- September
Posted By : talkingofchinese
The ONLY thing that REALLY matters when learning another language

When I tell people I am learning Chinese a common reaction I get is “wow, I could never do that.”

While I appreciate the (misplaced) admiration, it’s simply not true.

There’s only one thing you need to learn Chinese (or pretty much anything else) and that is the MOTIVATION.

Let’s assume it’s not absolutely essential to your existence to learn Chinese (unlike, say, a baby growing up in China surrounded by Chinese speakers).

But for some reason, you want to learn.

When you walk into a beginner language class very few of the people you see will still be studying in a year’s time. Maybe none of them.

But if anyone is left it’s unlikely to be because they are exceptionally smart, gifted or “have a knack for languages” (whatever that means).

The most likely explanation is that they simply have a more compelling reason to be there.

The more compelling your reason for wanting to learn (ie a desire to try and understand what your in-laws are saying about you!) the more likely it is you will stick it out.

So if you meet someone who is learning something you think is impossible they probably aren’t a genius,  they almost certainly didn’t “just pick it up”. It’s far more likely that they just spent many, many hours (motivated by a strong, in-laws level, force) practicing.


(Visited 78 times, 1 visits today)


  • I think Chinese requires an IMMENSE amount of motivation. That’s why I automatically respect non-native Mandarin speakers. If you can memorize over 2,000 Chinese characters and tones to boot, then I know you’re a hard worker with dedication! haha.

  • You’re right. I will now say, “I can never learn Mandarin because I lack the motivation to even try something so difficult.” 🙂

  • This is probably the reason why I never learned German xD I started studying it a couple of times, but as I don’t really “need” it for anything, I just quit…

    • I wondered if it is different for people who already speak multiple languages (you speak Spanish, Chinese and English right?) Peter speaks these three languages and even if he can’t understand or speak another language he is hearing (such as Japanese) he will often quickly see “patterns” that I don’t automatically pick up on.

      • Uhm, I’m not sure, I never noticed anything like that… definitely not with Japanese haha! I think my language learning powers died and are buried in some college campus in Beijing xD

Leave a Reply