When learning Chinese, it’s better to set soft goals
Setting goals for learning Chinese and achieving them are always recommended. They provide good signposts for measuring progress. Over the years, I’ve seen some hard goals, such as:
The reason that I consider these goals as “hard” is because they all have a number in them. Numbers can be measured, counted, or judged by someone or anyone. These goals are indisputable.
The only problem is that I see no fun in achieving these goals.
I believe that learning Chinese should be fun. However, counting 1000 Chinese characters is not really fun, using these characters to write a story is. Reading a novel is not really fun if the story is boring. Passing HSK is not fun. It can be gruesome, and all you get is a piece of paper, which often becomes a source for depression.
Although these goals seem grand and ambitious, they are also something quite rigid. They encourage students to work on Chinese day and night, asking them to memorise one more character, one more word, one more idiom, or to read one more line……, which naturally lead to an experience and a conclusion that learning Chinese is hard, test is hard, idiom is hard, life is hard, everything is so damn hard.
Fortunately, there are other set of soft goals for learning Chinese, such as:
These goals are “soft” because they are not dictated by numbers. Achieving these goals is not any easier than achieving those hard goals. The difference is that achieving these goals is more rewarding, more human like, and more fun.
These soft goals encourage students to look outside of HSK, outside of Chinese characters, outside of those “hard” numbers, and to look inside themselves, inside other human beings, and inside some of the best things life can offer.
The best part is that these goals can be set as soon as you start learning Chinese. You don’t have to wait until you’re fluent in Chinese to have a brief exchange with someone on a bus about the weather. You don’t have to wait until you’ve learned 2000 Chinese characters to write a story in Chinese. These are part of the many small things you can do, small achievements you can have, which give you a big boost both mentally and physically.
I remember great stories told by my beginner students, and their sparkling eyes when they were telling the stories:
These moments are priceless, and they are true signposts. The core of these priceless moments is human interaction.
You express your preferences, your disappointments, and your emotions through these interactions, having dialogues with strangers, neighbours, and colleagues. These interactions and exchanges will create rich inner wealth that nobody can ever take away from you, and will lead to better and richer learning experiences and life experiences.
Perhaps, still, the same number of hours have to be spent on learning Chinese, but everything else is changed.
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