Use the language as much as possible. Even when you
can't speak but a few phrases, use those phrases. Textbooks
and websites are excellent sources of gaining new understanding and
vocabulary, but finding a native speaker to practice with is
essential for developing any real fluency.
Think in the language. This takes a long time to
achieve, but it is the only true fluency. As phrases and
sentence patterns become natural to you, your mind will be capable
of using that vocabulary and grammar in thinking. If you want
to increase your fluency you must force your mind to think in the
language rather than your native tongue when studying.
Consider putting off studying Chinese characters. If
your goal is oral fluency, you may wish to hold off on learning
characters. Chinese characters are a large investment in
time. If you only have a few months of study before you need
to use your Chinese, you may want to budget all your time for
learning how to speak and understand. Characters will aid you
in learning, but the time it takes to learn a sufficient amount of
characters may be too high of a cost. On the other hand, if
you can wait for fluency, studying the characters parallel to your
regular study is probably the most effective method.
Constantly study and review. Carry flashcards
everywhere. You can spend 5 minutes waiting in line doing
nothing, or you can spend 5 minutes in line learning something you
want to know.
Concentrate when someone is talking to you in Chinese.It's easy to tune someone out and just pretend you are understanding
once you get lost in a conversation. Stick with it, it will
increase your retentive ability. If you do get lost, try to
listen for words you know or ask them to repeat (if possible).
When you get a headache, take a break. When you feel
unwell your ability to learn is decreased. In fact, if you are
studying hard you should take frequent breaks to keep your mind
In Chinese, accuracy is better than large vocabulary.
If you know a lot of words but you say them wrong, it doesn't help
much. Practice the sounds and tones constantly. Ask for
correction. Chinese people would rather not point out your
mistakes and tend to emphasize how good you are doing.
Correct yourself whenever you notice yourself make a mistake.
Repeat a new word or phrase until you get it right. If you
make a mistake while talking to someone else, stop yourself and say
it right. You may even wish to ask them to model the phrase
for you if you feel that would be appropriate.
Don't be shy. Try to say what you can in the
language, and if you get it wrong, explain until someone understands
what you mean. Then ask them how they'd say it. Try to
give the explanation in the language even if the person you speak to
knows good English.
Write new vocabulary down.Use the romanization as well as
characters (if you are learning characters). This will help
you to listen and will give you good practice with the romanization
system. After you write it down, ask someone what the meaning
is and give them the context you heard it in. Then, review
that new vocabulary when waiting around.
Buy a good dictionary and a good language text.While
using a language is the only way to get fluent, good literature can
add lots of new vocabulary to practice.
Spend at least 30 consecutive minutes a day studying the
language, more if you're on a roll.