn Chinese.


So for the past month or so, I have been using Pleco's pre-made HSK levels and well as my own looked-up words and been using the default test settings in Pleco. I'm just curious if I should continue doing this in order to attain a basic conversational level in Chinese. I'm lucky that my partner is also Chinese, so I can lookup words and have a lot of help and practice this way. I was just wondering if using flashcards and memorizing words, then practicing them, is enough. Should I be looking at more sentence examples? (I recently activated this option in Flashcard display options). I suppose the hardest part about learning a language is learning exactly how to learn properly, so that if I put in a consistent effort, I will slowly succeed even at a minuscule rate. I just want to make sure I'm studying properly.
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Hi mrbepis,

I'd say it depends on how well your partner is able to teach you grammar. Grammar, after all, basically tells you the rules of how to structure words into sentences. Adults tend to study using grammar, while children pick a language up as part of their general development, so you may wish to get some textbooks to make sure you have a solid theoretical grasp in addition to practice. Some textbooks are more, others less detailed; usually the ones coming from "Beijing Language and Culture University Press" are of a high quality. You may find something suitable on this website:


So far, I've identified three different courses from BLCUP; they are, from the least to the most detailed:

- Short-term Spoken Chinese
- Hanyu Jiaocheng ("Chinese Course")
- New Practical Chinese Reader

I've worked with all three of these at some point, though I liked the last one best and have stuck to it. If you're able to spend about 4 hours per week on studying a textbook, I would start with the first one.

Sentence examples are surely useful. You may wish to try the sentences attached to the following post and start with the HSK Level 2 flashcards:


Hope this helps,



Hi mrbepis,

Here is my experience: For the first while, I focused on flashcards, reading and writing. I am now at about an HSK 3.5 level. However, my spoken and listening levels are atrocious, especially for the amount of time I have spent studying, mostly because I haven't put nearly enough effort into speaking/listening.

This video was a bit of an eye opener for me:

This gentleman learned almost fluent Arabic in a year. Arabic, like Chinese, is considered a "level 5" language - which is the most difficult language for native English speakers to acquire. His method uses two systems: comprehensible input and through storytelling.

For 2020, I am going to focus on these learning methods to improve my conversational fluency while I will reduce my flashcard training to writing only.

Good luck in your studies!
After 7 years of using Pleco daily, I would say it doesn't matter. Just keep studying every day and you will DEFINITELY improve.
Also, take some time now and then to think on how you could change your daily studying habits to gain in efficiency.

From my experience, the highest reason on why people don't get fluent in Chinese is because they give up on studying.

Personally I do the regular test with SRS activated. 15k flashcards all added by myself while reading books or watching movies.
There was a time I had 300 repetitions daily, but now this time is more or less over. Reading books don't add much more vocabulary anymore (as long as it's not classical Chinese, but instead regular novels for adults).

For 2020 I'm going to focus on pronounciation. I have my own idea on how to do that, I'll see how it works and improve the technique as I get going.


Having been in the same situation of finishing the equivalent of one year of chinese (in a summer) and still not understanding anything, I hired a CI teacher.

Now trying to make the leap from HSK3.5-ish to HSK4-ish is very hard. that is where I am stuck right now and why I am now trying to learn how to effectively use Pleco Flashcards to add an SRS flashcard system to help me remember vocabulary.

But please consider this advice I got from one of my friends....'you need to learn how to read chinese... well. Chinese is largely a written language with an oral component. If you never learn how to read chinese, you'll be stuck sounding like a child. You also won't understand how chinese is constructed and it will stunt your ability to acquire advanced vocabulary.'