Should I learn to read and write Chinese Characters?

You can master basic conversational Chinese without learning to read and write the characters. This includes how to greet someone, how to order drinks and order food. It obviously doesn’t include reading the menu. You can get by with pinyin and just learn to talk.

Reading Chinese Characters

If you want to become proficient in Chinese, you really need to learn to read Chinese characters. If you can recognize 3,500 characters, this will cover 99.5% of the characters you will come across in daily life. (On a side note, Chinese people need to know between 6 and 7 thousand characters for daily life.) If you can’t read any Chinese, this can be overwhelming. It doesn’t need to be. Chinese characters are made from parts called radicals. There are 214 radicals in the traditional Chinese writing system. If you can learn these, it will help you to understand the meaning of many characters. You may want to consider a flashcard application like Anki.

Writing Chinese Characters

Learning to recognize and read Chinese characters is one thing. Learning to write them is another. Even Chinese people have to remember what the character looks like and then how to write it. It will require consistent practice for a long period of time.

Some people believe you can’t learn to read that many Chinese characters without writing them. I suspect this is based on their learning style. If you learn best by writing things down, then you may need to memorize the characters by writing them. One option for this is an application called Skritter. Another option is a pencil and a pad of paper. Sit down and get started.

What is the philosophy behind Hong Tu’s language classes?

We believe that your success depends on two things: motivation and effort. If you give up, you will never master anything including Chinese. You must stay motivated if you want to succeed. The effort you put in studying and practicing determines how quickly you will learn Chinese.

We teach you the vocabulary and sentence pattern in class and then give you homework. You memorize the new vocabulary and practice the pattern on your own between classes. It is far better for you to study for 15 minutes a day rather than for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon.

We help you study with mp3 files, flashcards and other resources. We encourage you to consider adding in additional resources such as Rosetta StoneSkritter, or other tools. The more resources you use, the faster you will learn.

How does Hong Tu compare to university classes?

Studying Chinese at a University

The advantages of studying at a university include being able to get credit and/or a degree and a higher chance learning from an experienced instructor. You will have the advantage of a program designed to help you progress.

The disadvantages are the wrong focus, a higher cost, lack of flexibility around scheduling and a set pace. Most universities charge around $300/credit hour for a semester course. This equates to $1200/semester. If you attend a private university, the cost could double. You will likely learn to talk about dorm rooms and other college related material. You will meet on the classes schedule for four hours a week.

University courses are a good fit for: people who require credits or need a degree in Chinese.

Hong Tu’s Advantages

If you are the right person, we believe we offer advantages over university courses. This is particularly true if you need to learn to speak rather than earn a piece of paper.

Pace: If you study regularly, we can teach you the same amount of material in just one hour a week.

Cost: Not only will you spend less time, you will spend less money. Our courses cost $150/month.

Content: We will teach you business related terms. You will learn how to say meeting rather than dorm room.

Flexibility: We offer classes that meet in the evening and on the weekend. Our structure allows you to attend class one hour a week and study on your own time to make up the difference.

Class size: Our classes are typically 6 students with a maximum of 10.

Instructor:  Our lead instructor is a native speaker who has 15 years of experience teaching Chinese as a second language.

How does Hong Tu compare to online programs?

Studying Chinese with Online Programs

The advantages: Rosetta Stone and other online programs offer some serious benefits if you are interested in learning Chinese. You can study on your own time. Rosetta stone has a nice tool to help you practice saying words and sentences. It’s based on a computer, so you can practice as much as you want. We like some of the tools so much that we recommend that when possible students purchase the software (or other resources) and use it as a supplement to our classes. Another disadvantage is the inability to ask a live person a question.

The disadvantages: Many software programs sell the idea of learning a language naturally, just like a child. This approach has serious disadvantages. It  took you 3 years to start speaking in basic sentences and 18 years to master your first languages? You now have an adult brain that is able to communicate complicated ideas. Why not use this ability rather than repeat words and sentences while looking at pictures.

