How to Improve Your Chinese Vocabulary in Five Easy Steps!

How to Improve Your Chinese Vocabulary in Five Easy Steps!

You may mastered the basics of Chinese language and be able to hold a simple conversation with friends about day-to-day activities and things you enjoy, but the next big step is how to improve your Chinese vocabulary to be able to converse fluently about a whole host of topics. Not everybody is lucky enough to be able to study in China in an immersive environment, but there’s still a whole host of neat things you can do to improve your Chinese vocabulary from the comfort of your own home! Here’s our 5 top tips:

Read, Read, Read

When I studied Chinese in school, I used to curse the long texts I would receive for homework. I would often put them off until the last minute and then rush through – the topics were boring and repetitive. I might be biased, but I love being able to read through articles on TCB, as each day we publish between 4-6 new lessons across a wide range of topics. The articles are never too long, meaning that I can read little and often, rather than having this ‘barrier to study’ that I experienced during my time at school.

I recently spoke at a conference in the UK alongside Dr Theresa Munford who highlighted the importance of daily reading to reinforce the ‘too blooming obvious’ such as 都, 是, 在, 也 , 的 etc. These are words that we can all recite definitions for with ease, but when forced to use them correctly within a sentence often struggle. Regular reading helps us to pick up on how these words are used within texts in a ‘natural’ way.

Listen to Chinese Songs

Learning through song is a brilliant way to learn any language. Just watch out in Chinese as tonal rules are often not obeyed when singing. Check out our blog of The Best Songs to Learn Chinese by HSK Level for some of our favourites!

Review Regularly

The old phrase “Use it or Lose It” has never rang truer than when learning Chinese. Reviewing little and often helps us expand our Chinese vocabulary through repetition of phrases and words. The brilliant thing about studying online is that the vocabulary used is often modern vocabulary that will be extremely useful when conversing with Chinese friends. Traditional textbooks often stick with traditional topics and expressions, so it never hurts to expand on this with current, trending words!

Talk Regularly. Not in China? Chat Online!

We can’t highlight the importance of regular speaking practice when learning Chinese enough, and it’s often one of the biggest barriers students face. Take every opportunity you can to speak and remove this embarrassment of speaking – even if it’s a simple greeting to your teacher in the corridor each day! Of course, if you can travel to China to study for some time, you will be presented with many more opportunities to speak, however being away from China isn’t an insurmountable challenge. Try online language partner services such as italki, Gospeaky and My Language Exchange.

Use Vocabulary Trees, Flashcards

Found a topic that interests you that you would like to expand your Chinese vocabulary for? Write the topic in the centre of a large sheet of paper and then connect sub-topics and single pieces of vocabulary off it in a ‘mind map’. You can then upload the vocabulary into your favourite flashcard testing system for regular review. Spaced Repetition Software works best because it tests you more on words you remember less.

One last tip… Set yourself realistic goals for vocabulary study – a small achievable aim is much more powerful than being overly optimistic and then disappointed when you can’t reach your target!

Check out the 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Learning Chinese. Got a tip? Get in touch with us at – we love to hear from you!

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