My four reasons to study Chinese

My four reasons to study Chinese

Since three years, learning Chinese is one of my favorite things to do.

My learning journey began at my hometown Hamburg in Germany, just with a text book and a tandem partner. Half a year later, I have found myself in a Chinese course at university in Leipzig.  I am writing you now from Taiwan where I am visiting the Mandarin Training Center I arrived at around five months ago.

I haven’t always been a passionate language learner. At middle school, I have been told that I have got lots of problems with my English pronunciation. That influenced me, and as I was (still) listening to my parents, I chose Latin instead of Spanish, because with Latin, there is no room to make mistakes in pronunciation, right?

Well, since than ten years passed since than and now I think that I this decision has wasn’t the better one. I mean, I still don’t regret that I have learned at all, but I prefer I would be able to speak Spanish now than being able to “speak” Latin. 

Above that, I have kept my limiting belief, that I wouldn’t be a good language learner for quite some years and so I for that time I didn’t think about to learn a new language.

Just when I got addicted to travelling, my wish to learn foreign languages awoke again to live.

thats not me but avi_acl from pixabay haha
Did you think this was me? Haha yes this dude really looks like me, but it’s actually somebody else.

Good Authors like Tim Ferris and Benny Lewis have showed me that learning languages isn’t necessarily as hard as it sometimes feels at school.

So, for language learning, your personal motivation plays a huge role, and there are good reasons not to learn Chinese, just as Tomas points it out at but what can one motivate, to consistently learn?

I don’t know what your motives are, however, I want to share with you, what inspires me to learn new languages and I hope that you find your own motivation to learn new languages.

Learning foreign languages can be so much fun, if one knows how to learn!

Reason number one: Sense of achievement

I love those moments where I push my limits, as I aim to do in Chinese. Especially in the beginning, those moments of success, when I apply simple things comes very fast.
For example, in my first few months in my “journey” to learn Chinese at home, I worked at a breakfast service in a hotel. Sometimes there are Chinese guests and I was hesitant to talk to them in Chinese, because I represent my Hotel…
But I really wanted to!
So, when I was sure that they really spoke Chinese I said the most basic things, like “What do you want to drink?” – 你想喝什麽? and “Where in China do you come from?” – 你在中國哪裏?

The Chinese people I met appreciated my effort to learn their language and that feels good.

Before I started my studies, I played way too much computer games. On some days I haven’t really done anything else than playing my game league of legends!

Especially on these days, I realized how good it feels to still do something I consider as useful.

Number two: Learning is just interesting!

My father often told me, “whatever you do, at some point it gets interesting, if you understand more and more. He says this with a background in as a doctor and passionate scientist and I can confirm for myself, this definitely relates to learning new languages as well!

Especially Chinese characters often reveal clues about their culture, history or pronunciation.

After time, I became fascinated by some really nerdy details, for example there are characters which have been forbidden, because they are part of the real name of Chinese emperors.

If you can speak Chinese, you might have a chance to talk to this interesting looking monk

With this knowledge, you can date old texts a little bid better. If don’t know if you care about that, and in the beginning I certainly wasn’t interested into anything related to classical Chinese, but now I think this is amazingly cool!

Learning a foreign language makes me curious to get to know the country behind it even more.

For example, in my first half a year learning Chinese at home, I read five books about China. I came to that relatively high number for myself, because I had got a lot of time and no pressure. In contrary to a forceful environment like at school, I was free to read or not, and I did.

There was a synergy between learning Chinese, learning about China and exchange with my language partner. I ended up backpacking a month in China just before my Sinology studies began, which I decided to enroll during this six-month learning process.

Chinas great wall thank you chastagner thierry
Travelling in China.

3) Number three: Foreign language skills enable deeper understanding about the country

In my Sinology-course at University, we must learn Chinese. This is one of the key competences.

Of course, it is possible to learn from other cultures without knowledge of their language, but how much bigger might the understanding be?

For example, Chinese characters sometimes give clue how they are meant. Look at the word “culture” – in English and German, this word has Latin roots from the word “colere” – and means foster, inhabit, or cultivate. This etymological association is closer to agriculture, but for Chinese it’s a completely different story.

The Chinese translation is „文化“, wén huà. First component meant in ancient times something like letters, writing, literature, literacy, depending on the context.

化“, huà means development or something like transformation.

It is too easy to interpret too much into the letters, but it is fair to say that the conception of culture is quite different to that of English and German.

Learning foreign languages even makes traveling way more interesting. Understanding what people say in their mother language enables meeting more people, don’t need to rely on google maps, better understand any other explanations and their sense of humor.

Reason number four: Advantages in the future!

Upon on all that, foreign language skills can be very useful for some jobs. Maybe my Chinese skills enable my to get an exciting job, but that’s definitely not the reason why I study.

A few weeks ago, attended a lecture at my National Taiwan Normal University, given by Professor Lloyd, an American-born Dutch Sinologist, who mastered Chinese to say the least. He gave a clear message to his students which he picked up when he was studying at Harvard. The ones who are passionate to learn Chinese are the one’s who are way more likely to stick to the process.

Professor Lloyd and Oliver Dieckmann

If you learn a foreign language, you can find out your own reasons.

Motivational scientist divide motivation into extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is related to motives such as money, marks, or avoiding of punishment. In that case, the action itself isn’t as important as the result you hope to get or avoid.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within. In that case you enjoy the action in itself, without a reward from the outside. In the past, I was intrinsically motivated to play computer games, and now I am intrinsic motivated to learn Chinese, among other things.

I think, even if there is a environment which gives you the right amount of pressure like a language course or school, there is a way to find intrinsic motivation. This motivation, wherever it comes from, is what I wish for you, my friend.

“It has to start some place.

It has to start some time.

What better place than here?

What better time than now?”

Do you also learn a foreign language, or do you want to learn a new one?
What motivated you?

Do you have got any questions about language learning or motivation?

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