Online programs are a good fit for: business people who travel so much that they can’t meet with a live teacher.

Our Advantages

Live instructor: Large companies spend a lot of money developing phone systems to deliver information with the click of a button. The problem is you can either spend 20 minutes listening to recorded messages or ask someone and have your answer in seconds. We know which one we prefer.

Philosophy: You are an adult with an adult brain. We believe you are able take advantage of the opportunity to learn the grammar and use the language in a variety of situations.

Customization: You may find something difficult to understand. Our instructors are trained to go back and explain this material in a different way. We can also customize the lessons according to your specific needs and learning style.

Instructor: Our lead instructor is a native speaker who has 15 years of experience teaching Chinese as a second language.

How does Hong Tu compare to tutors?

Studying Chinese with Tutors

Meeting a tutor in a coffee shop can be less expensive way to learn. There are some other advantages including extended contact with a native speaker at a lower cost. Tutors are typically experienced at helping you review material that others have already explained, but may struggle to explain material in a way that you can understand. Tutors typically don’t have an office, which is fine if the coffee shop is quiet. Tutors have also not spent time putting together a comprehensive program. Finally, tutors are not typically trained to teach Chinese as a second language.

The advantages of studying with a tutor include lower costs and potentially working with a native speaker individually.

The disadvantages are that tutors may not be trained instructors. Tutors also often do not have a comprehensive plan to use in teaching you Chinese. Sometimes tutors struggle to explain material in a way that helps you master the language quickly. At other times, tutors simply work on teaching you common phrases. Finally, tutors often do not have private space and will meet

Studying with a tutor may be a good fit if: you need to save money or are just learning for fun. Tutors are also often a good fit if you just want to learn some basic phrases.

Hong Tu’s Advantages

If you are the right person, we believe we offer significant advantages over tutors.

Pace: Our classes are focused on the serious student. You can expect to learn at a good pace.

Content: We have a systematic plan to teach you business related vocabulary and phrases.

Office based: We offer classes that meet in a quiet office. You won’t need to worry about the noise level or finding a seat in a busy coffee shop.

Class size: Our classes are typically 6 students, which means that you have the opportunity to learn with others in a small group environment.

Instructor:  Our lead instructor is a native speaker who has 15 years of experience teaching Chinese as a second language. She is licensed to teach Chinese as a second language in Taiwan, which is very difficult to obtain.

What’s the best way to study Chinese?

Consider two areas when learning Chinese: vocabulary and patterns. Vocabulary are the words you need to learn. Patterns are simply sentence patterns that help you communicate ideas rather than just words. When you were in school, patterns were the grammar that you learned. You may be surprised how much you enjoy learning grammar as an adult. Patterns are the building blocks of ideas and ideas help define a culture. By understanding how people talk, you will automatically have a better understanding of the people.

You should spend time in two areas:

First, study the current material at least a little bit every day. Review the vocabulary and practice saying the vocabulary with the correct tones. You must memorize the tones. If you don’t no one will understand you. Now, practice the new patterns. Practice saying the new sentences out loud with the correct tones. Try to capture the flow of the sentence. It will be difficult at first but will get better later. It may help to pretend that you are mimicking someone who speaks Chinese. Finally, try using the patterns with different vocabulary.

Second, study older material. Pick material that you studied several months ago. You may find that you develop a deeper understanding of that material. Consider developing a check list of material and include the patterns you find difficult. Make sure you spend time on all of the material, but spend a little more time in the areas that you find difficult. If you need suggestions, just ask. We’ll help you figure out what to review. Review the older material as we’ve outlined above.


Where is Hong Tu located?

Our office is in Broomfield

6343 W. 120th Ave, Suite 221
Broomfield, Co 80020
(here on Google Maps)

What is Hongtu’s holiday schedule?

  • Closed from Dec 24th to Jan 2nd
  • Closed for Thanksgiving and the following Friday
  • Chinese New Years Eve and Day
  • Independence Day – July 4th
  • Halloween, October 31st – after 4pm