Five problems you may run into while learning Mandarin Chinese
Here are five things every Chinese language learner runs into (to varying degrees) while they’re learning Mandarin. Don’t let them put you off from reaching fluency!
1: I keep making the same mistakes
Everyone learns differently, but common ‘stumbling blocks’ are words like 没/不 or pronunciation. While it’s good to put extra focus on these, don’t worry too much. Just believe us that these things will often be ironed out later, as you get to speak more and more.
If you’re really stuck on a specific topic, you can always search YouTube for specific videos. It’s full of free learning materials.
2: I’m behind the curriculum and falling behind further and further
There’s no easy way of saying this, but catching up costs time… so leave the Playstation or your date alone for a while. Yet let us say that perceived effort is often much higher than actual effort. Make a deal with yourself and try for just one hour full-focussed learning. Put your phone in another room, and if you’re learning online, you can install focusing apps that block access to Facebook, Instagram – and other social media that give you that dopamine rush. Fight back!
(If however, you don’t like to or have trouble doing self-study, consider booking private classes when a teacher can help you: https://goeastmandarin.com/goeast-online-private-class/ )
3: I’m not sure if I can learn Chinese
You’ll need to trust us on this one: learning Mandarin doesn’t really get harder. The HSK curriculum is clever and sure, some Chinese grammar structures may come more natural to you than others, but the overall difficulty is a pretty linear slope, all the way up to HSK6. You could even say it gets easier over time. The first 1000 words are definitely harder to learn than the second 1000 words. Don’t focus on fluency just yet, because that may seem far away. Focus on the next class, and every month or so, look back on all the new things you’ve learned: it’ll surprise you.
Image: the amount of words per HSK level, which double each level.
4) I’ve studied for a whole month, and I still cannot order a coffee
Learning a language can be like how falling is love is sometimes described: slowly, and then all at once. There’ll come a moment soon when the gears kick in; the pieces fall into place, and you’ll be ordering coffee and whatever small talk comes with it. If it helps, you can ask the barista to let you order in English first, and then in Mandarin (most baristas in Chinese cities speak coffee-related English). Or, practice with a Chinese friend. Or simply wait and continue your classes — hang in there! You almost got that coffee!
5: I heard about this guy who became fluent in Chinese in 3 weeks and it totally demotivated me
Even if we’re doing well, there’s always someone with a bigger house and a more expensive car. To be jealous is human nature.
That said: don’t believe everything you read. People like to brag; sometimes they studied longer, or sometimes they aren’t really fluent (like… their pronunciation can be really poor). Or they had full-time to study Mandarin Chinese, while you’re working or studying at the same time.
And yes, there are extremely smart and fast-learning people, but they are the exception. Focus on yourself and learn to enjoy learning. If you study at GoEast Mandarin at a regular pace, chances are you already progress faster than most Chinese learners.
Here’s our schedule showing how long Mandarin learning takes on average. This is based on 9 years of teaching Mandarin to foreigners.