Learn Mandarin Chinese for Free

The great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, always said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and that certainly holds true for people learning Mandarin Chinese.  

Mandarin Chinese is often listed as one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world due to the fact that it is a tonal language and the difficulty of learning the writing system.  

It is certainly  not impossible as many people have learned the language and you do not have to move to China to do it.  In fact, you can learn the language absolutely for free in the comfort of your own home.

Here is how:

- Visit Your Local Library and Check Out Relevant Learning Materials

All local libraries carry foreign literature and study materials.  Most of the larger library systems have entire sections devoted to languages such as Chinese, Spanish, German, and etc.  

If you visit the library, you can check out books that will teach how to read, write, and speak.  Some libraries have software you can check out as well like Rosetta Stone.  You can also look for Chinese movies and music as well.

When you reach a more advanced level of comprehension you can check out their books in Mandarin Chinese and read things at the native level.  A good tip is to start with native children’s books that show the characters, the pinyin, and the English translation.  

These types of books are best for beginners because it will help them gain reading comprehension faster.  If possible, also look for read a long books in Chinese for children because they also serve the same purpose.

- Get a Language Partner

If you visit a local Chinese Cultural Center or visit a website like Livemocha.com, you can arrange for a language partner to talk to.  You can try out words and phrases and brush up on your pronunciation.  

This is a fun way to get to know people and learn the language at the same time.  The best part about this is that you can see how native speakers really sound and get used to the speed of the language.  It will be a little difficult to understand them at first, but listening comprehension comes with practice and exposure.

You can do this over the phone, online through instant messaging, or even a live video chat through Skype.  Many Chinese people are very eager to learn English, so it should be pretty easy to find someone to talk to.

- Watch Real Chinese Media Online

When you get to a more advanced level or even as a beginner you will need to expose yourself to real Chinese media to gain native level comprehension.  There are Chinese television shows and movies available online for free.  Tudou.com is a Chinese website that shows movies and television clips in Chinese.  Youtube also has a lot of Chinese videos as well for native speakers and learners alike.

- Use Free Sites and Podcasts

There are literally dozens of websites that can help you learn Chinese independently.  First of all, Itunes has lots of podcasts and apps that will help you learn Chinese for free.  There are apps that you can use to learn how to read and write the characters and create flash cards.

Websites like Openculture, MIT Opencourseware and Academicearth all offer full length college level courses in many different subjects including Chinese.  Ajatt.com is a site that teaches you how to learn Japanese, but it’s approach to languages is very helpful as it encourages complete and total immersion at home by watching movies and listening to music in the target language.

Finally, there is Lingq.com, which is a wonderful site that is free and allows you to practice dialogues and read a long with audiobooks.  It is one of the most effective techniques to learn a foreign language.

Though learning Chinese can be quite challenging, it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have because it will open the door to an incredibly interesting culture and possibly open career opportunities as well.  All of these resources are simply a starting point, so feel free to enroll in a course or hire a private tutor if you feel that it is necessary.