I really like this language, I really trusted those people on YouTube saying is not that hard. However, after reading through all the posts in this subreddit and trying to watch a Chinese series, I am starting to lose motivation.
Any advice? Learning Chinese is a project I really want to carry out, but it feels so overwhelmed.
I’d say don’t get discouraged! This is a pretty big and complex language, it’s not something that’s gonna happen overnight. I’ve been learning it for three years and it often feels like I’ve just scratched the surface.
You should give it time because it takes years to learn Chinese, you have only been studying for one week.
decades, to be more precise...
I've accepted that I will take 10 years to learn.
We never can completely get a new language. But there is definitely one day that we can get enough to make this new language work. From my experience, hsk5 is enough to cover all the aspects of the life and can really express and communicate in deep way.
Really? I always see the HSK6 guys complaining that they cannot even read the daily newspaper.
Because normally passing the hsk5/6 exams doesn’t mean they are really on this level. They can’t really understand or know how to use all the words. Or their speaking ability is far behind the reading ability. Also writing language is always different from the oral one . It happens in all languages, especially in Chinese since Chinese newspaper prefer to quote the traditional phrases & lectures and history to make the language precise & accurate and beautiful. So for news , it is more related to culture. But it doesn’t mean you never can read the news . If your teacher can explain the exact meaning of each single characters in the words during your learning journey, it is kinda of easier to understand the words or expressions you’ve never seen before. For instance: 探险(explore): 探: to figure out/ find out/ detect; 险: dangerous. So you can roughly guess探险: to detect the dangerous things. So you also can try to guess 探头(probe ): detect head . And according to the text context, you should be very likely to understand the contents.
Yeah, I started learning 3 years ago and I’m still beginner level lmao
it's a marathon, not a sprint.
what worked for me was picking a fixed number of new characters/words to study every day, set it in my anki deck, and do them. every day, writing them down and reviewing the ones from the previous days.
I had a fixed schedule due to having mandarin exams, if your case is different, then in the long run it doesn't matter if you do 5, 10 or 20 per day, what matters is consistency.
对我来说，每天挑选一定数量的新字符/单词来学习，把它们放在我的 anki 平台上，然后完成它们。每天写下来，回顾前几天的内容。
Couldn't agree more. Depending on your first language, it will feel more or less difficult, but in the long run, what matters is resistance, not speed.
I will try to do that, thank you so much for the advice.
Language learning takes time, and lots of it. The beginning is probably the most motivating because you see the most immediate results, and for a long time during the intermediate level, you will feel like no progress is being made at all, until you actual take a good look and compare yourself to a year before. A lot of the learning is not very evident while you're deep in the thick of it. It's like wax on and wax off. You'll catch yourself spitting out 成语 and certain phrases without even realizing it.
There is no possible way you could understand even a little bit after a week, nevermind understanding a show or something on a deep level after a few years.
Yep. I recently came to the conclusion that "learning" Chinese is like brushing your teeth: you don't ever stop. Ever. Fluency is not a goal. It is a process and a permanent lifestyle.
You can't say, "I'm going to accomplish good oral hygiene. And once I master it, I can stop flossing and brushing." Same with Chinese. If you really want to "learn" it, it has to become an abiding, permanent part of your life.
but after a decade, you’re surely somewhat fluent?
sure but if you don't continuously revise and study you will forget all that you learned within weeks
You will if you want to keep up your level, trust me. You might not need to study like you do as a beginner, but you need to live in the language, use it for a variety of areas to maintain its fluency.
I thought I was 'finished' and at a level I could easily maintain without study and just by watching TV and chatting to friends. After a year without classes I found my level was shite, I am still working hard to get back to where I was.
It's a long and exciting journey and you will have shitty times, but you will also have some of them most amazing experiences of your life!
My wife is a native Mandarin speaker and even she will start forgetting words, since she now lives in the US and her work and home life is primarily conducted in English.
My point is just that you shouldn't think of fluency in Chinese. It will require constant reinforcement.
Who the hell said it's "not that hard"? "Hard" is relative. It's not rocket science, but it's objectively one of the most difficult languages for native English speaker to learn. It's a pretty logical language and the grammar isn't too bad, but it still takes several times as long to learn compared to one of the "easier" languages from the perspective of an English speaker. It's something you need to be prepared to spend thousands of hours on.
Just some idiots in a Ted Talk jajajaja.
I'm not a native English speaker, however I see your point.
I know that motivated, yet frustrated feeling. I am close to a year of learning the language. I say, take it slow. I use a book (New Practical Chinese Reader) and two apps (Duolingo and HelloChinese). I only understand random phrases or just words when seeing TV in Chinese. And that is because people speak naturally, not trying hard like the voices in apps.
