Online Resources for Learning Mandarin

It’s been a while since I updated the project section of the site. Suffice to say, the language project is still ongoing. I am getting better at Mandarin. Daily updates are probably not the way to go though after the initial stages. Nobody wants to read, “learned ten characters today. Wrote ten sentences. Listened to a radio show.”
instead, over the next few days, I’m going to do a set of posts on a per-topic basis.
This post will be about online resources for learning Mandarin.
These are resources I actually use, so it’s not a post about funneling you into buying some membership you don’t need. In fact, all the resources I mention are free.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Lang-8

Lang-8 is fantastic. You sign up, and in exchange for correcting other people’s grammar in your own language, you’ll get to have someone check your writing in your target language. This is fantastic, and fulfills the requirements needed to get some decent writing practice in. obviously, you need to be able to create sentences by the time you do this, but you can start using the service with a very basic level of Mandarin.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Youtube

Youtube is the second biggest search engine. For Mandarin learners, you can use it to network with other learners, and more importantly, native speakers.
The best part of Youtube for learning Mandarin though, is that you can find material to learn at virtually any level. I tend to use Disney songs. The vocabulary and grammar is simple by necessity. It’s written for children. It’ll increase your vocabulary though. It’ll help you learn the rhythm of the language. It’s fun and engaging. You can have it on in the background for extra immersion. Also, helpful people will subtitle in Pin-Yin, Characters and English. All you could want for listening.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Wikipedia

What youtube is to listening, Wikipedia is to reading. You can read topics on virtually any subject. It makes for exceptional extensive reading. I tend to read technology based articles, because the overlap in vocabulary extends my reading comprehension. For instance, this article is on Python Programming language. As you can see, there’s a lot of English, a lot of hyperlinks, a lot of coding material. We’re using it backwards: We might normally read a wikipedia entry to find out about the topic. We’ree using the topic here to help us read the Wikipedia article. I know about programming, so that builds context.
Now, programming might mean nothign to you. Pick something you know a lot about. The basic vocabulary and grammar you’ve already learned, and the technical terminology you know from familiarity with the subject will build reading comprehension.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Google Image Search

Google Image Search is a god-send. It’s for when you’re learning new vocabulary. Put every new Mandarin character into Google Image Search if you have to. This ensures that you’re getting an image in your head as opposed to the english word – stopping you from having to translate on the fly. It also means you aren’t going to mistake a wrong word. For instance, if you look up what you think is the word “teenager” and Google Image Search shows up pictures of an old woman, then you know you have to find a different word.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Google Translate

Google Translate is the bane of teenagers trying to cheat on their language homework everywhere. It’s not hugely accurate, the voice feature sounds like an alien, and it’ll make you sound like an illiterate robot.
Why is it useful then?
Because you can learn new vocabulary, provided you take the step above.
You can put in work you’ve already written, and you’ll know if it’s wrong.
You can translate a block of text so you get the gist of what it’s saying, then work from there.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Google Search

You’re probably thinking, “I can’t believe he’s telling us to look up a language on Google!” However, this entry is based on a simple fact: Everything you need to do in your target language is something you do anyway.
I’m currently (and slowly) writing up all the different aspects of English Grammar. I’d encourage anyone who is serious about learning a language to learn the mechanics of their native language first. Then, you can put in the correct term in your Google Search bar and get the answer immediately. (Of course, one day, all language learning roads will send you to this site.) This helps you avoid a lot of problems. As an example, I was directly translating “have been” into Mandarin earlier on in the project. Taking a step back, you realise that the words “have” and “been” are arbitrary – they denote a tense in English. This pattern is not Universal. By knowing grammar, you can use Google. This avoids the “Your speech sounds like Google Translate” problem.

Online Resources for Learning Mandarin: Conclusion

The above are resources I use. They’ll give you a headstart, and they won’t cost you any money. Will these online resources for learning Mandarin suffice to teach you the language on their own? No. But language learning is about integrating various tools and tricks of the trade and creating a system by which you encourage your own learning. These will all help.

Language Bug