From my own experience, whatever I learn, I find it very important to set realistic but challenging, and measurable goals. And when it comes to language learning, taking properly authorized tests can be a good example of such goals.
Thinking back on my experiences in learning Dutch, one of the things I regret is that I never pushed myself hard enough to take any exams. I always felt that it’s better to be fully prepared before signing up to any exams. This thinking is bad, particularly for people who are less disciplined like me. The truth is that you can never be fully prepared, without a clear goal most people will not be able to make constant effort, thus end up either giving up or reaching a mediocre level and never excel.
In language learning, I find it is important to take exams to evaluate your level constantly. For any Chinese learners, I recommend you to use tests as a tool to force yourself to go forward. The benefits are several folds:
- Firstly, you will feel motivated. Now that you have a specific task(to pass the test that is), your mind is telling you that you need to work for it. And now you are not just learning for fun or work or any other vague reasons, you are learning for a specific purpose: to pass the exam. This is a huge motivation is you are serious about what you are learning.
- Secondly, your learning is continuous, not just a spur of moment. Now that you have a upcoming test, you will be “forced” to make continuous effort. Because we all know that Rome isn’t built in one day, you will feel a sense of urgency and pressure to take actions and really spend time and energy on it, continuously.
- Thirdly, the confidence you have after passing the test will give you immense force to go even forward. Imagine if you have successfully passed your Chinese test for level 3, wouldn’t you feel you can and you want to go for level 4? People seldom give up things if they are already making some achievement with it. Therefore, it’s likely you will continue learning, not only because you can, but also because it’ll be a pity to stop now.
- Fourthly, a certificate is not just a piece of paper. Passing an authorized test means you will receive a proper certificate or diploma. In jobs, we often need to show what we have done in measurable ways. Having a certificate in hand can only be beneficial for you!
- Finally, a Chinese exam is much cheaper to take than other language exams. For example, I know the Spanish DELE test (Spanish as a second language) costs between 105EUR (level 1) to 191EUR (level 6). Whereas for Chinese HSK test (Chinese as a second language), it costs 150RMB, roughly 20EUR, for level 1 and 650RMB (80EUR) for level 6. It’s not that much money to invest.
In essence, one way to really improve your language learning is to set up measurable goal and work towards it. Once you have a specific and measurable goal, it is so easy to make plans and take steps. If you don’t work hard to pass the test, most of us will feel a sense of guilt (such as waste of money, self-doubt, etc). Therefore, let this sense of guilt work for you.
While setting goals are important, it is also crucial to remember that your goals, in this case, the exams need to be:
Realistic: the test needs to be practical. It obviously doesn’t make sense to aim for the highest level when you just start with Chinese. Therefore, be realistic with yourself. The whole purpose is to keep you motivated, not demotivated.
Challenging: the test can’t be too easy either. A too easy exam will put you in a lazy mood. The whole purpose is to keep you motivated, not demotivated.
Measurable: the test has to be a proper exam, in the sense that you’ll receive official diploma or certificate or proof. In this way your effort will be clearly measured. Tests in class don’t count. Reason is simple: it has to be a serious and clear test so that you know you have to work hard for it and really feel proud once you pass it.
There are several types of exams for Chinese. The most famous one is HSK (汉语水平考试 hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì). Check here to see the HSK test dates and location in your country.
HSK has six levels, level 1 to 6, equivalent to the European language evaluation system A1- C2. Level 1 is the lowest level, requiring students to be able to use 150 Chinese vocabularies. Level 6 is the highest, requiring students to possess about 5,000 vocabularies.
For classes to get prepared for your HSK exam? Get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.