And the people who post here are mostly people who have been at it for longer. I was getting frustrated because I never understood their jokes and memes, but that is because we are beginners. We are not there yet, and that is OK! We will eventually get it and contribute with more jokes!
I went into Chinese knowing two things: 1. It would be super hard, and I have already studied German for years, and tried a bit of Russian. and then 2. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I decided I'm not going to judge my own progress until after TEN years of studying. I've studied for a bit over 3 years, so I'm not anywhere close.
To me, Chinese, like Russian, is hard as hell, but it's FUN as hell, so it's okay. Like sports, it's strenuous but in a good way. Don't worry about becoming fluent fast, just find some shows and things about Chinese language and culture that you like. Shows, music, history, even the grammar (if you're a grammar nerd like me), etc.
Where are you after three years then? Can you hold a conversation?
Nope! And I couldn’t do that after four years of high school German either. But now I’m not in school anymore, I can only take class once a week, on the weekends. I work full time. This is also my first time learning a non-alphabetic language and a non-European one. That’s why I gave myself 10 years. New obstacles and worse circumstances.
Listening comp isn’t bad though bc I watch tons of Chinese tv now.
My teacher says I’m further than most of her students that take 3 years of Chinese, adult and high schooler alike so I suppose that’s a good sign. I don’t think that means it won’t take me an eternity though.
1 week is nowhere near enough you probably couldn't even write and recognize 50-100 words in 1 week let alone multiple thousands. just keep in mind that learning languages are hard and no matter what anybody says, no language is easy. Chinese is an especially hard language for english speakers most likely mainly because of the vocab. there's not gonna be any miracle shortcut for any language that will shorten the amount of time studying by years. the grammar in Chinese is fairly easy and i'd probably suggest reading sentences and what your already doing which is watching youtube videos for what i'm assuming is at least some grammar videos.
Yeah, now I understand that it won't be easy.
Will definitely try to apply your advice, thanks a lot.
I might get downvoted for this, but i will speak my mind.
Get the idea that learning language is "Fun" out of your head, it should be a grind, you need discipline to do it everyday even when you don't want to. When you have gone over the same words over and over and over... You will be able to reap the fruits of your labours and THEN the fun starts, being able to communicate and enjoy the experience.
But you have to put in the hours of study, and study to the point where you don't just know it but know it by heart, like it comes instinctively. And that is not fun
I want to encourage you and give you a 加油 ( jīa yóu), but I also strongly believe in people having realistic expectations. Learning any foreign language to any degree of proficiency is a huge undertaking that at minimum takes years to master, usually a lifetime. I don't know which youtuber told you Chinese was easy, or not that hard. It's one of the most difficult languages you could possibly learn as a native speaker of English.
But you don't learn Chinese because it's easy, you learn it despite its challenges. People who do the best learning Chinese are people who enjoy the challenge. It can be said that if something is too easy, it's not worth doing and you don't get a sense of accomplishment afterwards.
Almost anything is possible if you have the right motivation. So perhaps the first thing you need to do is think about why you want to learn Chinese and what your realistic goal is. If all you want to do is increase your enjoyment of Chinese language entertainment media then you don't need to learn it to a super high degree of fluency, compared to if you wanted to live and work in mainland China or Taiwan.
First figure out why you are learning Chinese. Then accept that this is a challenging language. Next realize that every challenge can be broken into small pieces that can be more easily tackled. Chinese will take years for you to learn if you choose to stay with it but you can do tiny little pieces at a time.
It was just some assholes in a Ted Talk, and some Chinese learning channels.
I'm not a native English speaker, but I assume it is also one of the hardest languages to learn for a native Spanish speaker.
And I'm just trying to learn Chinese just for the sake of learning the language itself. As a future translator I want to learn as much languages as possible, and I chose Chinese to be the first one I tried learning on my own.
Thanks for the advice!
You won't wake up one day and say "I've done it. I've learned Chinese. I'm finished."
Define what you actually want out of this. And then identify some milestones you can achieve towards that goal. Then work towards those milestones.
When you're about to climb a mountain, don't look at the peak. Always keep your eyes a few steps ahead of you
Yes! That's the attitude that got me out of drug addiction, and it's the same attitude I bring to Chinese.
You are right! Thanks!
So in Linguistics and Psychology it's pretty well-agree that to some degree language use determines cognition. It's referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. What this means is two people who grow up with different languages can (and do) legitimately think differently.
For example, Chinese structures time so that the future is downward, like a calendar (e.g., 下个星期) whereas English and other languages do not, they tend to think of the future as forwards, and so this can affect the way people think of time passing.
