Learning outside class comes with both advantages and disadvantages compared to formal education. On the positive side, we can study according to our own goals and choose study methods that suit our own style. It’s more likely that we enjoy what we’re doing and if we’re disciplined enough, learning Chinese in this way is both efficient and enjoyable indeed.
However, there are also several disadvantages with learning Chinese outside class, although they can of course be overcome:
- Working with no external requirements makes most people lazy
- Lacking a format teacher, we need to find alternative ways of solving problems
The first problem is universal and relevant for every single person I have met (including myself). The most important thing is to find ways of studying Chinese that you truly enjoy, only than can you hope to spend the time necessary to master the language. There are lots of tips and tricks for how to make it easier to study more, though, even though it might not be fun all the time. Establishing routines and finding efficient studying methods is an individual endeavour, but there are several things that can help you.
The second problem is more straightforward: you need to find ways of dealing with problems you encounter. These may be questions about Chinese, but it might also be feedback on your own progress. Most of these questions can be solved online or by taking the help of native speakers (tutors, language exchange, friends). This problem is not hard to solve if you know exactly what resources to use, but it might seem daunting for beginners.
Here are all the articles about learning outside class (scroll down to see all of them in a text-only list):