What is the secret to learning Chinese quickly, and by yourself? Many people talk about the concept of linguistic and cultural immersion. The thought behind immersion tends to boil down to the fact that you force yourself to think in Chinese instead of just speaking Chinese. But… what if a global pandemic stands between you and your dreams of international travel? Well you are in luck! There may be a way to immerse yourself without even leaving your house.
Somewhat recently there has been a new theory proposed that people have different types of intelligence styles. Some might excel at math while others are great painters. It assumes that different people have fundamentally different ways of thinking resulting in individuals having unique talents related to their thought processes. It's called the theory of multiple intelligences and you might find it offers insight into how to hack your brain and get yourself thinking in Chinese. Each different intelligence style has different strengths and weaknesses. You can take tests to figure out which intelligence styles you seem to align with. It's just as exciting as taking a Buzzfeed test except instead of figuring out which book character you should marry, you learn tips that will help you learn more effectively.
Here are some learning tips that should help you learn Chinese in ways that compliment the ways in which your brain naturally thinks.
Best Tips to Learning Chinese Based on Your Intelligence Style
Linguistic learners tend to like to make sense of the world by summarizing complex ideas into verbal or written statements. You can probably imagine that these people are likely to become writers. Despite what it sounds like it doesn't mean that they automatically understand foreign languages. That being said, their natural propensity to use words to think and communicate may well result in these types seeking to learn new languages.
Tips for Linguistic Thinkers
- Rewriting lesson plans in your own (Chinese) words:
It seems like people with this intelligence style like to connect words to concepts so try rewriting the lesson plan using Chinese words to help you build connections between Chinese words and their meaning.
- Having discussions in Chinese:
You may already be known for your ability to converse in your native tongue so why not try to strut your stuff in Chinese. You will use your natural linguistic skills in real time to see if you understand words well enough to put together sufficiently eloquent, or even just coherent, sentences.
- Focus on Chinese words you find fun and try to work them into sentences:
Oftentimes linguistic thinkers like to find new ways to express themselves by finding new and exciting words. Why not pick a few Chinese words that have been giving you trouble and practice integrating them into natural sentences.
Besides linguistic intelligence, interpersonally intelligent people are probably the most likely to end up trying to learn a language. People who have a high amount of interpersonal intelligence are known for their ability to understand people and are socially driven. If you identify with this type of intelligence then oftentimes you will find yourself in social roles like human resources, and teaching since you are good at reading and understanding people.
Tips for Interpersonal Thinkers:
- Find social events where you can practice speaking Chinese:
This won’t fit everyone who identifies with interpersonal intelligence but you can imagine that unlike linguistic thinkers, they like words because of their ability to build connections between other people rather than their ability to represent concepts. Going to Chinese themed social events should give you an extra push to really practice your ability to talk with the tantalizing price of social connection.
- Study in group settings where you can spontaneously interact and practice with peers:
This is pretty similar to the last tip but the thought is that it is in a more structured study setting where you can focus on lesson specific topics with your classmates using your natural socializing skills to your advantage
- Read Chinese memoirs, TV, or engage in Chinese media:
What better way to learn how to connect with people than understand what they do for fun. Engaging in Chinese history or TV can teach you a lot about culture.
This is not a typo. Int-RA-personal is a bit different from Int-ER-personal. Int-RA-personal thinkers have a notable ability to look inward and know themselves. Their tendency to reflect can make them good at picking apart theories and big concepts. Generally these types of people are thought of as philosophers, writers, or scientists. For this intelligence, maybe more so than others, it is important to understand their personal motivation in learning Chinese since personal attunement is fairly important to these individuals.
Tips for Intrapersonal Thinkers:
- Integrate Chinese into your favorite topics:
You likely have your set of favorite subjects to think about when you let your mind wander, using these to practice Chinese might let you kill two birds with one stone. You get to mull over your favorite thought experiment while still learning Chinese. Maybe using a new language will grant you a new perspective. If you want some help getting started check out some history, or philosophy.
- Journal in Chinese:
Sorry to be stereotypical but introspective people tend to journal. Practicing self expression in Chinese is a great way to incorporate Chinese into your thought process and make using the language feel more natural.
- Try joining a social group that practices your Chinese:
You're a thinker. There are lots of Chinese social groups that focus on interesting topics like calligraphy, history, or dance. Find one that interests you and use your natural curiosity to learn about a new topic in Chinese.
People who have spatial intelligence are generally good at creating images in their head. It’s thought that oftentimes these types of people become artists or engineers since they can understand physical shapes and properties. Learning Chinese might be a huge boon to their artistic self expression or open up new doors in their career.
Tips of Visual-Spatial Thinkers:
- Practice grammar by creating a physical puzzles for yourself:
Your brain has a gift for visualization, so give it something to visualize! Try writing out words on color coded flashcards based on their part of speech. Pick separate colors for measure words, nouns, verbs, and grammar patterns, then organize them into sentences.
- Focus on writing and reading in your study sessions:
Since you might be more of a visual thinker, seeing the words could be more potent than speaking or hearing them when it comes to actually learning the content.
- Incorporate Chinese into art or sketches:
If you are a type of visual thinker that likes to express yourself through artistry, try to incorporate Chinese words and concepts into your next doodle or painting. This could help you build connections between the Chinese language and your natural forms of expression, making Chinese feel much more familiar.
