We like to tell our students that learning Chinese is easy and it really is. But if you make one of these 5 common mistakes, learning Chinese will be much more difficult.
Don’t start studying with misconceptions about how to learn Chinese.
People often bring up lists of difficult languages and talk about how difficult Chinese is to learn. Chinese may (or may not) be more difficult to master than other languages.
All languages have:
- lots of vocabulary to memorize.
- both easy and difficult grammar.
- words that are difficult to pronounce.
Focusing on how difficult Chinese may be to learn is a mistake , because it sets you up to fail. Unless you are someone who relishes a challenge, this focus will likely just make studying more difficult. The truth is that learning any language can be difficult, but hundreds of millions of people do it and so can you. You just have to walk in with the expectation that learning Chinese is:
- both easy and difficult.
- a project that involves sustained effort and time.
In the next email, we’ll tell you about other expectations that make it more difficult for people to learn Chinese.
Don’t forget to organize your studies.
If you aren’t organized, studying outside of class is that much more difficult. Successfully learning to speak any language involves a sustained effort. If you can’t find the time to study you will fail.You need to develop a way to study in line at the bank, while you exercise and drive to work.
Take a look at what you want to learn and develop a plan. Do you just want to learn to speak or is reading and writing a goal, too? If you want to become fluent, you will eventually need to learn to read and write. If you don’t start early on, your studies will stall while you catch up on reading and writing. Where are you struggling? If it is in memorizing vocabulary, then you need to find time to practice flashcards. If it is grammar, you need to practice asking questions or making statements.
Don’t just get a book with cds.
In order to succeed, you need tools that help with your plans. If you want to study in line at the bank, flashcards will help. We often get students that were not successful with online language learning programs. You really need more than a book to make quick progress in mastering Chinese. There are a variety of apps and websites that our students find helpful in studying Chinese. Skritter helps with writing and apps like Pleco help with studying. We offer mp3 files that you can listen to on the way to work. You need to find the right tools.
Don’t forget to make learning Chinese a new habit.
If you have organized a plan and the right apps, you are off to a great start. There is something more. You have to make studying a new habit. This can be overwhelming, but it actually very simple.
Start small and focus on gains. Habits can be hard to make and success here depends on starting very small and celebrating every success. Taking your book out is a step. So is reading a few words. If you celebrate these small successes rather consider them failures, it will help you form the habit of studying. Once the smaller step comes more easily, you can begin to add on a little larger steps.
Schedule time to study. This is where the rubber meets the road. Morning and evenings work better. Studying consistently during the middle of the day is more difficult. If you have the right tools, start small and celebrate success, you will be well on your way to mastering a new language.
Don’t pick the wrong instructor.
One common mistake is to pick the cheapest approach. This approach typically involves a book and a tutor, who may or may not be trained to teach Chinese. It is very difficult to learn a language from someone who is not trained and has thought through how to explain difficult grammar. Your classes should not simply be an opportunity to learn specific phrases or vocabulary. They should systematically present new grammar and vocabulary that provides a framework to use in speaking the new language. Each class should also include review of older material. This helps you move this material into your long-term memory and will eventually lead to mastery.
People also make the mistake of just going to class and not studying outside of class enough. These students might do well at first, but they eventually forget older concepts and vocabulary. Eventually, they are unable to keep up with the class or stop making progress and drop out.