Learning to speak Chinese while staying in my comfiest house clothes for bumming around?
Yes, please. Sign me up for that!
When you don’t have to immediately come face-to-face with a native Chinese speaker, the whole process becomes infinitely more relaxed. Learning at home allows you to absorb and practice spoken Chinese more naturally than ever.
Your study buddy can be the house pet. Simply pour yourself a drink in your favorite mug and find a comfy study spot on the couch or bed.
It’s not only totally possible to learn Chinese at home—it’s as easy as rolling out of bed.
You can be well on your way to becoming a polyglot without ever leaving your front door.
5 Easy and Accessible Ways to Learn Chinese Speaking at Home
Learning Chinese speaking at home can be easy and enjoyable when you find the right tools and methods. Here are three quick tips:
1. The key to effective learning is to receive smaller, digestible pieces of information. During each study session, focus on a bite-size piece of information that you can easily take up and retain.
2. Use tools that are appealing. Attractive platforms greatly aid the learning process
3. Develop consistency. Stick to it, and your Chinese knowledge and abilities will increase over time.
Here are some of my favorite tools for learning Chinese speaking at home.
1. Learn a Crazy Fresh Chinese Phrase Every Day
You can learn to speak trendy, relevant Chinese phrases right away using Crazy Fresh Chinese.
Crazy Fresh Chinese is hosted by the amazing Jessica, a “bubbly blonde blogger” from the U.S. who’s fluent in Mandarin. (Her accent is quite impressively native.)
Jessica teaches how to speak hip Chinese terms like “fashionista,” “life hack,” “nerd,” “twerk,” “selfie” and “swag.”
You can even learn how to order a medium soy latte in Chinese.
She’s even re-done parts of some pop songs in Chinese, such as “Rude” by MAGIC!
Let’s look at a few phrases from Crazy Fresh Chinese that you can start speaking today:
a. 你为什么这么粗鲁? (nǐ wèi shén me zhè me cū lǔ?)
Why you gotta be so rude?
b. 真的吗？(zhēn de ma?)
c. 不会吧！(bù huì bā！)
Through exaggerated expressions and cute antics, Jessica makes her phrase of the day easy to remember and fun to learn. She also encourages learners to send her video clips of themselves using their newly-learned phrases.
Learn to Speak: Memorize a phrase from Crazy Fresh Chinese. Pick one that interests you, one that you can use right away. Say it out loud a few times. Practice it in context, or record and send Jessica a clip of you speaking the new phrase.
2. Learn Chinese Conversation in Context with Viddsee
A great way to learn to speak conversational Chinese is through Viddsee.
Viddsee is a collection of Asian short films from Singapore, Taiwan and other countries.
There’s a good selection of Mandarin short films–best of all, they include both English and Chinese subtitles.
Learning Chinese speaking through Viddsee is great because it allows you to observe Chinese conversation in a variety of contexts: family, dating, school, conflict, etc.
The dialogue and expressions in these films are like the ones you would hear and use in real life.
“怀念红豆汤” (huái niàn hóng dòu tāng) is only four minutes long. In this Singaporean short film, a man speaks out his life’s regrets, and there’s a surprise ending.
Learn to say something from this film:
好喝就喝多一点啊。(hǎo hē jiù hē duō yī diǎn a)
If you like it, have some more.
“团圆” (tuán yuán) is another Singaporean short film, revolving around the very Chinese tradition of a big family dinner. In it, you can learn common household phrases like:
Learn to Speak: Observe the culture and dynamics behind the language. For example, notice that at the beginning of a family dinner, the youngest family member first encourages everyone to eat (addressing each person by their title) before anyone starts to eat. Notice that younger people—especially in the family context—address older people by their title (e.g. uncle, older brother) and not by their first name.
Picking up these social protocols and cultural nuances will help you learn how to speak Chinese. After all, you could have all the right vocabulary and still fail to speak well if you don’t know the proper courtesies.
3. Learn Chinese Speech Through Real-world Videos on FluentU
Another great resource for Chinese speaking is FluentU, an online custom-learning platform and app.
You can choose from a variety of real-life content, such as commercials, music videos and movie trailers, all of which have Chinese characters, Chinese pinyin and English text displayed. If you prefer to learn without one (or all) of those sets of subtitles, then you can toggle it off for more freestyle learning.
Amazingly, when you hover your cursor over or tap on any word, the video pauses and you can hear that word pronounced.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos. In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
Best of all, all of your activity on FluentU is tracked—you’ll know what percentage of each video’s content you have learned, so you can easily see your progress.
One of my FluentU favorites is the music video “My Sky” by NZBZ. The music is so catchy, and I love the lyrics:
在无尽的黑夜 (zài wú jìn de hēi yè)
In the boundless night
所有都快要毁灭 (suǒ yǒu dōu kuài yào huǐ miè)
Everything is destroyed
至少我还有梦 (zhì shǎo wǒ hái yǒu mèng)
Yet I still have my dreams
Learn to Speak: FluentU has Vocab and Dialogue tabs for each of their videos. So after enjoying NZBZ’s song, you can look at all the vocabulary words from the song and check out which ones you have yet to master. Again, if you point your cursor over or tap on any word, it will be read out loud. Moving on to the Dialogue tab, you can practice sample sentences or hear them spoken out loud.
4. Learn from China’s Influential People on Yang Lan One-on-ones
Did you know China has its own Oprah? Yang Lan is perhaps the leading female interviewer and talk show host in China. She’s even earned a right to speak at TED.
For decades, Yang Lan has interviewed the elite and influential in China. Businessmen, athletes, actors and societal leaders alike have sat down for a one-on-one with Yang Lan.
Yang Lan recently interviewed Wang Nan, a table tennis player who was ranked #1 by the International Table Tennis Federation for four years. The topic was 怎样走过人生低潮 (zěn yàng zǒu guò rén shēng dī cháo), how to overcome life’s low points.
Learn to Speak: Observe how Yang Lan asks questions. For example, she may ask:
你对成功的定义是什么？ (nǐ duì chéng gōng de dìng yì shì shén mē？)
What does success mean to you?
你怎样能够突破难关？(nǐ zěn yàng néng gòu tū pò nán guān？)
How do you overcome challenges?
Learn and memorize one or two ways of asking open-ended questions. These will help you in your speaking and allow you to have great conversations in Chinese.
5. Learn Chinese Through Inspirational Life Stories from MAKERS
MAKERS by AOL is an amazing collection of life stories told by women who have changed their communities or even the world.
Recently, MAKERS added a Chinese edition that features inspirational women of China.
In one installment, actress Gong Li (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Curse of the Golden Flower”) talks about filming some of her most difficult scenes, and how she trains herself to portray different roles.
Learn from Gong Li:
每个女人都有她性感的一面。 (měi gè nǚ rén dōu yǒu tā xìng gǎn de yī miàn)
Every woman is sexy in her own way.
In another, writer Yan Geling talks about what it’s like to be a novelist and screenwriter in a male-dominated industry, and shares her experience of being a journalist in the Sino-Vietnamese War.
Learn from Yan Geling:
女性跟男性是一样强大的。(nǚ xìng gēn nán xìng shì yī yàng qiáng dà de)
Women are just as powerful as men.
Learn to Speak: As you watch these women’s life stories, see how they express themselves and describe their journeys. Notice the phrases, adjectives and idioms they use. Notice how they start sentences, for example:
我觉得 (wǒ jué de)
我认为 (wǒ rèn wéi )
My opinion is…
我的感觉是 (wǒ de gǎn jué shì)
I feel that…
Try using these sentence starters when you speak Chinese!
With excellent resources such as these, learning Chinese speaking at home is easy.
The only difficult choice will be whether to sit in the living room or at the desk, and whether to have chai tea latte or green tea while studying.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.