Ever feel like people around you are speaking Chinese, as the saying goes? That’s probably because they are — and it would be wise of you to learn, too. According to the British Council, Mandarin Chinese is the fourth most important language for the future of the U.K., behind only Spanish, Arabic and French — in that order.
This means that if you are doing any kind of business with China in mind — or even Chinese clients — you could be putting yourself well ahead of the curve by becoming bilingual. In most schools, languages are on the decline, and so you might not have had the benefit of learning a second language to a high standard.
However, that’s no excuse not to start now — you may find it easier than you think, and there may well be some surprising benefits!
How do I learn a new language?
Unfortunately, it can be harder to learn a language as an adult, but there are ways in which it can actually be more beneficial.
While it’s generally accepted that children will be more receptive as they’re already learning new skills all the time and they generally find pronouncing new phonemes (sounds) a lot easier, adults have a wider vocabulary in general, which means that they may well be able to master the native vocabulary of a given country more easily.
Studying to learn a new language is never easy, but there should be a lot of credence given to good old-fashioned classroom lessons. Game-based learning in classes is really important because it’s all too easy to get bored, especially when you have so many distractions as adults in the real world!
Our attention spans are shortening thanks to our smartphone use, so it’s imperative that you don’t find training dull. Games keep you engaged and motivated — straight up memorization can often be demotivating.
Using games like bingo, you can pick up the skills you might need to be successful in a second language, especially languages that involve different characters to the Latin alphabet used in English. Mandarin utilities characters known as hànzì, and this game can be ideal for stimulating recognition.
Obviously, it does help to have a knowledge of bingo to begin with — it’s already difficult enough to learn a new language, without learning a new game, too. Thankfully, this is why it’s often used, as so many of us are familiar with it; however, if you need some practice, there are now so many options online, too.
In fact, bingo sites now even include a Learner Room, where you can begin to have fun with playing and even chat with other users to make sure you’re on the right page. Plus, you can play different kinds of games so that you’re familiar with various different rules. Then, when it comes to shaking up the numbers to the Chinese characters, the class won’t be difficult at all!
Of course, not everyone has the time to go to actual classes, and that’s fine. You live in a modern world, and if your intention is to learn for business purposes, then your time is very often precious. Learning through an app can be a great idea. Babbel is a fantastic example, and it allows you to progress through different levels, with tests along the way to see that you’re making progress.
Perhaps the reason that games and even modern apps work so well is that they allow you to apply your new-found knowledge to a real life setting. That’s why the best way of learning a language is to immerse yourself in it.
Obviously, not everyone can just go and spend a year living in China (although if you can, do), but there are many other ways to immerse yourself fully in the language, and even the culture. Why not try some conversation practice with a native speaker, either online or in person?
You can often find partners on the likes of Gumtree. Of course, engaging in things like movies in Mandarin is also advisable — you can start with English subtitles, and then turn them off as you start to progress.
So, why learn Chinese?
In addition to being able to communicate with an estimated 1.2 billion native speakers, and indeed one in six people worldwide, learning Mandarin has a range of other benefits.
In fact, learning any language does wonders for your health, too. When you learn a foreign language, the size of your brain actually increases! In addition, you will also be better protected against diseases that affect your memory, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, because it keeps you on top of your cognitive health.
Finally, it’ll make you look smart. Really, really smart. Plus, you can listen in on conversations, and surprise people when you can understand!
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