Why Learn Chinese?
Ask yourself why you want to learn Chinese
One of the first things you should ask yourself before starting to learn Chinese is ‘why do I want to learn this sometimes-incredibly-frustrating-to learn language? Here are some reasons you might choose:
- 1.3 billion people speak Chinese
- Learning Chinese will help you in the present and future business world
- You have a deep interest in Chinese culture and history, and would like to learn Chinese to understand these better
- It’s a challenge and you enjoy learning languages
- You live in China, so not learning it would be a shame
- China will someday rule the world
All of these are valid reasons for you to start learning Chinese (except the last). But you might want to be warned that most Westerners who start learning Chinese to use as a tool (ie for business) eventually give up on it. Those who stick with it tend to be the ones that either love learning languages just for the challenge of the process, or who truly love China and Chinese culture.
The road to Chinese fluency never ends
From the beginning I studied Chinese because I loved the challenge of it. The problem with this kind of viewpoint is that the road to Chinese fluency never ends. You might think you see the end of the road ahead only to find out it was just a sharp corner. This is not very easy to accept for those accustomed to setting goals that can be accomplished. Know now that learning Chinese truly fluently is an unaccomplishable (how do you like that word?) goal.
As an expat learner of Chinese, you will face special challenges when learning the language, including the following:
- Problems with mastering Chinese tones
- The massive amount of time needed to learn Chinese characters proficiently
- Eagerness from Chinese people who know some or a lot of English and only want to speak to you in English
So be careful about setting unattainable Chinese language learning goals. You might just end up like me – perpetually frustrated with how much more there is too learn.
But don’t let this dissuade you from starting to learn Chinese. Just accept that it’s okay not to eventually become fully fluent in Chinese.
Or get ready for the challenge of a lifetime.