Writing Chinese Regularly Makes Perfect

Writing Chinese makes Perfect

Writing is the aspect of language learning that arguably involves the most focus and attention. It is impossible to do passively, and you have to get out of your comfort zone to do it. Once you get into the habit of writing Chinese regularly, however, it can become the most satisfying and fruitful part of your language acquisition journey. Here are my favorite reasons why you should write:

You Can Take All the Time You Need to Express Yourself 

Writing Chinese is like speaking, just in slow motion. Just as with reading, writing gives you all the time you need to formulate thoughts and ponder every word. With speaking, unless you have an incredibly patient (and masochistic) paid tutor, you can’t contemplate the precise way of expressing a thought beforehand. 

Writing Chinese Activates Vocabulary Very Effectively 

Writing Chinese is slow and painful at first, but after a short period of regular practice, you can almost hear the “clicks” as the words you write become part of your ‘active vocabulary,’ i.e., words you can use quickly and accurately. Hence, regular writing may just be the ultimate way to solidify your understanding of the words and phrases you’ve acquired through reading and listening. It may be even more effective than speaking. 

Writing Is Personal 

So, after some practice, you can develop your own personal style, which naturally makes the process much more enjoyable. Writing a journal in Chinese, posting on your blog, or social media sharing are excellent ways of capitalizing on this benefit. 

Writing Chinese Helps You to Notice 

Because you need to think so much more about the sentences you write, you develop a more intimate knowledge of every word and grammar structure. If you want to write a sentence correctly, you have no choice but to focus on how each word behaves. 

Even If You Are a Beginner, You Can Still Write Chinese 

If you don’t have much vocabulary, you can still practice writing. Just write individual sentences or phrases. You can even look at example sentences and try to re-write them using slightly different vocabulary. Just as graded readers can weave entire stories with a limited selection of words and characters, it is also possible to write about a wide range of topics, even with a relatively small vocabulary.

Some Powerful Chinese Writing Tips

Writing Chinese by Hand

Write often to benchmark your progress 

The more often you can write Chinese, the better. In addition, you get a hidden bonus of “benchmarking” of your progress from regular writing, allowing you to look back on your previous writing practice after a few weeks or months to marvel at how far you’ve come.

The more personal, the better 

Writing a shopping list in Chinese, or notes from a meeting or class are great ideas. There’s even a fun website called Idiomatic Forest that asks you to write short blurbs about random images, which can be really fun. However, when you write about your experiences, your personality will shine through in your writing, which will make the words and structures you practice far more memorable.

Write about something or someone you love. Or write about a problem you’re having. Write about your goals and dreams in Chinese. Describe your actual dreams from last night. Write about a book you read or a YouTube video you watched. Or Write about what you’ve learned or would like to learn. Write a journal. Write a blog or WeChat post. The more personal, the better. 

Aim for zero mistakes 

That’s right, zero. Take your time to think before you put pen to paper or keyboard and lookup example sentences for words you don’t quite know how to use. If you do these things, you will produce the correct output, which is fantastic for your language skills. But consistently poor output leads to bad habits, and bad habits are hard to break. Ryszard Wojcik of Antimoon expounds on this well: 

“It is close to the truth that I have never written an incorrect English sentence. I knew many grammatical structures, and I used only those that I knew. My sentences were similar to sentences which I knew to be correct. I followed good examples, so all my sentences were good. Because of this approach, I was never reinforcing bad habits. I never had any bad habits! From the beginning, I copied only correct sentences. With every sentence that I wrote, I reinforced my good habits.” 

Get corrections! 

Writing and getting corrections will help you quickly notice the patterns and structures of Chinese. This attentiveness will pay off when it comes to speaking, reading, and listening too. Share your writing with a paid language exchange partner or tutor. HiNative is a service designed to provide corrections and ask general questions from native Mandarin speakers.

Make flashcards out of your mistakes 

Create ultra-personalized, reviewable content by making flashcards out of any corrected writing. 

Use a Chinese writing software 

Try Flowstate, iA Writer, or Ommwriter to get you into the “flow” of writing. Phil and I both use Flowstate for writing all content for MB, and that includes this article!

Don’t just type, write Chinese by hand 

There is undoubtedly some kind of special connection between the hand and the head. What you write by hand allows you to develop muscle memory for Chinese while consolidating your acquired knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.