I have given up on learning Chinese

Yup - what the title says.

I have been in Taiwan for five years, spent around $200,000 TWD on courses, books, tutors and apps. I have met with three language exchanges. I have spent many hours studying and drawing those difficult characters.

After five years of paying and struggling and still barely able to string a sentence together, I am letting go.

Chinese and me just isn’t to be.

Anyone else empathize?

I studied Spanish for two years of middle school and four years of high school, and Japanese for three years of high school and two years of college. None of them stuck. Today I can’t even really speak a full sentence in either language.

I majored in Chinese and I’m now completely operating at a highly professional level with near-native listening and reading comprehension. While I speak good Chinese, I’m by no means good at “learning languages.”

In part, you’ve probably found difficulty because Chinese is very difficult for a European language speaker to learn. (I always lamented the fact that after two years of university study in Chinese, I could order food; a second-year Italian student was already able to write short compositions in that language.) But it also has to do with interest and “compatibility.” I had no real interest in Spanish and I quickly discovered my interest in Japanese was only because of the Chinese characters.

But, if I may ask, what part of Chinese did you find the most “not meant to be” for you? The characters? The grammar? The tones?

[quote=“LucyQ”]Yup - what the title says.

I have been in Taiwan for five years, spent around $200,000 TWD on courses, books, tutors and apps. I have met with three language exchanges. I have spent many hours studying and drawing those difficult characters.

After five years of paying and struggling and still barely able to string a sentence together, I am letting go.

Chinese and me just isn’t to be.

Anyone else empathize?[/quote]

You may have a hidden belief that you can’t learn Chinese.
You need to get rid of that belief.

I once was like you, except I didn’t spend that money. I would often say, “I don’t know Chinese”. But one day, I realized what I was saying. And once I got rid of that mental roadblock, learning Chinese became easy.

There’s a whole bunch of crusty old men on this forum who’ve lived here for decades and can’t even order a sandwich. You’re probably doing much better than them.

[quote=“LucyQ”]Yup - what the title says.

I have been in Taiwan for five years, spent around $200,000 TWD on courses, books, tutors and apps. I have met with three language exchanges. I have spent many hours studying and drawing those difficult characters.

After five years of paying and struggling and still barely able to string a sentence together, I am letting go.

Chinese and me just isn’t to be.

Anyone else empathize?[/quote]
Me. But I was told by my teachers I did no need to learn to use the dictionary. I would never learn. I had no need to learn something I’d never use. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. No motivation to go on. No one expects whitie to succeed in learning Chinese here.

Lo and behold, 10 years later, I thought my level was about the same since I rarely touch a book -taught myself a sui generis way to use the dictionary, semi type in Chinese. Then I wake up groggy from surgery, and ask if it’s all over, really? How did it go? Wait, I am in ICU talking in Chinese? Take that, teachers!

My advice? Go abroad. Rest. Take Chinese courses abroad. Learning here is not immersion. It is being thrown in the middle of the ocean without knowing how to swim. Or stay. Stop formal learning. Read gossip magazines, watch movies, join a club. Live the language. Don’t make it so academic. Find a boyfriend. Fight with him. Your curse vocabulary will be much improved.

[quote=“LucyQ”]Yup - what the title says.

I have been in Taiwan for five years, spent around $200,000 TWD on courses, books, tutors and apps. I have met with three language exchanges. I have spent many hours studying and drawing those difficult characters.

After five years of paying and struggling and still barely able to string a sentence together, I am letting go.

Chinese and me just isn’t to be.

Anyone else empathize?[/quote]

Yes, with the uniformity and frequency of this kind of conclusion. It’s ridiculous. Language is a human universal.
No, with the conclusion. You CAN learn Chinese. I can get you speaking Chinese in a couple of hours, if you want. But I don’t teach the same way they do at the buxibans in Taiwan.
See this video of a student reading a passage he wrote himself after about six hours of Chinese:
password is “tprs” without the quotes
These results are typical, not unusual. Your biggest problem is likely to be that you do have bits and pieces of Chinese floating around loose in your head (that you can’t really access or use effectively) and sometimes you would feel like “I already know this” and possibly resist repetition, which is what you need to acquire. You haven’t been taught in a brain-friendly way. It’s not your fault, it’s the fault of the methodology you’ve been subjected to. (And after that much effort on your part, I can say “subjected to”.)

How do you say “Get off my lawn!” in Mandarin?

