Five Tips to Expand Your Chinese Vocabulary

Posted by Lilian Li on May 18, 2016

expand Chinese vocabulary


No matter how good your pronunciation is or how many sentence structures you know, if you don't know the word, everything will fall apart. In any language learning process, to accumulate vocabulary plays an important role. To understand and speak better Chinese, it is inevitable that you must improve your vocabulary. Today, I'll give you a few clues to help make expanding vocabulary more fun.

1.From 1 word to 100

This may seem a little bit exaggerated, but the idea is to start with a vocabulary tree, which means to start from a single word so as to know a lot more.

1st step: Write down a word that interests you, such as food, drinks or sports.

2nd step: Add "branches" of words or phrases related to the main topic.

Take "酒"(jiǔ,alcohol/ wine)for example, let's see how many related words can be found for wines:

expand Chinese vocabulary


2. Flashcards

This may be a cliché, but it is proved that using flashcards is one of most effective ways to quickly memorize vocabulary. Whether you are using a telephone flashcard application or your own handmade flashcards, the question is how to better organize it and build your own study pattern to help you remember better.

For example, you can organize by the word category that covers a wide range of topics in order to more easily review. Once you are done with one category, you can put those cards into the column of "checked," and the ones with which you still have problems into another column called "half-checked." In this way, you can make sure to have a solid vocabulary basis as well as to add to your collection as your vocabulary expands.

3. Multimedia resources

Improving Chinese vocabulary by watching Chinese TV channels, video websites or listening to local radio is a great way to learn Chinese because it provides a rich resource of native Chinese speaking and listening material. Whether you take them as primary source of study material or just complementary to taking classes, you'll have more fun than if you merely take a Chinese course, and your brain will absorb it in a more efficient way. You will also naturally gain a better understanding of how to speak in a grammatically correct manner.

4. Make your pink notes

Make colorful Chinese word notes for everything in your house. For example, you can check your dictionary to find out the word for "mirror" and then write that on a note that you tape to your mirror. Whenever you check your reflection in the mirror, look at the label you've put on it. You can start with pinyin labels at first, and then move on to only using Chinese characters once you're familiar with the word.

5. Talk with local people

There is an old saying of Confucius --- "三人行必有我师焉 sān rén xíng bì yǒu wǒ shī yān" (Two heads are always better than one). Why not take advantage of every opportunity to talk with local people? They can always be the ones to teach you the most interesting expressions to avoid awkward situations and nail an interview. Just open your eyes and ears. Who knows? The cleaning person in your office may teach you a philosophical word!

About The Author

Lilian Li

Lilian Li has a master's degree in linguistics and didactics from Rennes University in France. An expert in linguistics and educational psychology, she has taught Chinese as a foreign language for several years, primarily in France.

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