When people talk about how difficult it is to learn Chinese the two things that usually come up are tones and characters.
However the reliance on context can also be maddeningly difficult.
Take jiù (就) for example. This seemingly simple three letter word has more than twenty meanings.
(If you are interested they are: at once; right away; only; just (emphasis); as early as; already; as soon as; then; in that case; as many as; even if; to approach; to move towards; to undertake; to engage in; to suffer; subjected to; to accomplish; to take advantage of; to go with (of foods); with regard to; concerning.)
Some days I feel like I am doing well with my Chinese – my pronunciation is ok, people seem to be able to understand what I say.
Other days I feel like the mountain really is insurmountable – my listening is poor, my vocabulary is small, reading seems almost futile (I have to look up dozens of words even when I try to read a simple children’s book).
Then I think about jiù and its more than twenty meanings and I almost despair.
But I don’t. Because the ONLY thing that has gotten me where I am now with my Chinese is NOT STOPPING. I really believe that when it comes to achieving something – whether it’s climbing a mountain or learning a language – things like fitness and ability really only count for a small amount and that the main reason people get to the top of a mountain or learn a language is that they don’t stop.