I’ll never do the 15 hour per week intensive course again. Counterproductive. Take it slow. If it stops being fun, I slow down. Next time I’m in town, I’ll get a one-on-one tutor, and do lots of language exchange.

No complaint against my teachers. The format was just wrong for me.

Skating, playing the trumpet, Grade 6 guitar, ballet, kendo, painting, jumping over fences on a mfcking horse, pronouncing Spanish without sounding like I’d swallowed my tongue, in fact anything involving hand-eye coordination and / or patience – 1

Amount of fucks I give – 0

:bow:

Fuck it. It only matters if you caaare. Let it go. And conversely you may pick it up later. Your motivation is shot right now and you’ll never click with it if the love’s not there. You can do it if you want to. And you probably do on some level, it’s just that you resent all the money and the boring shit and the other depressing stuff. Just shelve it for now and get back to it if you feel inspired. Or don’t. The world won’t stop turning.

If you do want to do it and want learning advice, mine would be:

  1. Forget classes. Very boring. Largely pointless unless you have fun doing them. And yes, I’m a teacher. Do you want to be trapped in a room with a bunch of people who also can’t do what you want to do?
  2. Forget handwriting. It’s a time-drain and is not a hugely useful skill. Learn it later, if you feel the urge.
  3. Listen to people more. Parrot it for the pronunciation. No hiding with headphones.
  4. Figure out what you want to do in Chinese. Buy a coffee? Do some action research. Dictionary. Go and figure it out. That is your mission for this week. Or month. Do it slowly if you can’t be arsed. You’ll still get your coffee in a town like Taipei. Learning is a series of successful moments, not finished a book you didn’t want to read.
  5. Remember that language is a hack, not an entire system that you need to master. Do you know all the English yet? No. Do you care?

(Disclaimer: this is a light-hearted post based on my own opinions, and has not been peer-reviewed. Don’t make me have another fun discussion about language acquisition.)

Don’t give up!!

You may well be aware of some of these, but anyway, here are some tips for learning a language that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Be an “imperfectionist”. People are often discouraged because they feel that if they don’t speak perfectly, it’s a failure. Throw out that kind of thinking. Don;t worry about saying things wrong.
  2. Dare to talk to people. Don’t worry about making mistakes or making a fool of yourself. That’s how you learn. Most people are happy to speak with a learner, but not everyone… if you meet a grumpus, move on to someone else. Many people will correct your mistakes, and you’ll associate that correction with an event, which is a GREAT way to get new linguistic forms and vocab into your brain.
  3. Watch movies in your target language. First with English subtitles. Later, with subtitles in the language. For Chinese, I recommend Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman because of the clear, everyday Mandarin.
  4. Avoid expensive classes. You have to worry about tests, schedules and payments, and in Taiwan especially the classes are often loaded with irrelevancies, like crafts or songs, time wasted when you could be learning the language. The world is your classroom and everyone is your teacher.
  5. Read everything you can. Signs, bulletins, ads, etc. If you don’t understand, ask someone.
  6. Concentrate more on learning sentences and less on learning individual words.
  7. For a self-teaching course, I recommend Teach Yourself, Living Language, Routledge Colloquial, and/or Pimsleur. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, so I advise choosing at least two of them. Pimsleur, for instance, is all audio and teaches just the basics of a language, but it does this very well. Living Language is a far more detailed and lengthy course. Set aside an hour a day and work on it, then give what you learned a test-drive in the real world. I don’t recommend Rosetta Stone because it’s too rigid and way too pricey. Berlitz in my opinion sucks.

And for learning Chinese:

  1. Don’t worry about learning to write Chinese. It’s a waste of time in the beginning. Learn to speak, listen and read. When when you feel you have time, learn how to write.
  2. Tones are important, so try to emulate how people say things.
  3. Be aware that most self-teaching courses are geared toward mainland Chinese Mandarin, which differs slightly from the Mandarin spoken in Taiwan. But don’t let that discourage you.

I wouldn’t even bother learning to read at the beginning. Sure, it’s nice being able to read menus, signs, etc…but reading Chinese is no easy task. Just focus on the spoken language. I put virtually no effort into the written language for the first 2 years of my Chinese language learning. I spoke fairly fluently before putting any real effort into mastering reading Chinese. Then it came fairly easily because I was just tagging symbols to sounds/words that I was already familiar with.

