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How to Self-Study Chinese Online with Confidence


In the wake of covid-19, people all over the world are turning to online education for the first time, without any guidance on how to self-study effectively. It can be difficult to know where to start, how to organize your studies, and how to stay on track.

Well, to help motivate you to self-study Chinese, we’ve listed out 8 tips to keep you right on track, and progressing in your Mandarin studies. After reading this post, you'll have more confidence taking the first steps learning online.

By the way, Level 1 of our Beginner Conversational Chinese course is COMPLETELY free!. All you need is to make a free account if you don’t have one already, and start studying! 

Plus, we’re offering great discounts and different purchasing options for students of all bundle, which you can check out on our store page.

Now, let’s go ahead and get to it!

Tip #1: Make a Study Schedule

This is a REALLY important part of the self-study process. It can be really tempting to just study as you go, but you’ll find with a structured study schedule, you’ll be able to create and follow good study habits as you progress through the course.

Set your study schedule - maybe 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, or an hour a day, 3 days a week - whatever works for you. 

If you can, try to study consistently, at the same time each day:

  • You could study 30 minutes before work, 8:30-9:00am Monday thru Friday.
  • Or from 10:00-10:30 during the weekdays, before you go to bed.
  • Or perhaps on your lunch break everyday, like 12:00-12:30. 

...It’s up to you!

Pro tip: It’s better to study for a short period of time, but more frequently (like 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), than it is to cram the material in once or twice a week for a few hours. Studying more frequently will help to increase retention of the material, and give you a better study routine.

If you’re going through our Beginner course, download our FREE study schedule for the full course here

We also have one for our other courses - click here to see our Intermediate course study schedule, and here for the Upper Intermediate course study schedule. You can also access these free resources on our Download Center.

No matter what resources you’re using to learn Chinese, creating a study schedule is key for self-studying this language.

Tip #2: Stick to the Schedule

Perhaps equally as challenging as making the schedule is, well, sticking to it. It’s really easy to just put it off, so it’s good to try to remind yourself to stick to the schedule. 

Here are some tips for sticking to your study schedule:

  • Print out your study schedule and tape in on your wall where you usually study. You’ll be reminded of it every time you see it - think of it as a “scheduled” class.
  • Put it in your calendar on your phone or other device. Again, think of it as a “scheduled” lesson - you can adjust the settings easily to repeat however many times you’d like per week, for as long as you want. 
  • Set a timer or alarm on your phone when you study. Set it for the amount of time you set aside in your study schedule. You’ll feel more pressure to focus on the lessons and feel more accomplished when the time is up!

Tip #3: Keep Distractions Away

To avoid getting distracted when self-studying, there are some measures you can take. 

Here are some tips to help you keep yourself focused:

  • Keep your desk or workspace clear of unnecessary items. It may go without saying, but a clean desk is a happy desk! Keeping your space clean will help you stay focused, and feel better when studying. Plus, you’ll have more space to take notes or use printable PDF Lecture Notes while you’re studying.
  • Have the bare essentials at your desk. Although your space should be clean, make sure to prepare everything you’ll need BEFORE you start studying. Things like: a pen or pencil, paper or a notebook, a glass of water, etc. are good to have. This way, you’ll be less likely to spend some of your study time getting something from the fridge or hunting down your missing notebook.
  • Make sure you only open the lesson pages or material you’re studying on your device. Sign out of any social media, email, etc. - or at least don’t open those pages up. This is easier on a computer or tablet; on your phone, just try not to open other windows or bounce from app to app. Otherwise, before you know it, you may end up on Facebook. Pro tip: We recommend studying on a computer when you can, so it feels more like “class”.
  • If you don’t need your phone, put it out of reach. If you’re not using your phone to watch lesson videos or use study tools, put it far away so you can’t get distracted. If you use more than one device, like a computer for studying and your phone for looking up Chinese words in Pleco or any other language apps, only use that one app.

Tip #4: Make a Routine for Study Sessions

This is a bit different from making a study schedule like we talked about before (though we do this for you in our Yoyo Chinese study schedules!). 

Know how you’re going to study: What’s your process? What steps do you take when studying? What tools do you use in your study routine? 

