When developing a three-month learning plan, including all four major language competencies discussed below. Every day, I recommend spending roughly equal time on each language competency.
Memorize Chinese Characters in Chunks
Learning characters is necessary to function in Chinese, but most students would agree that it is not the easiest part of the process. So here’s a plan for learning as many characters (and the most useful ones) as possible in three months.
Begin by learning the 214 Kangxi radicals. These are the building blocks of Chinese characters. It’s not the same as learning the alphabet, but it’s as close as you’ll get in Chinese. Mastering these 214 radicals will help you learn Chinese characters faster in the long run.
Start learning the 1,000 most common Chinese characters while working on the radicals. According to research, knowing the top 1,000 most common characters will allow you to understand roughly 90% of the Chinese language. And if you learn 11 characters daily, you’ll be able to learn the 1,000 most common characters in about three months.
Combining this with learning the 214 Kangxi radicals will make learning the characters easier and more likely to stick.
There are several tools available to help you learn characters. Skritter is the best app for learning to read and write characters. Other options include Zizzle, Memrise, and Anki.
Tactical reading practise
Learning characters is not enough to read; you must also read! However, if you want to improve your reading skills in three months, you probably won’t want to dive into any old book written in Mandarin Chinese.
Instead, begin with graded readers. These are books written for Chinese learners; the vocabulary and complexity cater to different learning levels. If you’re studying hard for three months, see if you can increase the difficulty of your graded readers every week or every two weeks.
Some graded reader resources are Mandarin Companion, ChineseReadingPractice, and The Chairman’s Bao.
After you’ve worked with graded readers, begin reading a book you’re already familiar with that has been translated into Chinese. This will allow you to learn new vocabulary and become acquainted with written Chinese without becoming distracted by the plot.
I recommend the “Harry Potter” series because it’s written for children/young adults, so the language isn’t too complex, and you’re probably already familiar with it. On the other hand, any book you’re already familiar with is an excellent place to start.
Work with a Tutor to Improve Your Speaking and Pronunciation Skills
Hiring a private tutor is the quickest way to improve your pronunciation and speaking abilities. This is because tutors can provide expert, personalized attention. They’ll hear the mistakes you don’t realize you’re making and coach you on proper pronunciation.
It’s a much faster and more precise way to improve your speech than trying to imitate Chinese audio content or even being in a class with several other students.
You can hire a Chinese tutor via Skype or in person. I believe that in-person tutors are slightly superior; it is easier for a tutor sitting at the table with you to give you pointers about where to place your tongue when making a particular sound, and there are no issues with poor audio quality. However, in-person tutors are usually much more expensive.
Wyzant is a simple platform for finding Chinese tutors in your area or online. You can quickly search for numerous qualified tutors and narrow them down by filtering based on their rates, qualifications, distance from you, and other factors.
If you’re looking for online one-on-one lessons, another good option is italki.
Use your tutoring time to practise your pronunciation and work on spontaneous and practised speaking. Ideally, your tutor will be a trained language teacher who understands the difficulties foreigners frequently face with Chinese phonetics and tones.