Why You Haven’t Learned Chinese, Yet!

Guest post: Kwadwo [QUĀY.jo], creator of Elementary Chinese, helps expats in China learn the day-to-day Chinese they need – to communicate what they want.


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89 points

A ton of people add me on WeChat and ask me about the best ways to learn Chinese or ask to be added to the Elementary Chinese community for learning everyday Chinese or praise my Instagram account.

You’re Not Taking Advantage of Now

Of course, because this is my passion project, I roll off a ton of advice and their response is:

“Oh man, it costs money?”

“Wait, I actually have to put the effort in?”

“Once the stars align and life gives me the opportunity to learn..”

“Once my schedule becomes less hectic ..”

Let me tell you the reason why you haven’t learned Chinese yet, it’s because you’re not taking advantage of right now.

I understand you’re busy. But what we, as the human race — haven’t quite grasped yet — is that now really matters.

Analysis Paralysis

Let me give you a quick example. If you’re gonna go to the gym. You’ve gotta go lift weights now for future gain, right? Part of this “now” concept is that people will go ahead and do some more research, they’ll strategize, go read a few more books, think about actions they will take, ask for advice and contemplate this advice instead of actually doing anything!

No. Do not give in to analysis paralysis. You won’t know the best way. You’ll make mistakes. Attack the problem. Now. Start now. Just do something now. 

Don’t deceive yourself thinking that you’ll find the ‘perfect way to learn’ that is cost-effective, fast, takes the least amount of time, and is the ‘easy way’.

There is no perfect way. Just start. Make it up as you go along in the beginning, learn from your mistakes, pick up new techniques. Just begin.

Imagine you’re commuting on the train here in China. You’re a beginner. Take the language that you have, even if it sucks and speak now. You have to train now so you get stronger later. Otherwise, the school year is over and you haven’t made the progress you’d have liked.

You head back home and have to face the question “Hey, how good is your Mandarin?” from your friends or relatives. You have to list off a number of excuses of why you’re Mandarin isn’t up to scratch. All those excuses are to cover up the fact that you didn’t take advantage of now.

Take Advantage of Now

Do you have an APP on your phone that you’re using to study? Yep, thought so. Have you finished the app? Nope, didn’t think so.

Open the app and do one more section. Use your time wisely.

If you don’t already have an app or flashcards, what are you waiting for? Check out my resources page for the best apps and tools to learn Mandarin Chinese.

If you’re learning characters there is one simple phrase that will boost your ability to retain information. By asking someone to write it down for you, you can present this phrase in future when you come across this hurdle again, and ask your tutor to transcribe it in neatly written handwriting so you can learn the strokes.

Write it down for me
帮我写下来
bāng wǒ xiě xià lái

This second phrase is even simpler:

What is this?
这是什么?
zhè shì shén me

With these two phrases, you can start building a comprehensive flashcard system to study from. This way you’re studying language that is actually useful for you in everyday life.


What are your favourite apps to learn Chinese? Leave them in the comments below.


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Kwadwo [QUĀY.jo]
Kwadwo [QUĀY.jo], creator of Elementary Chinese, helps expats in China learn the day-to-day Chinese they need – to communicate what they want. He lives in Tianjin, China. Follow him on elementarychinese.com, Instagram or YouTube to learn the kind of Mandarin you can actually use right away in everyday China life.

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