I read and type fluently now…but God help me if I have to hand write a note…

Spoken Chinese is probably one of the easier languages to learn because of the simplistic nature of the grammar. No verb tenses, no conjugation, no plurals, none of that masculine/feminine crap that pops up in European languages,… The number of sounds you need to master in order to pronounce the language is relatively limited as well. The only difficulty (for some) is the tonal aspect.

I think you’re underestimating how hard that is for learners early on. People get the concept easily enough – there are four tones and a neutral one, simple. But lots of people have trouble differentiating when someone’s speaking. It takes a long time to internalize the tones as a meaningful unit.

I think you’re underestimating how hard that is for learners early on. People get the concept easily enough – there are four tones and a neutral one, simple. But lots of people have trouble differentiating when someone’s speaking. It takes a long time to internalize the tones as a meaningful unit.[/quote]

I wonder if people would get a hang of it quicker if tones are taught as relative musical notes…

Or just learn to recognise (not write) a few ‘food’ characters. Look up the ones for food you like. And don’t like: for example dishes with characters with moons on the left always MING. :laughing:

Target your efforts: utility is the goal.

I think you’re underestimating how hard that is for learners early on. People get the concept easily enough – there are four tones and a neutral one, simple. But lots of people have trouble differentiating when someone’s speaking. It takes a long time to internalize the tones as a meaningful unit.[/quote]

I wonder if people would get a hang of it quicker if tones are taught as relative musical notes…[/quote]

When I’ve transcribed Chinese names of places or people for family members, I’ve written the pronunciation out as “English” as possible and added notations as follows:

媽 maw (music note)
麻 maw?
馬 maw…
罵 maw!

It took a little bit of explaining but worked much better than I realistically expected it to (though, obviously, not terribly well)

I saw Thai tones explained like that once. :laughing:

I think you’re underestimating how hard that is for learners early on. People get the concept easily enough – there are four tones and a neutral one, simple. But lots of people have trouble differentiating when someone’s speaking. It takes a long time to internalize the tones as a meaningful unit.[/quote]

I wonder if people would get a hang of it quicker if tones are taught as relative musical notes…[/quote]

When I’ve transcribed Chinese names of places or people for family members, I’ve written the pronunciation out as “English” as possible and added notations as follows:

媽 maw (music note)
麻 maw?
馬 maw…
罵 maw!

It took a little bit of explaining but worked much better than I realistically expected it to (though, obviously, not terribly well)[/quote]

that’s actually a great way for English speakers to learn, although if the transcribed word has a similar sounding word in English then first tone wouldn’t work, because English would add the stress to that word. Though once the system is explained it should be no problem.

Example:
Su <- this would sound like the 4th tone
Su? <- works well
Su… <- works fairly well
Su! <- works well
Su(suddenly dies before finishing the word) <- neutral tone

Hence the music note. I told them to literally sing a flat note as they said it. (I just can’t type a music note on the flob… but I can copy-paste!)

Points to whomever first guesses this poem.

Hone? Doe! Shung♫ Nan? Gwo?

Chwen♫ Lai? Fah♫ Gee… Jir♫

Yü-en! Jün♫ Dwo♫ Tsai… She-Ay?

Tsz… Oo! Dzway! She-yong♫ Ssz♫

[quote=“Hokwongwei”]Hence the music note. I told them to literally sing a flat note as they said it. (I just can’t type a music note on the flob… but I can copy-paste!)

Points to whomever first guesses this poem.

Hone? Doe! Shung♫ Nan? Gwo?

Chwen♫ Lai? Fah♫ Gee… Jir♫

Yü-en! Jün♫ Dwo♫ Tsai… She-Ay?

Tsz… Oo! Dzway! She-yong♫ Ssz♫[/quote]

works really well. Should use :skull_and_crossbones: for neutral tone.

A: Ni… Shou♫ De☠ Shi! Zhen♫ De☠ Ma♫

B: Qian♫ Zhen♫ Wan! Que!

I think you’re underestimating how hard that is for learners early on. People get the concept easily enough – there are four tones and a neutral one, simple. But lots of people have trouble differentiating when someone’s speaking. It takes a long time to internalize the tones as a meaningful unit.[/quote]

I wonder if people would get a hang of it quicker if tones are taught as relative musical notes…[/quote]

Tried that. But I am tone deaf. When I sing, dogs howl and cats attack.

:skull_and_crossbones: for neutral? The pirate ‘Arrrrr!’ is more of a first tone, I think. :ponder: