2 minute read

So I have hit many a wall in my time studying Chinese. And I don’t think there is any sure fire way of breaking through them. It’s all about perseverance and personal motivation.

Sometimes it takes a loved one to give you motivation, or perhaps to see a video of someone who has broken through said walls and succeeded.

I have had situations in the past where people have said, ‘Yeah i know, but your Chinese is not so good so maybe that’s why they reacted that way’. Although, their comment, I believe came from a good place, it cuts deep when you are learning a language to hear that you are not improving all the time.

Many people see learning a language as a constant upward improvement slope, but in reality it’s really peaks and troughs.

I have has an instances a few years ago where myself and my wife went to watch a movie at the cinema, and my wife encouraged me to order my food and drinks. Which i did happily. So I asked the clerk for an orange juice (Liûchéng zhī). He stared at me like I has just slapped his wife. I asked again in Chinese. Again he stared at me. So I looked at my wife for confirmation on my correct pronounciation. My wife nodded with confidence that my sentence was correct. I looked back at the man.

Now I know that in Taiwan there is a stun effect a foreigner speaking Chinese can have on the locals, this usually presents itself with joyful surprise, but you do normally get a shenme, or huh or what the first time you say something in Chinese. This wasn’t that. This guy just would not believe the things coming out of my mouth. After a very awkward 1 minute of staring and strange looks, the mans colleague shouted over to him, he wants an orange juice! The guys then snapped back into reality and got me the drink. All was well again. Or was it?

In my mind, I played the scene over and over again and tried to figure out what I had said or done wrong. Had my tones been incorrect? was my context wrong? Did I offend that guy somehow? NOPE. actually it turned out he was just stupid. But it did put a serious dent in my learning curve, because I felt stupid at the time, and confused.

This meant I questioned if I am cut out for learning a language. And stunted my growth for a few weeks. A number of youtube videos later I was back on track and making mistakes again. Its the only way to grow.

Accepting the fact that you are going to look stupid sometimes is how you will achieve your ultimate goal.

In fact the only way you will break through your walls of language is by making mistakes and repeating them the correct way plenty of times. The trick is not to take a hit to the ego when someone picks you up on your mistake. To this day I make a bunch, I cannot say it doesn’t always effect my mood but I will say I get over it a lot quicker.

Drop the ego, learn quicker!