We all know that immersion is a great way to learn Chinese.
But what does immersion mean for someone who’s stuck in Omaha and can’t just pack up and move to China?
Well, immersion doesn’t always involve buying a plane ticket. If you think more creatively about how to immerse yourself in Mandarin Chinese, you’ll realize there are lots of ways to get immersion without getting a passport.
Like software immersion.
So don’t give up on immersion! There are tons of software programs that give learners a way to immerse themselves in Chinese, anywhere in the world. Some software immersion options are dedicated language learning tools, and others are computer games that plunge players into a vast Chinese virtual reality.
How Software Immersion Helps You Learn
- Software immersion increases your exposure to Chinese and gives you lots of opportunities to learn.
- Chinese people, like many people from all countries, really like to play computer games. Using this type of software immersion gives you a cultural cache that would otherwise be totally inaccessible.
- Immersing yourself in Mandarin with the help of software is something you can do anywhere, anytime.
- People spend a lot of time on their computers these days. Using software to immerse yourself in Chinese gives you an authentic experience—it’s how native speakers actually spend much of their time.
- Software immersion is cost effective. Even the most expensive software programs are not as expensive as a course at a university or a trip to China.
6 New Winning Ideas for Chinese Software Immersion
Using the Wenlin software is all about writing and characters. The company produces both a free and a paid learning software that’s focused on characters. It has a robust word processing tool to make writing in Mandarin on your computer easier. But that’s not the extent of the software. It’s geared towards helping you learn characters, so there are animations that help you learn how to correctly write characters by hand.
The paid version is an all-in-one program that combines an extremely comprehensive dictionary with a powerful Chinese text editor and flashcard system. One of the most attractive features of the dictionary is that it allows you to simply point to a word with your cursor and get the definition. This makes immersing yourself in other ways much, much easier. You don’t have to spend a lot of time cutting and pasting characters you don’t know.
You can also read Chinese literature and news inside the Wenlin software—it comes as part of the package. So it’s an excellent way to dive into Chinese literature. The dictionary feature makes this immersion much easier, so you can focus on enjoying what you read!
Another great software for immersing yourself in Mandarin Chinese is the KEY Chinese software. Like Wenlin, one of the core features of KEY is an extremely robust dictionary, but that’s far from all KEY has to offer. If you’re like me and have trouble remembering the correct tones (even of characters I know how to pronounce otherwise), KEY offers a fabulous solution, with the ability to color-code characters by tone—so you’re still practicing your character recognition but you get a hint about the tones.
You can also use KEY to take Chinese text from anywhere on the internet and create dynamic reading exercises and fill-in-the-blank review sheets. KEY will also annotate grammatical structures (if you choose that setting), which can be a good way to learn new sentence constructions and consolidate what you’ve learned. Seeing the examples in authentic text will help you see exactly how you should use the grammar structures yourself, and make it easier to understand the contexts they’re used in.
No need to download or install anything here! Authentic resources—including music videos, movie trailers and TED Talks in Mandarin Chinese—are just a click away!
FluentU has a carefully chosen collection of videos ranging from beginner to advanced Chinese. Every video has English, Chinese and pinyin subtitles which you can toggle on and off as desired, along with an audio pronunciation of every word when you hover your cursor over it. Vocabulary definitions are also available for every video.
In addition, you can test and reinforce your understanding of new words with built-in quizzes that help you learn and remember the language used in any given video.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos, as you can see here:
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 they’re 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 Quiz 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.
Your viewing history and learning progress is tracked, making FluentU one of the most personalized language learning apps and websites available.
It’s one of the major heavyweights in the language learning world, and Rosetta Stone does offer some of the best software for language immersion that doesn’t require a connection to the internet. In the Rosetta Stone method, you’re shown photos paired with words in an all-Chinese environment. The goal is for you to explore the language on your own, first through the sounds, then through words, then through sentences and finally through conversations. You aren’t expected to parrot back anything, but rather to discover the patterns of the language on your own.
There’s voice recognition technology to help correct the inevitable pronunciation troubles of a beginner or to help even advanced learners refine their tones and pronunciation. You get instant feedback on your progress and are able to correct your mistakes easily and before they become habits.
Rosetta Stone also has plenty of games and activities to help you relax while continuing to work on your Chinese. And if you do feel like you need live tutoring, there’s a way to get tutoring through Rosetta Stone’s program.
仙劍奇俠傳 (“The Legend of Sword and Fairy” Video Game)
While the first four software immersion programs are made for Chinese learners, these last two are examples of software programs that many, many people in China use regularly. You can immerse yourself in the vast virtual reality of video games in Chinese just as easily as someone in China can. So I’ve included two immensely popular video games to help kick-start your immersion process.
仙劍奇俠傳 is among the most popular video games in China. It’s produced by a Taiwanese company, so it’s not only popular in China but the premise of the game is very “Chinese.” It’s based on Chinese mythology. There have been six versions of 仙劍奇俠傳, and they all focus on battles between gods, humans and demons. There are elements of Wuxia in 仙劍奇俠傳, in fact the title sounds like a title of a Wuxia novel or movie.
If playing video games is something you enjoy, this is a very good one to play to immerse yourself in Chinese, because it has enormous cultural relevance. If you’d like to know what it’s all about but don’t care for video games, there are also spin-off TV shows and even a spin-off card game.
You can download 仙劍奇俠傳 through SoftStar’s (the game creator) website.
Maybe you’re intrigued by the idea of playing video games in Chinese, but you’d rather start with something a little more familar? That’s actually a great strategy, one that can be employed for reading and watching TV and movies in Chinese as well. If you’re looking for a Western video game to start playing in Chinese, the World of Warcraft Chinese Version is probably your best bet.
That’s because “World of Warcraft” is one of the most popular Western video games in China, so there won’t be any lack of resources in Chinese or other players to interact with in Chinese. When it came out as a movie last year, although it wasn’t very popular everywhere else, it was massively popular in China.
So even though it’s not a Chinese game, playing “World of Warcraft” in Chinese is a legitimate way to build cultural knowledge.
On the Taiwanese site, sign in by clicking on the blue button in the upper right corner. You’ll see all the admin links underneath the big blue sign in button.
Does this inspire you to try out some software ideas for learning Chinese?
Remember that video games in general are very popular in China, so there are plenty other video games to choose from if neither 仙劍奇俠傳 nor World of Warcraft sound interesting. Now you have some more ideas for Chinese immersion using software.
加油 (jiā yóu — literally “Add gas” or “You got this, go”)!
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