Among the hardest things, you face while learning Chinese is keeping yourself accountable. Without any accountability, you are less likely to maintain a regular study schedule and risk learning very little Chinese or quitting the language entirely. In this guide, I provide five tips to help you maintain an active schedule so you can steadily improve your Chinese.
Have you ever had a large goal in life, but even with strong motivation you were not able to achieve that goal? It is likely you lacked an accountability system to turn that motivation into actual progress towards fulfilling your goal.
Like any goal, when learning Chinese, you need a multi-layered system of accountability to encourage you to study. Otherwise, your ambitions for learning Chinese will remain nothing more than ambitions.
The tips and tools below can help you build a system of accountability for yourself.
Tip #1: Enroll in a Chinese Class
Signing up for a Chinese class is the most effective way to hold yourself accountable while learning Chinese.
To do well in Chinese class, you are required to study every day or risk looking silly when not being able to practice a concept in class. Hopefully, angry stares from your teacher or laughter from your classmates when struggling to use Chinese can give you proper motivation to study.
Additionally, with classes, you have added accountability from pressure to meet homework deadlines and perform well on exams.
If you are a university student, signing up for a Chinese class is easy. For high school students and professional employees, finding a quality Chinese class can be tricky.
You can always try Googling programs in your local area, but you can also consider signing up for a class taught by a native speaker online (you can read more about taking Chinese classes online here). The best programs offer free demo classes and money back guarantees if you are not happy with the program during the trial period.
Tip #2: Find Yourself a Learning Community
Surrounding yourself with folks that are also interested in learning Chinese is far better than studying it alone. Not only will you be able to benefit from each other’s skills in Chinese, but you are much more likely to study more often and fulfill learning goals you set faster.
If you are in a Chinese class, put out a call for a study group that meets once or twice a week to practice Chinese. Try to think of ways to also make the group engaging and effective to keep it from turning into a mere English speaking social group.
Some ways to do this are to set an agenda with a list of activities for each week or you can take turns within the group at leading the class.
If you are not currently in a Chinese class and or are struggling to find yourself a language community, try downloading MeetUp and seeing what Chinese speaking groups are in your immediate area.
You will be surprised at how common these groups are. If there are no Meetup groups in your area, start one yourself or look to online language communities including our own on social media platforms like Facebook where you can ask questions and share learning resources.
Tip #3: Create a Language Studying Schedule and Stick to It
When I first started teaching English in China, I would always schedule time to study Chinese after work every evening. Within a short time, the progress I made from independent study was remarkable.
Although I was always tempted, and occasionally gave into hanging out with colleagues after work, the progress I was making in my Chinese was additional motivation for me to head home each night and hit the books.
To form your own study schedule think of a time of day where you can at least devote an hour of time (the more time you can spend the better) to review and learn Chinese. The time you choose should be when you have the smallest amount of temptations in place preventing you from studying (e.g. studying after work may clash with one’s happy hour or workout habits).
Some ways to keep yourself accountable to your study schedule are to have an electronic calendar that reminds you when it is time to study. It couldn’t also hurt also having a physical calendar posted on your fridge or somewhere you can often see it to remind yourself of your commitment.
If you are using apps like the Chairman’s Bao, ChinesePod, or any other learning tool, keep those on the first page of your mobile apps page. This way they are always front and center reminding you to study. Try to also avoid dismissing notification banners that a new lesson is available. When the opportunity to learn something new and study presents itself, take it!
Tip #4: Share Your Progress on Social Media
Challenge yourself to read a passage, listen to a dialogue, practice pronunciation or write a short passage every day.
When you are finished, share your progress on social media each consecutive day and describe what you learned. Be sure to also highlight any accomplishments you make along the way.
Likes, comments, emojis, and anything related to friends on social media is among the top ways to keep yourself motivated. After a few posts, it is also likely your friends will keep an eye out for progress updates. This will also help ensure you do not skip out on studying.
Tip #5: Use Study Management Apps
Apart from downloadable apps you use to learn Chinese, it never hurts to have an app to encourage you to use them.
While there are plenty of scheduling apps and study management tools out there, Trello is among my favorites for ensuring that I stay on top of studying Chinese. It’s free to download and can be accessed on your computer and mobile phone.
With Trello you can stay on top of all your Chinese studying activities and organize them based on your daily to-do list or any other method that suits you.
Remember that just wanting to learn Chinese will not ensure you will one day be able to speak or read the language. It requires tons of effort on your part to take the time and learn. Using these tips to stay accountable will help you stay on top of your language learning goals.