In general, it's also important to remember logic as a concept is rooted in both western thinking and Socratic academic traditions. Eastern countries often favour dialectic or holistic thinking. Logic demands negation, things like "if X not Y then Y not X," seems obvious when one applies Socratic logic, but just because it's logical doesn't mean it's factual. Sometimes X is not Y but Y is X. This also leads to interesting differences, and this is compounded by the fact that the way people understand the world is different.
Also it's been found these differences in thinking emerge in bilingual people, when bilingual/bicultural people think and solve problems differently when the problems are presented in different languages. Learning different languages can be incredibly helpful to address issues in a new/different way. Sorry turned into a big post just wanted to add a bit of the psychology of it.
this is super interesting! your big post is definitely appreciated
his/her overall point is correct: the concepts of time and negation are different in Chinese and English.
s/he was making a subtle yet clear point about logical vs. holistic thinking, which, assuming you both are native English and not native Chinese speakers, lends credence to his/her stance. :)
To express it more simply, s/he was suggesting that Eastern societies [aided by their languages] are more comfortable with paradoxes.
她/他正在阐述一个微妙而清晰的观点，关于逻辑思维 vs 整体思维，假设你们都是以英语为母语的人，而不是以中文为母语的人，这使得他/她的观点更加可信。:)
Damn, this is awesome. Should be a stickied FAQ post pertaining to "Why learn Chinese?" or something.
Personally, I've been learning Mandarin obsessively for about 6 months now and have already felt the changes occurring in my brain. I've realized that these changes all center around 'perspective' and vantage points. My English brain makes me see things from certain perspectives, which has made learning Chinese quite the challenge. This is how I feel it in my head: Chinese wants to have a roundabout / circular / spirally type of perspective like a funnel or a tornado, while English wants to go in a straight line from forward to back, side to side. Chinese word ordering forces you to take into account other details prior to getting to the main point. English very badly wants to get to the point. In Mandarin, sure, you can get to the point really quickly as well, but it definitely wants you to consider other details first, and English wants you to get to the point (and I might consider the details later, lol). Don't get me wrong; as a native English speaker, I love my language to death. There's nothing wrong with getting to the point, and there's also nothing wrong with Mandarin's circular, spirally conveyance either.
This! I’ve felt this same exact thing while learning. It’s so refreshing seeing it spelled out so eloquently. It’s very interesting because my wife (also Chinese) and I (American) go back and forth with differing perspectives and opinions usually because of how we comprehend through our respective languages. This absolutely hit the nail on the head.
Just to come up with a simple example, let’s look at lobsters and crawfish. In English you might think of these as 2 completely different things especially since one literally has fish in the name, but Mandarin they are 龙虾 and 小龙虾. We can even take this a step further with 虾 bing shrimp. If you look at them all under water, the idea that we could call them shrimp, dragon shrimp, and little dragon shrimp actually makes a lot of sense to me anyway.
举个简单的例子，我们来看看龙虾(lobsters)和小龙虾(crawfish)。用英语你可能认为这是两个完全不同的东西，特别是其中一个名字有鱼(fish)，但普通话是“龙虾”和“小龙虾”。我们甚至可以借此进一步用“虾”来举例。如果你在水下观察它们，我们可以把它们叫做虾(shrimp)，龙虾(dragon shrimp)，和小龙虾(little dragon shrimp)，这种想法其实对我来说很有意义。
thanks! another thing I can think of is that people rarely distinguish between 山羊 and 绵羊 (羊 is the generic word to refer to both), while goat and sheep are just 2 completely different words in English
Ya, and is this the year of the cow or ox? I’m also confused about whether last year was the year of the mouse or rat. ;)
Also the way relatives are described is much different, I feel like much more emphasis is put on whether it’s the mother or father’s side, where as in English it’s more about gender of the relative (aside from cousin which is just vague and clearly were too lazy to care more).
I'm currently studying translation on college, so I've been hearing a lot of "philosophy of languages" which is quite similar to what you are saying. Definitely some interesting stuff. Thanks so much.
You tried to watch a Chinese series after a week?!?!? Bro slow down!
While it's true that Chinese is not as hard as traditionally expected to believe, its not learning how to play chopstick on the piano, you are going to need years and years of hard work before you can understand even half of a Chinese series haha.
Also stay far away from YouTube polyglots!
And I felt encouraged to learn Chinese because of these assholes, but now I want to learn Chinese so hard while at the same time accepting this won't be easy. Thanks for the information!
Good luck! The hard work is worth it!
It took me a month of intense studying to uh, feel like my brain was bigger than a slug's. Now I just feel like the second stupidest person on the planet.
Probably useless advice : Stressing out about it is only going to make your learning harder. Relax a bit. ( don't neglect your studies though ) Find media you enjoy. A LOT. and find a lot of it.
I'll do that :) Thanks!
It is nonsense to claim Chinese is really not that hard but I always get downvoted if I say it in this forum.