If you think you are a logical-mathematical (L.M.) thinker you probably tend to like to discover numbers or patterns in the world. L.M. thinkers are known for the ability to think linearly with a focus on cause and effect. Additionally these people are believed to prefer clear facts and hard data instead of subjective topics. Their clear linear thinking also can result in great organizational skills. While this type of person might not be the most naturally inclined to learn about language, there is no evidence to suggest they would struggle to learn a new language. These thinkers also tend to do well with visuals so they can observe patterns
Tips for Logical-Mathematical Thinkers:
Focus on identifying patterns in Chinese (grammar might be your strong suit):
While trying not to stray too far into stereotyping, chances are, if you are a mathematical thinker, you like to identify or solve patterns. This could give you a unique advantage when identifying the uses of chines’s innumerable grammar patterns. Here is a guide to Chinese numbers that might help get you started.
Create a physical puzzle much like the spatial thinkers:
These types oftentimes benefit from using visualization to understand and solve puzzles. Although your motivations and approach might be different from spatial thinkers you might also benefit from experimenting with ways to create visual aids when learning Chinese.
- Play a Chinese strategy game to get yourself more invested in learning:
You might be the type to enjoy using strategy to decimate your opponents in friendly games of wit. Whether you like playing board games or video games, see if you can find Chinese speaking opponents to integrate Chinese learning into your hobby.
This might come as a surprise but musical thinkers probably have a unique advantage when learning Chinese. These people are able to pick out sounds in their environment more accurately than their peers. Their ears are their secret weapon. But how does that give them an advantage? Simple. It’s a tonal language. They can also use their musical skill and love of music to help themselves study by creating and listening to Chinese songs. They are likely to quickly acquire an ear for subtle nuances in the language that other intelligence styles might miss.
Tips for Musical Thinkers:
- Listen to Chinese music:
This is a great way for any learner to develop an ear but this could be especially effective for people who seem to process the world through music. You might even find yourself subconsciously using and practicing Chinese when you get a Jay Chou song stuck in your head.
- Make your own songs to help you understand topics you struggle with:
Some people think that musical thinkers and mathematical thinkers share a lot of traits like an ability to identify and understand patterns. Writing or creating a song might be a great way for you to incorporate patterns into learning Chinese. Plus writing your lyrics in Chinese characters before singing them is a great way to build a connection between their appearance and their sound.
- Make sure to engage in conversations with native speakers:
It is always a great idea to seek out native Chinese speakers but it might have special significance for musical thinkers. Since you are sensitive to what you hear, listening to native speakers will give you an edge when understanding the use of tones and word annunciation. You might even find that you pick up on the subtle (unofficial) tonal changes that can occur when words are spoken as part of a natural sentence.
Bodily Kinesthetic thinkers are above average at controlling their bodies and honing their movements. Unsurprisingly, people who are associated with this type of intelligence are athletes, artisans, or surgeons all known for their exacting precision when moving. It is thought that these thinkers learn best when moving which can include big movements like running or even small movements like writing. It’s even thought that simply engaging their sense of touch, or engaging their muscles, can help them learn!
Tips for Bodily-Kinesthetic Thinkers:
- Listen to Chinese while moving:
Having a strong mind-body connection offers a lot of great study opportunities. Maybe you listen to Chinese dictations while doing yoga, or maybe you practice talking while out on a walk. The world is your oyster and you can combine any movement with any subject you’d like. You can even go as far as getting involved in a Chinese martial art or dance program.
- Engage your senses by typing and writing Chinese material:
This is a more conventional way to study but pairing the movement of typing and writing might really help you retain what you just read. To the disapproval of patrons of proper posture and conduct there is even evidence that suggests the simple act of fidgeting, like bouncing a leg, can help people think more easily.
- See if you can find a fidget to use in class:
Speaking of fidgeting, there has never been a better time to be a fidgeter with toys designed to delight even the most practical of adults. There are so many unique types of fidgets that I can almost guarantee there is one out there that suits your needs. There are subtle ones for those of you who don’t want to be distracted during class and there are huge noisy ones for if you are studying from home.
This is one of the lesser understood classes of intelligence but what is known is that these thinkers tend to be above average at identifying objects in their natural environment. Generally people with naturalistic intelligence become biologists, zoologists, rangers, and more. It’s possible that these thinkers learn better when they can group the new information with similar information that they already know. A process that is similar to organizing a new file into the correct cabinet for easy access when you need it later. Along with their ability to classify items based on key characteristics they seem to be fastidious when exploring and observing the natural world, happily stopping for several minutes to look at things like a plant they have never seen before. In short, they like to know how things work.
Tips for Naturalistic Thinkers:
- Focus on grouping different types of words together:
You or others may have noticed your unique skill for organizing and categorizing your life. See if you can turn this skill towards Chinese by grouping words together in ways that make sense to you. Try writing some characters on some post cards and sorting them by their grammatical use, or maybe you can group words based on the setting in which you use them.
- Learn the Chinese words for things you encounter or collect:
It’s possible your talent for identifying, observing and memorizing has turned into a hobby like knowing about all the different types of plants in your area, learning about the local architecture, or… i don’t know, maybe you like collecting slightly used erasers. It’s a big world with lots of hobbies, but if this sounds like you start trying to learn the Chinese names and use Chinese to describe the things you love to learn about or collect.
- Learn about the history of different Chinese words:
Naturalistic thinkers are sometimes known for their patience and their ability to sink their teeth into whatever they are interested in. Find something about Chinese culture that excites you. Not only will it help you become more invested in learning Chinese, you should be able to find relevant content produced in Chinese that can help you practice your listening and reading skills.
Every Chinese Learner Is Different
Everyone is different. Embrace what makes you unique and take control of your learning processes. Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things. If you are looking for some additional help, Speechling offers a Chinese learning platform as unique as you are. It helps you practice speaking, writing, and reading Chinese with the help of a real tutor to give you feedback.