Feeling depressed and retarded

Ok, where do I go from here? I’ve made my second attempt at passing level 0 at Chengung Daxue, and failed once again to even make it to level 1. Sigh. Up until lesson 5, I could at least grasp 90% of the speaking, listening, and grammar. Since lesson 6, I am utterly in the dark with no clue as to what is going on and no ability to respond to or understand anything in anyway. I’ve tried a few private teachers, but I also get quickly lost. I’ve always done very well academically 3.8 for a B.A., 3.7 for an M.A. I’ve successfully gained a high level of proficiency in German. I’m putting serious time and effort into it but I feel like I’m often just spinning my wheels. Here in Tainan Chengung Uni is the only place to study, so I don’t have another choice in schools.

Writing is my main problem. I just do not seem to have the ability to retain in my memory how to write the characters. My teacher just says to practice more. I’ve written some of these characters for 5 pages of one of those writing practice books. I have one of those “Fun with Chinese Characters” books that tells you a little about the history of the character. I enjoy reading it, but it doesn’t seem to improve my retention level. I usually remember a new character for a week or so, then I begin to mix it with other characters or forget it all together. I’d say I usually write about 1% of the characters in the class correctly at this point.

I actually started to cry in class today. I’m fine now; it was more a release of tension and stress than anything. My mind was in a total fugue state.

One of my goals in coming to Taiwan was to gain a basic level of proficiency in Chinese, and I really love the look and feel of the characters. I’m usually a “visual” learner and I usually have to see it written down (in English) to understand it. But I feel like I’m losing access to learning the speaking and reading because I can’t make a connection with the characters.

When should you just decide that for whatever reason you lack the ability to learn Chinese? When should I determine that enough is enough already and give it up?

The hopefully-not-retarded but definitely-depressed, alwayslol. :cry:

I’m sure your Chinese is better than mine, and I’ve probably been here longer. So cheer up. At least there is one other person in the world who is dumber than you.

(By the way, have you ever used one of those PDAs, that lets you write Chinese characters?)

No, I don’t have a PDA. Do you think this would be helpful in some way? I’m not familiar with it.

Learning a language is a huge challenge that some peole find very easy and others very hard. The important thing is you sound like you enjoy the language, and you are have perseverance. I’m sure these two things will carry you forward. Who knows? Maybe it will all suddenly click one day.

I think you’ve got two main choices.

  1. Give up the writing (at least for now) and focus on the spoken language. That would probably mean quiting university because the focus (probably too much) on writing. If there’s no private school in Tainan, that would mean getting a private teacher or language exchange to keep learning. Then get out there and just focus ont he spoken language. Get some tapes, and just try talking to people on the streets. You may find that freed of the burden of writing, your Chinese just takes off.

  2. If you want to keep writing forget aboiut just writingthe character 100s of times to memorise it. You need some system of flashcards (paper or on a PDA). You also need to do stuff liek making up stories to remember the characters and really getting to know those radicals.

Remember learnign Chinese is full of periods of seming stagnation before you take off again.


I would advise taking a little rest from Chinese. You might have hit one of these mythical “barriers” that everyone used to talk about when I was learning Chinese. Whether they exist or not, a lot of my classmates and I used to go through this sort of thing every so often. Perhaps ironlady might have some useful advice.

I think your struggles are quite normal.

Just keep on trying and one they it will make “click” and everything seems soooo easy…trust me.

I just wrote one single character for hours, paper after paper until I was able to write it blind…that maybe the hard way, but it worked fine for me.
I wouldn’t use a PDA or computer to write Chinese, you only have to recognize the characters but not actually write them…

Dear alwayslol,

Aren’t the “Fun With Chinese Characters” series from Singapore and therefore in simplified characters?

What is your purpose in learning Chinese? For work? For fun?

I would suggest if you are serious about learning Chinese that you read the following 2 threads:

Tips For Learning Chinese


Chinese Learning Software

and get the Andante Chinese flashcard program download.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

I have trouble relating to the issues of people struggling to learn Chinese, because it always came very naturally to me. However, at the time I felt like my study habits were quite different from my fellow students.

how many class hours are you doing? how many hours do you study each week? how many hours do you practice speaking chinese outside of class? how how many language exchange partners do you have? if you keep a daily log of actual time spent speaking or studying chinese, this may help highlight how much time youre really spending. i always felt that it was all about effort and that people simply vastly underestimated the amount of sheer effort (translation: time each day) required for studying and practicing.

I highly recommend a book you can get at Caves called “Reading and Writing Chinese.” It is written by a foreigner, who presents the characters in a logical order that I found to really help me get a grasp of the system behind Chinese writing. In many Chinese texts characters are simply presented as encountered without any regard to the logic of the system. This may or may not be true for you and might not fit into your study plans, but anyway I recommend it. Brief histories and stroke order diagrams are included for many characters.

PM me if you are looking for a class. There might be something up. :laughing: And the worse a traditional class claims you are, the better I like you for my class. :laughing:

Never write another character again! (for a while any way)
Listen to the VCD’s (I’m assuming you’re using practical audio and video).

If you’re serious about learning Chineses (or anything for that matter) take some time and read through some of the articles over at www.supermemo.com . If you end up liking the program it will do you a WORLD of good. It’s basically a flashcard management program that tests you on the material you have the most problems with. You have to make your own databases, but that’s part of the fun.