Why would people downvote you? Chinese is in many ways simple, but also exceedingly difficult.
I suspect it has something to do with that many active users in this forum are Chinese teachers or app makers, and it might hurt their business if fewer people want to study Chinese. They want to uphold the illusion that "Chinese is easy".
Don't know why that happens, I mean almost every language have an easy and a really hard part to it. Guess the reason for it is to keep people motivated, I guess??? I have no idea.
【楼主】我不知道为什么会这样，我的意思是几乎每种语言都有简单的和真正困难的部分。我猜这样做的原因是为了激励人们，我猜是这样? ? ？我不知道。
You have been only studying Chinese for one week, this should be the stage of remembering the correct sound of each pinyin and studying how to write the basic strokes . At this stage, watching a Chinese series could only help you have an idea of how Chinese sounds like, not to mentioned a Chinese series usually contains slangs, idioms, and ancient quotes etc, which is sometimes very hard for advanced learners.
I don't know, I've heard people saying to surround myself with Chinese, even if I didn't understand it. You are totally right.
Yes, “soak your brain” in a new language environment works very well in all kinds of language study. But the true power of this method can only be tasted after the learner has some basic understanding/vocabulary of the language. Otherwise this will very likely take you to the opposite, making you depressed and lose confidence. Watching Chinese shows is especially harder under this method because Chinese speaking people never put pinyin in their TV shows and in subtitles, so the whole show is full of nonsense for new learners.
Omg, that makes total sense, I'm really dumb. I will definitely take your advice, thanks a lot.
It takes quite some time to get the gist of the language.
Right now what you feel is normal, don't expect to be able to speak and read in less than a few years of constant study.
Forget most TV shows. My advice is to watch chinese Peppa pig and feel good when you understand George say "kong long"
That's what I am doing jajajaja, but I gave a more advanced level series a try, and it didn't go so well.
Oh it will definitely take some time, but it’s so worth it. And after all, you can’t get anywhere with anything if you don’t work a little
You are definitely right, thank you.
if you start learning a new language with watching series, you get frustrated quickly. suggest you start with the names of stuffs around you in your house or office. watch youtube videos for children introducing numbers, colors and stuffs. Chinese language is easy afterall.
That's actually a really good advice, didn't think about that. Thanks a lot.
But it is not as hard as everyone thinks.
My experience: I am now into HSK4 after 1 year 6 months of studying. 6/7 hours of classes per week and 2/3 hours of homework and selfstudy. And taking advantadge of some free time to listen to youtube videos or beginner level podcasts in chinese. My speaking level is pretty good, average HSK3 as I have tried to speak as much as possible, met chinese friends in Barcelona, used HelloTalk app to talk with chinese natives.
Now I am doing 4,5 hours per week and try to study daily, at least write, I have seen that it helps to remember words.
Overall: I have seen that to not lose motivation you have to see progress, and by speaking and practicing reading you can see so. Also chinese community is good at encouraging people and this will also lotivate you.
My personal advice: Do not get overwelmed by writting, use it just to learn, and eventually you will memorize and learn words. After a year then you can decide if you would like to dedicate full time writing and if it is worth it for you. Try to enroll on classes or language exchange even although you do not know how to speak, you will love chinese community and will feel encouraged to learn more.
I hope this somehow helps somebody :)
I started one year ago and I have to say Chinese isn’t hard BUT extremely much to learn. The biggest advantage for me was the „simple“ grammar.
Chinese children don't even start using hanzi until like 3rd grade. Before then, the focus on pronunciation and tone using pinyin.
It takes like 7 years (optimistic here) to master Mandarin.
Another interesting tidbit: the way the Chinese government defines literacy is different depending on where you live; in urban areas, you need to know at least 2000 characters to be literate; in rural areas, it's 1200 character. Although I've also seen a much lower requirement of like mid 900s
HSK level 3 is 600; HSK level 4 is 1200 characters of vocabulary.
You said "it feels so overwhelmed". If your native language doesn't distinguish adjectives like bored and boring, overwhelmed and overwhelming, you'll have an easier time than me with Chinese. I still can't get rid of my "English" way of thinking.
I just tell you the chinese is simple if you regards it as picture.
In the same boat. I've basically accepted that it will be a lifelong pursuit and that, no matter how hard it is, or how long it takes, I will continue getting better the longer I do it.
I like that Chinese has uniform width on the characters, with most words 1-4 characters. English has words that can be horrifically long, such as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (ok that's Welsh, but still).
That I can read more Chinese with less horizontal eye movement is great - much more efficient than English.Frankly, I think horizontally-oriented alphabets such as that of English are inefficient.
I'm not here to give many examples, but Chinese Poetry is one. The amount of information that can be conveyed in so few characters and syllables is pretty impressive.