Learning Chinese language: Impossible

Learning Chinese language: Impossible

That was the most common “encouraging” statement heard when I came to China: Learning Chinese language: Impossible!

Do you want to learn Chinese language? It’s impossible because it’s too hard, characters are difficult to write, identifying the different tones is not easy for foreigners, Chinese grammar is complicated and some other pessimistic reasons were given to me for the first days living in China.

Gandhi said: “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” And that was my strongest weapon against all people who tried to discourage me in the process of learning the Chinese language.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re freaking done! Turn around and get out of China!



Let’s be honest: Learning Chinese language is not easy but is not impossible either! But always take into account that everything useful requires efforts, discipline and perseverance.

There are several methods to learn a foreign language and I would like to share what worked for me in regard to learning Chinese.

You should start by answering the following questions:

  • Why
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How



It is crucial to clearly define why you want to learn the Chinese language because that will determine the “flavor” of the Chinese based on the place spoken or the context. For instance, the official language of mainland China is Mandarin Chinese; in Taiwan, they speak Taiwanese; in Hong Kong, Cantonese, and many other dialects scattered across the country. So, here, I will talk about Mandarin Chinese.

The why is the fuel that you need to keep moving forward on this harsh road inevitable in the journey of learning this beautiful language. The why varies from person to person and some of those reasons could be:

  • Business
  • Study
  • Traveling
  • Work
  • Personal challenge
  • To make friends
  • Love relationship
  • Some other reasons

No matter your why, always keep it present, especially when you’re facing difficulties or moments of hopelessness.


If your why is “work”, you will have to learn the type of Chinese spoken in your company or working environment (Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, etc.). In addition to this, you can start by learning first (or only) writing if that is required for your work-related activities. Or also spoken Chinese if you are mainly communicating with people verbally.

Of course, you can learn simultaneously speaking, listening, reading and writing, but this will require more dedication and time.





As you can see, the where is related to the why and what. So, after you know them, you can easily choose the “where.” For learning Chinese Mandarin, Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, Changchun or Hangzhou will be propitious to start the learning process. 


By no means, I’m saying the only way to learn Mandarin Chinese is by being physically present in China. That’s was true a few years ago when the Internet revolution hadn’t been started. However, nowadays, remote/distance education is greatly effective not only to learn languages but many other subjects.


 Despite I am a fully supporter of technology, the in-person interaction still has its connecting magic to create empathy and an effective learning environment.






It’s surprising that many people still believe in the misleading advertising claiming something like (and this is applicable to any language or subject) “Learn Chinese in 3 months”; “Learn Chinese with no efforts”, “Sleeping the best way to learn Chinese”, “Learn Mandarin studying only a few hours per week”, etc.


Although there are exceptional cases (geniuses) to which those Ads fit perfectly, for the rest of us, terrestrials in permanent evolution, practical realistic methods must be followed. And what I mean with realistic is that you and nobody else must commit to define general and specific plans, and then start taking actions:


Good intentions with no actions are useless!


So, if you are really serious about learning Mandarin Chinese, start by defining When you want to study:


  • Which days? Mondays, Wednesdays, Weekdays, Weekends or every day?
  • How many hours per day? One, two, four or more?
  • How long would you like to formally study? Six months, one year, two years or longer? This is also very important to allocate formal study sessions because the learning process is endless. We are constantly learning, or at least, we must be permanently learning.








Not all people learn in the same way!


Ignoring this evidence is one of most severe weaknesses of traditional education systems where all students are enclosed in a room (the luckiest ones because many don’t even have a room) and they are “forced” to learn what the teachers (or the school) consider right and in the way the teachers (or the school) deem as correct.


So, I cannot generalize in this regard. I will provide what worked for me and has worked for other people as well. I advise you to judge by yourself and adopt what is more suitable for your specific situation.


Personally, I’m an early bird. That is, my brain functions more effectively on early mornings. For some reason, after 10 pm, I feel very tired and don’t like to carry out any “work-related” task. However, I have no issues at all to wake up at 3 am to start my day.


There are several reasons for the diverse working habits people have. And one of them is a person’s age. The younger the person the harder to get up early. I think that is an accurate statement, but in my case, I was born “old” because I started to wake up early since (maybe) I was 5 years old.


Anyway, regardless your preference for the time to do your stuff, the key factor is to take actions and don’t procrastinate.


For me, it is also very useful to listen podcasts while driving, walking, on a bus, train or before sleeping. It’s been scientifically proven that the subconscious mind is more suggestible in a relaxed state which is generally reached before sleeping and after waking up.


Interacting with friends either in person or via Internet (forums, social networks, friendship sites, etc.) may render positive results and it’s a cost-effective approach.






 Bottom line:




If you love what you do, one day you will do what you love. That means, get motivated to start learning Mandarin Chinese if that’s your passion. That is essential to overcome anything that will try to stop you to continue advancing. And be deaf to mediocre pessimistic pieces of advice!


If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


  • Are you currently learning Mandarin Chinese?
  • Were you studying Mandarin but gave up?
  • Why are you studying Mandarin?
  • What is the best method to learn Mandarin that works for you?


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