Chinese characters or pronunciation are often mentioned, but probably the biggest 绊脚石Bànjiǎoshí (stumbling block) is motivation to learn Chinese, even if few people will admit it to themselves or out loud.
But we totally understand.
You love the idea of being able to speak to people fluently in Chinese, but you are less in love with the process required to get there.
This is no different than wanting that feeling of completing a marathon, but not having the motivation to practice for over a year. People love to buy books because they love the feeling of finishing a novel, especially classics; but who likes slaving through Moby Dick’s 800 pages of 19th century English, or 1225 pages of War & Peace? And who doesn’t want to have super fit body? But it’s harder to find the motivation required to be in the gym regularly.
There are certainly different types of ‘lack of motivation’. One would be you feel overwhelmed or struggle to maintain information. But this is poor education and to be honest, this doesn’t happen a lot at GoEast, since each course will be tailored to a student, and even group classes come in so many varieties of difficulty and pace. If you think the pace is too high (or too slow), simply let your language consultant know, but chances are your teacher has already told her or him.
Yet if you lack willpower or energy, well, here are some tips.
Learn to enjoy learning Chinese
Don’t aim to learn faster and faster. Learn to enjoy learning instead, then everything else will follow. How you do this is up to you: remind yourself you are learning a totally new language and that this in itself is a miracle; look at the progress you’ve made in the last months or years; or simply decide “OK I am going to see this class as enjoyment rather than my duty.”
If you practice for a marathon, it’s also better to enjoy your morning runs rather than imagining the thrill of finishing a race that takes months away from now. Learn to enjoy the chase. You need to make that mental switch.
GoEast’s courses are also designed this way, not just to educate, but also to stimulate, with conversations from daily situations or modern Chinese life in the big city. And our teachers actively engage you with the language too. They will mix the course materials (like vocabulary and grammar) with your own life, and ask you to talk about your interests within your Chinese language ability.
Put your language to use
Language is meant as human communication, not to be learned from a book or device. So go out and make conversations. You can use your Chinese from your first day of learning.
- You can order a dish in Chinese. Even if you don’t live in China, your city probably has a Chinese restaurant
- Install an app like Tandem and talk to people in Chinese
- Watch Chinese movies or series
- Read a graded Chinese reader, there are even stories suitable for HSK1 or HSK2 students
- Join a community such as Reddit, or the Chinese forum, or sign up for GoEast community events
Don’t rely on passion alone
Instead of each time summoning immense willpower to get yourself to learn, try to get good habits in place. Remove distractions. There are apps like Focus that block social media sites for a set amount of time. And for instance, the dictionary app Pleco also works offline. So put your phone in flight mode while you learn, so you’re not tempted to go on social media, and you receive no new messages. And if you don’t need your phone, literally put it in another room or if you don’t have another room, somewhere back in your closet.
Focus on your Chinese studies
Perhaps the bad news is that at most we can only have half the things we really want from life, this life — but the good news is we get to choose which half.
- This is not something you want to hear, but maybe you’ll have to drop a hobby. Or combine them? Can you combine learning Chinese & painting classes?
- Sell your TV? Sell your Playstation?….
- Do you study multiple languages at a time? Then drop one.
- Maybe cancel your Netflix subscription? Or at least do not start a new series.
Instead of dreaming of being fluent — a goal that is very vague and possibly far away — keep your goals close. Set a quickly reachable goal like being able to order a meal in Chinese, or just finishing the HSK2 course, or being able to watch Peppa Pig in Chinese.
Small goals also works backwards. Take a look at your notes from a few months ago and see how far you’ve come.
Tired from work with no attention
There isn’t a simple fix. For instance, you could drink coffee at 19:00, but many people sleep poorly after that.
Try different things:
- Study as soon as you get home, before dinner
- Study immediately after dinner
- If you have children, study after they are asleep
- Study just before you go to sleep
- Instead of going home straight after work, study at a coffee place
- Study in the morning before setting out of the door
- Study in your lunch break at work
- Study in the weekend, and just stop struggling with studying during week days
But being tired from work is also partly an illusion. Our brain wants to slack off and watch silly videos on YouTube, fed to you by Google’s algorithm.
Pushing through the intermediate to advanced stage
One of the toughest part of language learning is possibly the stage from intermediate to advanced. Your first 100 hours of learning Mandarin are amazing and each new words opens up new conversations. Suddenly you speak Chinese! But once you’ve done 500 hours, another 100 hours adds a lot of vocabulary, but the results are less evident. The freshness has worn off, and so has the initial motivation to learn Chinese.
And yet intermediate speakers have it awesome, because you can use Chinese in way more aspect of your life. You need to make use of this, and gradually make the Chinese language a part of your life, and there are several ways to do it:
* Stop watching English movies (or movies in your mother-tongue), and watch Chinese movies only
* The same for podcasts, music and books: Get some graded Chinese readers. At an intermediate level, the stories can be really interesting
* Put your phone’s language into Chinese
* Make a profile on Weibo, WeChat or Douban and start writing in Chinese
Also remind yourself of this while continuing to learn Chinese: Although the effects may feel like diminishing returns, the actual results are exponential. It’s much faster to learn a 1000 Hanzi characters when you already know 2000. It’s much easier to learn new words from Hanzi characters you already know. Language learning speeds up, even if it feels like it has slowed down.
Learning plateaus do end
Keep at it and you will break through a barrier. Suddenly you are able to read children books in Chinese, or you can understand the news reporter which at first was incomprehensible to you. Suddenly you have a level of fluency in your speech, or suddenly can work in China using Chinese. These breaks are non-linear.
Have some tips to share? Please write them below here!