I recently read an article by one of my favourite Chinese-learning bloggers, Olle Linge. In it he argues and gives evidence for the idea that in order to determine our Mandarin learning progress realistically, we should count in hours rather than years.
Whenever I tell people I’ve been learning Mandarin for 2 and a half years at uni they immediately assume that my Chinese is already at a decent level. However, although 2 and a half years sounds like a long time, when I use Olle’s suggested method (calculating by hours) I realise I have spent far less time than I could have on studying Mandarin.
If I take out my class hours and the time needed to write compositions and finish my homework, how much time did I actually spend on self-study? I’m embarrassed to say it but I’ve probably spent less than an hour a week altogether and that’s probably why my Mandarin hasn’t improved as much as I would like.
If I want to reach my full potential then I’ve got to be disciplined in my learning. I want to be better so I have to learn better and learning better means studying better. I’m going to put in the hard yards these next few months before I’m off to Shanghai and it will definitely be tough and there’s going to be high and low points in my journey, I’ll want to give up but I won’t quit. Even if I’m slow I just have to keep on moving forwards one step at a time, one day at a time.
If you would like to read Olle’s full article, follow the link below.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across this video but it’s like my life story. I look Chinese but before I started studying Mandarin at uni I had no connection to my Chinese cultural or linguistic roots. When I hung out with other Westernised friends who only knew English I was just Australian and felt no sense of loss but when I hung out with more Asian ABCs (Australian-born Chinese) friends I felt like I didn’t belong at all. Those feelings led to a sense of guilt and disappoint at my failure to live up to what I was – Chinese.
Today, learning Mandarin is definitely a time-consuming struggle but I’ve been so amazed to discover just how much I enjoy learning Chinese and the fruits of my hard work. Sure I still have communication problems with my mum but Mandarin has been a barrier-breaker for the both of us. In fact, just the other day we had a transparent conversation sharing about our feelings in Mandarin – not in Cantonese (my mum’s first language) and not in English (my first language) but in Mandarin! That’s a breakthrough for me!
At the end of the day though, the guy in the video is right. My identity isn’t founded on what I am (i.e. ethnically Chinese, culturally Australian) or what I can/can’t do (speak English/Mandarin fluently) but in Christ alone and that is the absolute best news of all. I don’t have to work to prove myself; I am loved no matter what I am because it’s who I am that counts – a daughter of the one, true living God.