Learning Mandarin is a lot of fun, rewarding and great.
However, sometimes it is also really tough and frustrating. What are your challenges or frustrations when learning Mandarin at the moment?
We have been helping thousands of students reach Mandarin fluency both off and online and we would love to help. There really are some shortcuts, do’s and dont’s when studying Mandarin and we really want to help.
After sharing you might discover that a lot of other students have similar problems, which at least I always found a great comfort. It’s not me who can’t get that tone right, it’s everyone else too.
Made me feel a lot better back then.
The “easy” things are often difficult.
- Second meanings or expressions.
I know all “wan” words, and thought I would know how to use them all, 晚上来 but then I met this combination for the first time 来晚。
Totally easy of course - from now on. = to come (too) late. Before, my 晚 meant only evening or late evening time to me, but not “late” in general.
In this case it was a listening task, so I started to doubt about the right “wan” but nothing fitted the context.
- Stress in sentences can mislead me - sometimes characters are unexpectedly stressed. (It was the shi of 电视, a really easy word and context, one should think…)
- The Beijing 儿，
- Chinese dialects/accents, when the j ,q,ch, are pronounced differently from the “teachers’ Chinese”, or when the ending -n gets swallowed.
- I know way too many characters (haha) for the HSK2 test. So now I concentrate on knowing the reduced vocabulary of HSK2, like e.g. there are only these “yuan”, which easily show the context: 远，服务员，医院，电影院，元. I listen for the possible 离，or the maybe hidden 医, (occurred one time)，。。。
When problems are identified they have already nearly disappeared, as one finds ways to care about them. (And therefore I wrote them down here).
I really want to do a perfect HSK2 test and understand everything in detail and not guess because of key words.
加油！(I say to myself and everybody out there studying Mandarin.)
One of my biggest challenges in studying Mandarin is my social anxiety. I feel uncomfortable just talking about this. But if sharing my experiences helps other students, then maybe it’s worth the discomfort. For me, it is a serious and significant barrier because learning Mandarin requires interacting with people — teachers, lecturers, other students. It requires on-the-fly conversations and social interactions. For me, that’s very difficult. I’ll give some examples of what has happened for me over the past year (my first year learning Mandarin).
- I was attending a weekly Duolingo group but there was no option for a level between beginner and intermediate (e.g. about HSK 2.0). I chose the intermediate group to avoid feeling bored. I was then under considerable pressure to catch up but I felt others in the group may have been irritated by my requests for explanations, so I stopped attending the group classes and left the WhatsApp group, even though I’d made a number of friends. I’ve continued using Duolingo and am almost finished the Chinese course.
- On an assessable university quiz in the second semester, my lecturer didn’t explain that the automatic grade given after completing the quiz would inevitably be incorrect and need to be remarked manually. But I was so anxious about the obviously incorrect grade, that I didn’t attend the next tutorial (the only one I missed). I felt like discontinuing the entire course (Chinese), because I worried that all the assessments were going to be unreliable (classic example of how anxiety works).
- I was unwell one week and was unable to attend an online conversation practice group (an organisation with monthly payments, depending on the number of classes taken, not LTL Online). However, the teacher marked me as present, and despite contacting the school by email and leaving a message on the online messaging board for my teacher, I was still charged for the class. I actually signed up through a HackChinese offer for free unfilled classes, but was still having to pay. My emotional response to this confusing situation made me feel overwhelmed by worry, so I stopped attending.
- I had a teacher in LTL’s online Flexiclasses who became impatient with my requests for her to speak more slowly. My anxiety means my brain works more slowly and it becomes harder for me to comprehend what someone is saying. I had to ask her to repeat herself and slow down a number of times. She replied, “You still need me to speak more slowly?!” It was very upsetting. Fortunately, the administration listened to my complaint and was able to come to a resolution, in that if I noticed I had been assigned this teacher again, I could at short notice swap to another class. This resolution was so important; otherwise I would have discontinued using LTL Flexiclasses.
I hope this helps other students. Social anxiety does exist; it’s often a private and silent battle, and it really does present massive barriers to learning a spoken language.
That’s a superb post Kelly and thanks so much for opening up and sharing those examples. It’s clear that doing this isn’t an easy decision but you painted the picture beautifully well.
Interestingly, I have spoken to a lot of potential students through social media and a much higher % than I ever imagined have spoken to me about social anxiety and how it effects their ability to attend online classes.
This is exactly the sort of reason we set up this forum - to share stories and allow people to feel at ease. We’ve always been big on in-person communities at our schools and we are trying to replicate that online too.
When you feel you’re sharing an experience with others it makes the whole journey that much easier and more fun also.
Well done on opening up about this and I am sure it’ll help other students who are on the fence due to similar issues.
Thanks, Max. Yes, it’s not easy to speak publicly about anxiety: I feel very uncomfortable! But anxiety is really a big problem in studying Chinese. I can talk about anxiety in order to help others, although right now I feel even worse and worried. But the discomfort will eventually go away little by little, and my heart will bit by bit feel more comfortable. I think it’s very important to have a patient teacher, always patient and happy, and ready to listen.
Hi Kelly, I know what you mean: At first one feels relieved when one has opened up and told some private things. Afterwards you doubt if it was a good thing to do, and feel even more vulnerable and too “public”. What I try to think then: 1. There can be nothing wrong about “the truth”. 2. Second I still can hide “in my head”, and nobody really knows what I feel and think there in my inside World.
Just wanted to say, THANK YOU MAX! and whoever else was reading, for assigning Emma Ying to all my classes recently. I didn’t realise the amount of anxiety I was feeling from this uncertainty, from not knowing who my tutor would be in each Flexiclass. It has made a huge difference. I have been a lot more relaxed and attentive through the lesson, because I don’t have a build-up of nerves to deal with…
I don’t think people generally realise how serious the effects of stress are on the body.
And it’s really hard to heal from. I developed a form of Tourette’s (tics that are like electric shocks in my torso) from excessive stress, which has taken over three years to recover from. Nothing has helped me, except to reduce stress levels. There is no cure for Tourette’s, it’s one of those things one has to manage.
In one lesson a few months ago, it was so bad I could barely understand what the tutor was saying, and seriously was on the point of quitting the class. Somehow I managed to pull through.
So it’s great to know that you guys are paying attention to what students are saying here. It’s really great that you take it seriously and are looking after students’ health!
Hi Kelly - I’m so happy to read this! As I said before, it takes a lot of heart to post these sorts of things online, especially to people you’ve never met in person.
I’m certain by sharing your story you have made plenty of other people feel at ease using Flexi and the Forum too which is exactly what we want people to feel.
Yesteryear, we could do that in our common rooms, now the forum is our new common room.
Emma is top class, I’ve had her for a number of my lessons - I hope you continue to enjoy her lessons and maybe I’ll see you in one soon too!
Currently my biggest challenges are 1) to “keep going”, to say longer sentences or sentence to sentences without stopping to think of a word, or stopping to think of how to phrase something. 2) to not say things in an English way or translate from English/use English word order.