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If you want to learn Chinese, you need to make it a habit to study every day. This might sound a lot to ask at first, but what if you could learn Chinese in 5 minutes each day?
This idea is backed by research that shows that study sessions that are spread out over time are more effective for long-term memory retention than study sessions that cram a lot of information into a short amount of time. This means that learning Chinese in 5 minutes every day for a week will help you remember the material for longer than studying for thirty-five minutes one day each week.
Five minutes every day doesn’t sound so bad in theory, but in practice, we know that it’s actually pretty hard to find time, energy, and motivation to study every day, no matter how short the sessions are. So how do you get to studying Chinese every day? Read on for some tips on how to learn Chinese in 5 minutes and make it a lasting habit.
No matter how short we make our study sessions, when it comes time to sit down and study, our minds seem to interrupt us with excuses.
“Nah, I don’t have the time/I’m too tired/I don’t feel like it right now,” you say to yourself, “I’ll get to it later.” You skip your study session, and before you know it, you’re all tucked in for bed at night, ready to fall asleep, and a thought occurs to you in the dark: “I didn’t do my five minutes of Chinese today.”
How could this happen? It was only five minutes!
Before you blame yourself (or others), let’s acknowledge that it’s really hard to make new habits we want to keep, even when the habit is to do something for only five minutes. When we have the best conscious intentions to change up our routines for the better, our minds don’t always listen to us and can protest.
To coax our minds into forming a new habit, let’s break the study session down even further. Before you get to five-minute study sessions, try studying Chinese every day with James Clear’s 2-minute rule. Really. Just study Chinese for two minutes per session.
Following Clear’s reasoning, the point of using the 2-minute rule here isn’t so much to actually study Chinese as much it is to get accustomed to the idea and rhythm of studying every day.
Maybe two minutes is only enough time for you to gather together your study materials and sit at a desk. Maybe it’s only enough time for you to log in to Hack Chinese and review three words. You might feel like you’re not doing much, but you’re actually building yourself a strong foundation for your continuing Chinese studies. You’re making it a habit. You’re showing up every day.
Once you feel comfortable with showing up to Chinese practice every day for two minutes, a new thought might occur to you: “I’m already here, and I’ve already studied for two minutes, so can I study for three?”
The answer is: absolutely! As you grow accustomed to studying for two minutes each day, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend on your studies. Just make sure that your increments are reasonable so that you don’t overtax yourself and burn out.
Eventually, you can focus on making the most of these five-minute sessions that thwarted you earlier, and learn Chinese in 5 minutes.
Even when compared with two minutes, five minutes might not sound very long when it comes to studying Chinese. Nevertheless, there are plenty of effective activities you can fit into five minutes to steadily exercise and advance your Chinese skills.
An app like Hack Chinese makes it easy to learn Chinese in five minutes. All you have to do is log in and study what Hack Chinese’s spaced repetition algorithm has in store for you for the day. This will keep your vocabulary work efficient and on track, the importance of which we’ll go into a bit later.
If you want to practice your listening skills or freshen up on some grammar points, find a quick YouTube video or podcast. It’s particularly easy on YouTube to find quick Chinese lessons or even Chinese music videos to watch. For a more active approach, take notes!
To practice both listening and speaking skills, chat with a language exchange partner for just five minutes. With the human interaction involved, the time will fly by, and you’ll be preparing yourself to think on your toes in Chinese in an unscripted environment.
So you’re studying Chinese for five minutes every day now. Where will this habit get you?
To answer this question, let’s consider a situation where you’re using Hack Chinese for five minutes a day.
On a primary level, these studies will build up your vocabulary. If you use Hack Chinese every day for a few days, you’ll end up knowing dozens of Chinese words. In a few months, you’ll know hundreds. In a year, thousands.
If you want to learn how to study Chinese effectively and learn Chinese in 5 minutes, keep in mind that focusing on vocabulary like this is key, since vocabulary actually empowers all your other skills.
A strong vocabulary will help your reading and listening comprehension skills by increasing the amount of words you immediately understand in the language you encounter. This will improve your ability to use context clues to guess the meanings of unknown words and save you the time and frustration of looking up every other word in the dictionary.
It will also help your writing and speaking skills. At first, it might simply provide you with the basic words you need to use to express yourself at an elementary level, but at more advanced levels, it’ll give you the ability to choose among different words and expressions to express yourself with both clarity and nuance.
After a year of studying Chinese for five minutes a day with Hack Chinese, you’ll have the structural support of thousands of words behind you, giving you the ability to speak, write, read, and listen to Chinese with confidence.
If you still feel like five-minute (or even two-minute) study sessions seem a bit short when considering how much time needs to go into learning Chinese, just take it from Laozi: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (千里之行，始於足下; pinyin: Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià).
On the long journey that is the road to Chinese fluency, you need to start somewhere, and the first step towards a good foundation will take you a long way. For a solid first step in that direction, learn Chinese in 5 minutes per day, make it a habit, and make it one that lasts.