The Mobile Mandarin Life: How to Learn Chinese in the Car
Adding a new hobby to your schedule can be tough, especially something as demanding as learning a brand new language.
But you don’t have to dedicate hours every day to learn how to speak and understand Mandarin Chinese.
You just have to make the most of learning Chinese in the car.
Turn your 15-minute commute to work, school or wherever your busy life takes you into an intentional period of learning a language to get the daily practice you need.
- Why Should I Bother Trying to Learn Chinese in the Car?
- How to Get the Most Out of Your Mobile Mandarin Learning
- 5 Resources for Learning Mandarin in Your Car
Why Should I Bother Trying to Learn Chinese in the Car?
- It saves time and allows even the busiest person to practice. For some Chinese language admirers with crazy schedules, it can be hard to fit in even 15 minutes every day. By learning Chinese in the car, you don’t even have to make time. You just need to use the time you already have more efficiently.
- It can add some intention to your morning commute, rather than boredom. What exactly are we doing when we’re sitting in traffic? Most of us just sort of zone out to music or listen to the news on the radio. While there isn’t anything really all that wrong with that, it’s time spent doing nothing when you could be fitting in time to learn that language on your bucket list. You may even find that by exercising your brain instead of just doing nothing while you’re on the road, you arrive at work or school with a more alert mind and in a better mood. What do you have to lose?
- Daily habitual lessons can aid in fluency. How else can one form a habit, if by not doing the same thing every day? Language is no exception. Is your commute only about 15 minutes? That’s a perfectly fine amount of time to fit in some practice. A half hour? Maybe a whole hour? Even better!
- If you opt for some song-based learning, you’ll even improve your singing skills! Impress your friends by covering a Chinese Mandopop song next time you head out to karaoke.
Let’s check out the different ways you can learn Chinese in the car.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Mobile Mandarin Learning
- Invest in the best audio language learning programs. Audio language learning is definitely the best way to learn a new language in the car. Many audio programs can be played via CDs, MP3s or streaming. Below, we’ll cover some of the top resources for programs, podcasts, videos and audio language learning courses so you can take the guesswork out of finding the best of the best.
- Broaden your musical taste with Mandarin Chinese music as you drive. Ask anybody who learned English as a second language how they did it. They’ll probably tell you that on top of watching English-language television shows and taking English lessons, they belted out an English-language song or two to get some practice in. Luckily, Mandopop is an awesome genre with a ton of catchy songs that you’re sure to get addicted to as you combine it with regular audio lessons. We recommend music by 徐若瑄 (xú ruò xuān — Vivian Hsu), 杨丞琳 (yáng chéng lín — Rainie Yang) and 张艺兴 (zhāng yì xīng — Lay) to start.
- Get some Mandarin Chinese audiobooks. If you’re a bit of a bookworm, then there’s a good chance Mandarin Chinese audiobooks can help you learn Chinese in the car, too. If you’re a sucker for a good story and are at least somewhat intermediate in Mandarin, listening to audiobooks can help you become more fluent by improving your listening skills.
5 Resources for Learning Mandarin in Your Car
FluentU features a library of authentic Chinese clips that cover a wide range of topics, from pop songs and television dramas to inspirational talks and news clips. This means that you’ll find something that piques your interest and fits your skill level.
While you need to watch these videos to fully enjoy all the interactive features, such as subtitles, translations, quizzes and flashcards that FluentU provides, there are ways to use the program in the car, as well. For instance, you can train your listening skills by only listening to a video on your commute, then check your understanding against the transcript when you reach your destination. FluentU also has a collection of audio-only recordings, which can be perfect for your drive.
Melnyks Chinese is a simple, theme-based Mandarin audio lesson series. If you want to practice a bit outside of learning Chinese in the car, each audio lesson from this podcast comes with a PDF transcript, worksheets and other goodies. Their mobile application makes it easy to access lessons whenever you’re on the go.
There are hundreds of lessons from the podcast, and each one is easy to download if you don’t want to waste data in the car. This one is great for beginners and up.
Chinese Class 101
One thing that can be not so great about audio lessons is how robotic the speakers tend to sound. Unless you’re in the business of engineering Chinese robots, chances are that you’ll never encounter a Chinese speaker who sounds like that.
That’s why Chinese Class 101 is so great—all of the hosts for this series of audio and video lessons are peppy, energetic and, best of all, knowledgeable. This course boasts hundreds of audio lessons, flashcards and a great community.
Use the audio lessons in your car, enjoy the other perks when you have time. All audio lessons are easy to download once you sign up. From beginner to intermediate to advanced, Chinese Class 101 is a great choice.
Learn Chinese with Litao
There’s nothing quite as effective as having a real 老师 (lǎo shī — teacher) walk you through Chinese lessons. Litao Chinese is a free YouTube channel that provides dozens of lessons for beginner and intermediate Mandarin learners. As with FluentU’s YouTube lessons and anything else on YouTube, you can easily download audio for each video as an MP3 file with a converter.
This Mandarin podcast is ideal for intermediate and advanced learners, as much of their website is in 汉字 (hàn zì — Chinese characters) and many of their lessons are aimed towards this demographic. Each lesson is around 15 to 20 minutes and very easy to download as an MP3.
The iMandarinPod website also features free downloadable worksheets, transcripts and much more.
Learning any language can be tough.
But by using your time in the car wisely and intentionally, plus a little bit of perseverance, you’ll be fluent in Chinese in no time!