Grammar grammar grammar grammar. Probably everyone's least favorite word from grade school and no doubt the one thing most do not look forward to when learning a new language.
Unless you're me, in which case you oddly love grammar. Something about how it makes the sentence flow together naturally and makes one much more competent and adept at speaking. I honestly couldn't tell you why.
What I do know though is that grammar is one of the most essential things to know when it comes to learning Chinese. How do I know this? Let me give you my story.
What It's Like Not Knowing Grammar
So there I was, studying the same beginner's sentence for about the 100th time in a row and I knew every single word in the sentence. The only problem was: I had no idea what it was saying!!!!!
Thoughts of "are you kidding me?!?" and "$200 dollars for lessons to know nothing?!?!" flashed through my mind. I was about 8 months into learning Chinese and I have no clue how to read a beginner's sentence.
What was going on? I knew the words, I even knew the characters. I mastered pronunciation within the first month (took some serious persistence but I mastered it) so why couldn't I get this simple sentence?
Grammar, ladies and gentlemen, grammar. Grammar can make or break you.
Now I never wanted to be an average Chinese speaker, I wanted to be a master. There are plenty of people who are perfectly fine with learning how to say nǐ hǎo (你好) and then scraping together some other words in order to form mildly coherent sentences and praying that the other person knows what you are talking about.
And not you either, I would imagine. I mean why else would you be spending your time here, checking out some cool Chinese language learning tips?
You want to be a master, I can tell.
Well good news for you, I have just the tools to make you one. Let me share with you the 3 easiest ways I know of to study grammar and let's get you on the path to mastery sooner rather than later.
This is the simplest one out of the three, get a professional.
There is a great quote by Tony Robbins which gives the story of him asking why on earth would he pay money to go to an event to see some guy speak to which his uncle replies:
"So you don't have to spend 20 years learning what he already knows how to do." Chinese learning is exactly like this. There are a ton of people who actually already know what you want to know, and they will tell you for an extremely affordable fee.
Take the folks at Hanbridge Mandarin for example. These are the best online Chinese tutors I have ever used and I have used a couple.
They know everything you need to know, considering they are native speakers and have specialized in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Talk about experts right?
Think about how much farther along you will be once you take their advice and learn from them. Really really think about that then reconsider whether you will pass up on that free class offer again for me, will you?
The second most handful piece of advice about learning Chinese I have ever gotten was to get a language partner. Why? Because you need to practice learning the language.
And by practice, I mean actually practice. You can't fall back on your English every 30 seconds and expect to be a walking talking Mandarin machine, you have to speak it diligently.
And you have to do it consistently. Head over to Italki and get yourself a language partner. There are hundreds of native Chinese speakers who are looking to exchange their time speaking Chinese in order to better master their English.
Who knows, maybe you can be their tutor and make some money while doing it?
This is one of the trickiest parts, because there are quite a few people in the world who don't like to read. But in reality, reading is seriously one of the best things you can do for your brain, not to mention your Mandarin skills.
Reading is the way in which we exercise the brain, and what better way to exercise than learning Mandarin? In fact, did you know that the average CEO reads over 63 books a year? yeah, 63.
Why not you? Are you stuck on where to go? Don't worry I have an awesome recommendation for you:
Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar
Probably the most handy book I have ever had when it comes to learning Chinese, and I mean that.
It honestly is a pretty quick read, being only about 100 pages long. However, this is packed with all of the fundamental concepts that you need to know about learning Chinese grammar.
I personally carry it with meet wherever I go, hoping to pick up something new every time (which is common when i read books actually).
Bonus: Knowledge Without Practice Is A Waste
Now I told you there were going to be 3 ways today but instead I am going to add a fourth and that is the best piece of advice I could ever give anyone:
Practice what you learn.
You would be absolutely amazed at how many people don't do this. The world is full of people who just want to learn and if you are one of those, hey more power to you.
However, if you want some real results when learning Chinese, you need to apply the knowledge that you have learned.
For instance, that book you bought earlier? Use one of the phrases you learned with your language partner.
That new concept your teacher above told you about? Go post something on lang-8 about it.
Made a mistake? Who cares! The best way to learn is by making mistakes.
In fact, tell me about every single mistake you make from now on, I want to hear about them.
P.S. what one of these concepts are you going to go and implement now?