Learning Mandarin – The Why Is The How

20 May

Learning to speak Mandarin is not easy, but it does not have to be hard. With the right method it can even be a lot of fun.

Hello friends. I will try to tell you the story of how I learned to speak Mandarin. There are many different factors that influence a decision to learn a language, and there are many ways to learn it once the decision is made. Out of all the possible ways that you can go about completing that task, the best way to learn a language is to focus on the reason for learning it in the first place. My reason was pretty clear to me at the time; I wanted to be able to work with web design in China. The idea was to start a little company where wages were lower and then use the awesome power of the web to find customers in richer countries. Cutting costs by moving production to China is not really a revolutionary concept, but I was still pretty proud of my idea and the fact that I was following it abroad. Now, most people are pretty happy about their little schemes that lead them to uproot and move to The Middle Kingdom. Therein lies the strength of the system that I am about to describe. People have come to do something that they are keen on doing.

Naturally the human mind is a very complex thing. One thing that we do know about it though is this: learning something that has personal relevance is much much easier to learn something that does not matter to you personally. I remember back in school when the teacher was trying to explain statistics to us. We really did not care that much but that was not a big surprise to the pretty hip teacher who had come prepared. He managed to captivate us to a degree where I still remember everything about that particular math topic even today. He did so by letting us choose the topic we were going investigate with statistics. My geek friend and me choose Mario Kart 64.

Mario Kart was for us just a hobby. The project I was involved with in China was a dream, so I did not find it weird that when the Chinese language teacher handed me a personalized textbook containing the very stuff I needed to use at my new job, I literally looked at it once and then knew I was going to know it for the rest of my life. I still do. Every single piece of vocabulary and piece of syntax pertaining to web design is hard wired into my memory banks. That knowledge, I knew, as I was learning it, had a purpose and some how my brain knew that to.

Now as I said before, most people that come to China has a clear idea what they are doing here. Or, at the very least, they have a hobby. A personal textbook like the one I was given is the best way to learn the language. The way through is the reason why. You may now sit and wonder, as you are reading this, what I am talking about. Learning about web design jargon in Chinese only is not going to teach me Chinese as such, right? Wrong.

It is. For this simple reason; that even though I focusing on a small subset of the language, that subset of the language is surrounded by the same basic nuts and bolts that surrounds every other piece of the language. I learned the basics by speaking, speaking in a setting that captured my imagination and made the studies not really seem like studies at all. Learning can of course be fun, but I have always thought that doing was for fun. Learning mandarin by doing that which I was learning Mandarin to do was definitely much more appealing than sitting down and study the language, day in and day out for however long it would take until I was able to do my web design stuff that way.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School in China that is a great option for those that want to learn mandarin, the lingua franca of China. See the program overview page for more information about learning Mandarin in China.

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