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Textbook Chinese vs. Real-World Chinese

TANNER BRADEN | FEBRUARY 23, 2022
Sally & Jane

Meet Sally.


Sally is learning Chinese and spent 100 hours pouring over Chinese language textbooks, diligently learning every single phonetic rule and grammar structure that governs spoken Chinese. 
Her pronunciation is solid, and her vocabulary is immense.

But, when she visited her local Chinese market and tried to have a conversation with a native speaker, she could hardly understand a word they said!


Now let’s meet Jane.

Jane is also learning Chinese, but instead of textbooks she spent 100 hours immersing herself in Chinese language media of all kinds. She watched hundreds of videos and listened to dozens of podcasts, meticulously studying both the Chinese and the English translations. She got to the point where she could watch popular Chinese dramas and understand nearly everything that was said.

But when she traveled to China and tried speaking with the locals, her poor pronunciation and sloppy sentence structure left her largely unable to communicate with them!


Do you relate to either of these stories? If so, don't worry, you're not alone! 

Most Chinese courses focus heavily on either textbook Chinese OR real-world Chinese. 
But Chinese is a tricky language, and it presents a significant difference between what's taught in the textbooks and what is actually spoken by natives in the real world. Focusing your studies too much on just textbook Chinese or real-world examples will leave you frustratingly incompetent in some of the most important aspects of the language.

This is one of the main reasons we designed Yoyo Chinese the way we did, providing an ideal balance of BOTH in-depth textbook-style explanations AND hours upon hours of exposure to real Chinese language spoken between native speakers.




Why Study 'Textbook Chinese'?

Many fundamental aspects of the Chinese language - like pronunciation, tones, grammar, characters, etc. - are so unlike English that we learners really do need clear, logical, and easy-to-understand explanations of how they work in plain English.

Learning the rules, patterns, and structures that govern Chinese is hard enough when it is presented in simple English, you might as well forget about trying to master them by just throwing yourself in the ocean of Chinese media and trying to stay afloat.


And when you start learning on Yoyo Chinese, you'll see we address this RIGHT from the beginning. In Level 1 of our Beginner Course, we serve you the fundamentals on a silver platter in language you can actually understand. We show you how you ALREADY use tones in English, and how to study tones as (not individually) in order to start seeing tones naturally - the way native speakers do.


Not only that, but every pronunciation lesson comes with both Practice and Quiz so you can listen to the pinyin and tones as many times as you'd like and make sure you're able to recall them easily as you review. 


Only a few lessons later, we present you with videos of REAL Chinese conversation. But don't worry, we don't just throw you in and leave you to tread water alone!

These videos are ALWAYS broken down line-by-line, and in the Practice section you'll find the Dialogue tool. 

The Dialogue tool splits the conversation into a flashcard-like experience for EACH line of the dialogue.


Better yet, every single line comes complete with both the original native audio clip, AND a 'slow' version, recorded separately with clearly enunciated pronunciation of the same line so you can practice both and compare. 


Throughout the Courses you'll also find our lessons explain the grammar rules you need to master in order to form natural Chinese sentences yourself, like these examples here: how to use the correct word order or how to talk about the past. Learning the rules this way, and helping you develop those native-like instincts is the best way to master the skill conversing in Chinese on the spot.


But something else that's special about Yoyo Chinese is that our lessons are created by BOTH native Chinese AND non-native Chinese language experts. We do this in order to ensure that our students can relate easily to the explanations and insight in the lessons - and it works!



Why Study 'Real-World' Chinese?


As we described above, mastering the fundamentals using 'textbook Chinese' can certainly be a very effective way to master Chinese speaking.

But believe it or not, Chinese speakers in the real world don't ACTUALLY sound like those pre-recorded audio demonstrations!

They speak quickly. They slur their syllables and tie their tones together. They use incomplete sentences and slather their favorite slang on top for good measure. (Oh, and did we mention that China is a vast country encompassing many different regions, each with their own unique accents?)


If you want to be able to actually understand what is being said, you MUST practice listening to Chinese as it is spoken by real-world people in real-world situations.

But thankfully you don't have to fly to China to do that! Yoyo Chinese's three Conversational Chinese Courses -
Beginner, Intermediate & Upper Intermediate - are built around just that: real-life Chinese conversations!

Even in the earliest levels of the Beginner Conversational Course, you'll find video clips of real on-the-street interviews with Chinese locals; and the further into the courses you get, the more native Chinese conversation you'll be exposed to!




The Yoyo Chinese Solution

Chinese is a wonderfully challenging language to learn; and if you want to actually master it, you can't neglect studying either textbook Chinese or real-world Chinese.

If you haven't already, please do come try learning with us at Yoyo Chinese and see how we integrate both of these essential elements into an online platform that helps you ACTUALLY learn Chinese!