Here is an example of a good, general study routine for a given lesson from our Beginner course

  • 5 minutes: Review Your “Up for Review” Flashcards
  • 5 minutes: Watch the Lesson Video
  • 5 minutes: Listen to the Audio Review with Lecture Notes PDF
  • 5 minutes: Listen to the Audio Review without notes
  • 5 minutes: Review the Flashcards and/or Dialogue Replay
  • 5 minutes: Take the Quiz 

In our study schedule for Beginner, and for our other courses, we also give you recommendations on a study routine - letting you know roughly how long you should spend on each lesson, including watching the lesson video, and using all of the study tools.

Of course, you can also create and customize your own routine for however you’re studying Chinese - by textbook, Youtube videos, or any other Chinese language programs out there!

Tip #5: Make Studying Fun!

Often, learning with resources like stuffy, dry textbooks can be well… boring. Plus, you miss out on the “real” colloquial Chinese that people use in actual conversations.

Try to find fun, engaging ways of learning. There are lots of resources out there, which you can often try for free, so try out some different ones to see what fits your learning style best!

On that note, the first 45 lesson videos of our Beginner course are available for FREE - now is the best time to try out the course and see how we make learning Chinese fun! 

Get started on the first lesson here!

Tip #6: Speak Up!

Especially when learning a language, one of the MOST important parts is speaking. Think about your normal daily life - speaking is a HUGE part of communication, in any language.

When you’re self-studying alone in your room, talk to yourself! Speak the new words out loud as you are studying, and try to mimic the teacher’s pronunciation.

Not only will it do wonders for your pronunciation, but you’ll also remember the content better, and feel more confident when speaking in Chinese.

In our conversational courses, we have a great feature called the Audio Review. It’s an MP3 audio file, where the instructor asks you how to say the words, phrases and sentences you learned that lesson in Chinese, one by one. 

Just say each answer aloud during the silence, and then you’ll hear the answer shortly after. You can repeat it aloud once more, and will hear the instructor say it one more time. 

The Audio Review feature is a great way to get yourself speaking Chinese and remembering what you learned during the lesson. Watch this demo to learn more about the Audio Review feature:

Check out the Audio Review for the above lesson video on “nationalities” here - just click the “Audio Review” button on the lesson page:

Tip #7: Listen Up!

Just as it’s important to speak Chinese aloud, it’s also important to practice those listening skills as well! 

What’s more, while you should first learn with clear, standard Chinese pronunciation, it’s important to also listen to REAL native speakers, the way they actually speak, rather than just “textbook” audio with people speaking slowly and clearly all the time. 

In our Beginner Course, outside of our clear lesson videos when teaching the material initially, we also incorporate Chinese on the Street lessons, which are videos composed of full interviews with Chinese native speakers using the language that you’ve recently learned. 

You’ll practice your listening skills really well, with people speaking in colloquial Chinese, with different accents, at different speeds, and with different levels of clarity. It’s a great dose of “real” Chinese, using what you’ve learned thus far. 

Plus, with the Dialogue Replay feature for those Chinese on the Street lessons, you can press “rewind” so to speak, and listen to the normal speed audio of the native speaker, and a “slow” speed audio of a native speaker speaking slowly and clearly, with very standard pronunciation:

Check out this Chinese on the Street lesson from Level 1 of the Beginner course here. And, don’t forget to check out the Dialogue Replay for the lesson as well!

Tip #8: Immerse Yourself in Chinese

Our last tip on the list is truly an important one - immersing yourself in the language in different ways, as much as possible. 

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Start learning Chinese songs, watching Chinese TV shows, or even watching Chinese movies. These are GREAT ways to learn new words, practice your listening skills, and more importantly - have fun while doing so! What’s more, with resources like Youtube and Netflix, nowadays there is a TON of Chinese language content out there, at the click of a button.
  • Make some Chinese friends online or find a Chinese language exchange partner and do an online language exchange. There are endless ways to connect to people across the world in a virtual environment nowadays, so hop online, find someone to talk to, and start practicing. Better yet, these are free ways to practice your speaking and listening skills. 
  • Get a Chinese tutor and start practicing. If you prefer structure, with a teacher guiding you through the conversation or lesson, and don’t mind paying for it - find an online tutor! There are tons of options nowadays, and many at a good price, so search online and find the tutor that is right for you.

Share Your Experience!

We hope you enjoyed this list of tips for self-studying Chinese, and that some of these tips may be helpful to you!

How do you usually study Chinese? Do you have any tips for self-studying Chinese? Share your experience in the comments below!