Still pinching yourself and processing the fact you got into NYU Shanghai? Well, congratulations, and welcome to the Class of 2024 (in President Andy Hamilton’s voice)! 

At NYU Shanghai, all non-Chinese students are required to learn Mandarin Chinese. What’s better, you will reach proficiency by the time you graduate! While I know some of you can already follow an entire episode of Yanxi Palace or The Untamed, I want to give a special shoutout to those of you who chose NYU Shanghai as where to break new ground for yourselves. Mandarin beginners, if you’re scratching your head a little bit and don’t know where to start, I feel you. Welcome to my 5 practical tips before you start your NYU Shanghai Chinese class!

Create A Motivation List for Yourself

First, let’s be honest, studying a language is not just about fun, it comes with frustration too. To get through strenuous memorizing, repeated practice, and the assignments, quizzes, and exams in the future, you need good reasons that can remind you of why you started in the first place. This is why I believe finding your own passion for studying Mandarin is significant. No matter how many results come back in the search “why should I learn Mandarin”, only those speak to you can motivate you.

Create a motivation list of your reasons to learn Mandarin. It could be your personal development goal such as “I want to be able to run my own business in China”. Or, it can be as simple as “I want to be able to read the story of Mulan in Chinese”. Keep this list accessible. Bring it to Shanghai. Trust me, it can give you a push on a low day while studying. 

Sit in A Mandarin Chinese Class at Your High School

A real class setting can give you a basic idea of what coursework in Chinese looks like, and it can help you adapt to systematic learning. If your high school offers classes in Mandarin Chinese, lucky you! It’s time to utilize this great resource. Ask if your high school currently has a Mandarin beginner level class you can sit in. Even if you don’t sit in a class eventually, connect with the Chinese teacher at your high school. Tell them about your admission to NYU Shanghai. Tell them you’re going to learn Chinese! When you see their faces, you know you have a cheerleader in your corner.

Talk to Another Mandarin Learner

Following the previous tip – if your high school offers Chinese classes, don’t forget that your classmates can support you, too! As seniors who have been in your shoes, they can easily understand your concerns and share with you what worked for them in the past. Moreover, by looking at how much they’ve achieved in Mandarin learning, you’ll have more confidence in yourself and what you can become.

Of course, if you can’t find anyone in your school or area, there are so many online communities about language learning for you to discover. Oh wait, aren’t you already in one of those groups? Go mingle with other newly admitted students/Mandarin learners in the Class of 2024 Facebook group

Use Online Learning Platforms

Now we’ve gone through the prep work, time to jump into the actual learning part. Compared to teaching yourself by a textbook, I strongly recommend using an APP. This is because, first, All an APP takes is a click on your smartphone to activate, but you may need much more work to get into the headspace of study. Also, the interactive task games, video clips, and crossword in an APP just make focusing and memorizing much easier.

It is not the first day of the invention of language learning APPS, so I’ll leave that to you. However, if you’re looking for great APPS specifically designed for Chinese learning, check out the MEET NYU article Five Best Apps for Learning Chinese to know more!

Find a Language Buddy

As someone who learned English as a second language, I still remember the nerves I had the first time I engaged in a conversation with a native speaker. That’s why I strongly suggest the “exposure therapy” starts sooner than later. Invite a native Mandarin speaker to be your language buddy! You can usually find them in language exchange groups online or offline, or just ask an acquaintance who speaks Mandarin Chinese. Learn authentic and trendy expressions from your language buddy. Make silly mistakes. Laugh together and just have fun with it.

So there you have it, the 5 tips that will make your Mandarin beginner actions plain sailing. 祝你好运(“Good Luck” in Chinese)!

Yan Liang is an assistant director at NYU Shanghai Undergraduate Admissions based in Shanghai, mainly working with Chinese applicants. She is passionate about sharing tales about the cities of Shanghai and New York, and supporting adventurous souls in their quest to take on global experiences here at NYU. After a few years in Seattle, she is back on the east coast of China but remains a Seahawk fan.