Just do these three things.

That’s what I say when people ask me how to learn Chinese. There is a vast sea of resources out there, and after doing a lot of stumbling around, I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing compares to the elegant simplicity of a few simple, effective tools.

A: Start with Pimsleur. This thing is outrageously expensive, but you can usually get it for free at a library. Follow the instructions. Focus on acquiring the skill of listening, repeating, and thinking without visual aids. This is critical if you’re going to learn good pronunciation.

Since I always want something I can look at, this process was excruciating for me. But it has paid huge dividends.

Pimsleur won’t take you very far. For me, I pretty much exhausted it after about 4 months.

B: Move on to ChinesePod. If you’re serious, go to their website and sign up for a Premium subscription. If not, you can access enough free lessons to get you through.

See my blog post about how to use ChinesePod.

C: Download Pleco. Back in my day, I had to buy a Palm OS device to run this software. The iPhone hadn’t even been released yet. These days, if you have an Android or iOS device, you can download a pretty good version of it for free.

But… You really need to spend the money. The benefit of Pleco is having all the tools and dictionaries integrated in one place. I do most of my Chinese reading in text files within Pleco. You can look words up on the fly, and add them to any of your flashcard lists. If the word isn’t in your dictionary, you can create a custom entry.

That’s it! You’ll be chatting in a foreign tongue before you know it.

Featured Image: Reading《地球大炮》in the Pleco reader