I’m making more databases for that software now, so maybe in a few months I can recommend you buy my databases too :smiley:

If class isn’t helping, stop going. Make youself disiplined enough to study at home (at a pace you like). If you have time study every day for 2 hours or more (not all at one time, spaced out)

Ok, now I’m writing to much. Just keep at it and try new things.

Ok… you may not want to take my advice, as my Chinese isn’t that good. :frowning: But, here’s some things I’ve done that have helped me, plus some advice others have told me that has helped.

  1. Focus on your verbal skills – speaking and listening. They will serve you better than writing skills. If you go to China, it will be much easier to ask them a question than write the question down.

  2. If you really want to start learning characters, then focus more on character recognition. Don’t go crazy over trying to learn to write them. Even Taiwanese friends tell me writing characters is a bitch (my word, not theirs). Again, reading will be more necessary for you than writing – reading a sign, flyer, your mail, etc… even if you can’t reproduce the characters. You can learn to write them later.

  3. Use it. And, I don’t mean just speaking to the Taiwanese around you. I mean, when you are counting out change at 7/11, do it in Chinese – either out loud or in your head. Even if the people at McDonald’s speak to you in English, say what you can back to them in Chinese. Again, if you really want to learn to write (which, as I said is probably not necessary right away) then use the characters everyday/naturally as well. When writing personal notes – e.g., to do lists, etc… subsitute the Chinese characters for the English words.

The more senses you use in learning, the better it is for you. I think that is why TPR works so well. You say it, you hear it, you move along with it, etc… Plus, you are using it in “everyday” situations through role plays, etc… It is not just a classroom subject that way.

You actually may be trying too hard and thinking too much, and in the process driving yourself crazy.

OK… I’ll shut up now.

I can only say try to become an expert in what does and doesn’t work for you, by trying out different suggestions from people, but never giving yourself a hard time when a someones particular approach doesn’t work for you, even though they swear by it.

Also, from my own experience at Cheng Da, you must take the bull by the horns and slow the teacher down. Most of them are only kids really and want to race through the books - they often, through lack of experience, want to press on simply because they don’t know how to teach.

If the foundation for your learning is enjoyment, you won’t need to set yourself goals like 2 hours a day doing this or that, because you will naturally get a buzz from your learning which spurs you on. One last thing, I don’t think it hurts to take a complete break at the end of each semester because you do get weary.

Hope that’s helpful.

I dunno…you were getting pretty dangerous towards the end, there…hope you’ll be back for more if I do a class this fall in Taipei (it’s good to have somebody who knows what to expect.) :shock:

I agree… different people learn in different ways. I won’t be offended if none of my suggestions work for you. :cry: :laughing: They have, however, helped me some. So… you never know.

I dunno…you were getting pretty dangerous towards the end, there…hope you’ll be back for more if I do a class this fall in Taipei (it’s good to have somebody who knows what to expect.)[/quote]

One of my problems is I do exactly what I used to tell my English students not to do… I get afraid of using it in real life. :frowning: I find myself getting so worried about making a mistake and ruining international relations by calling someone the inside of a cows penis :shock: , that I go brain dead. It is not until I walk away that I think about what I could have said, should have said, etc… even if I know it wouldn’t have been completely correct.

That’s when I usuall kick myself. Which is damn hard since my knee doesn’t bend that way. :stuck_out_tongue:

What level will the classes be? I’m hoping beginners. And, when will they start… I’m anxious to get going. But, until then, I’ll keep practicing on my own.

I’ve put in endless hours of repetitively writing Chinese characters (mainly in the context of phrases and sentences) as a way to fix them so firmly into the wiring of my brain that writing them becomes an automatic movement of the hand without prethought. It’s hard graft, but seems to be quite effective – for me at least. For example, when I’m trying to visualize a word I know I know but just can’t conjure up in my head, I just need to pick up a pen and it’ll usually flow out onto the paper.

The key thing you’ve got going for you is the interest. Without that, it probably wouldn’t be worth all the effort that you’re going to have to make. With it, the pleasure you’ll feel when you do make progress will more than make up for the grinding practice, disappointments and frustrations along the way.

Keep at it and the best of luck to you!

I was reading a book on teaching kids today and ran across this quote, when I read it I thought of this thread. Here it is:

Once you understand why you’re studying Mandarin it should be a lot easier (I think), just wanting to speak without a driving want/need is a waste of time.

I hope to study at a university in a year, so…

How’s the saying go? Where there’s a will, there a way.

I was just having a chat with my housemate about acquiring chinese. Mine is way better than his and as we came here withing days of each other and have been here a year now…we were talking about the different ways that we learn. Of course, individuals differ in learning styles but we are as keen to learn as each other. We noticed that when we hear someone speaking chinese in the background…we respond differently. He switches off. at work, when shopping, when the tv is on…and so on. I however, switch ON. I don’t make a real effort to listen hard and understand; it’s kind of passive. I believe that i pick up a lot this way. Why not try to notice what is being said around you a little more? it helps, and this is of course REAL chinese in context.
This is a tip for anyone who feels that they switch off or block out the background chinese interference.
I have noticed that i switch of my chinese radar when im with a native speaker…i sit back and let them order and communicate for me. I will make a conscious effort to stop it.

I think it’s only goat penis statements that cause international issues, and that would be in the seventy-third tone, so don’t worry about it. :laughing:

It’ll be beginners or (as you are) “false” beginners – those who have started sixteen million times and never felt like they’ve made enough progress to get on in the world (either making trouble or getting out of it, depending on your own personal goals.) Thinking about 3x a week. What’s your take?