Top 7 mindsets of successful Chinese language learners

There are things that every person who is learning Chinese should have or develop.

For over 20 years of working with Chinese language learners, I have noticed that there are certain mindsets that get students further and faster. Their Chinese language skills truly contribute to their work and life, and their cultural knowledge genuinely provides them greater insights into the social and political issues amid all the noises and armchair opinions. 

Also, I realised that these mindsets are all learned skills. Nobody is born with them. That means that anyone can have these mindsets and to achieve success in learning Chinese.

In this article, let’s take a look at what these mindsets are, so that you can see what skills you have and what you might need to develop.

mindsets of learning Chinese

#1 Clarity of the enterprise that learning Chinese is a long term effort

Learning Chinese is an enterprise that requires multiple resources and a long term effort. 

This number one mindset remains true regardless of whether you are teaching yourself Chinese or working with a Chinese teacher. 

This attitude frees you from the pressure to perform in a short time and brings you peace of mind that actually help you learn better.

#2 Open to different values and ideas

Learning Chinese will inevitably present you with different values and ideas that Chinese language is only an explicit messenger. Some of them may be in direct contradiction to what you have learned all along till that point. 

If you keep an open mind, learning Chinese will provide so much food for thought. If you are resentful and disregard these different values and ideas, Chinese language will only become a set of symbols and grammatical rules stripped of meanings and content.

That might be an exaggeration. But as it is printed on a package, I read it as an advertisement where exaggeration is common. It is like there are so many best Chinese programs, best learning Apps, best Chinese textbooks and best Chinese teachers around. 

Usually people have pluchea indica cakes around the fourth month of the lunar calendar, around May. This is when summer is coming and all kinds of things, including those toxic ones, begin to grow. These special cakes help us remain healthy.

I had two of them. It was also sweet, but not too sweet, and with a trace of grass flavour. In the middle, there was some filling, made with mashed lotus seeds.

#3 Have the right measurement

When learning something, we need to measure our success. How you measure your success in learning Chinese makes a huge difference to the outcome and your learning experience. 

Does your measurements come externally or internally?

When you measure externally, you are measuring against someone else’s standards. The right to judge is at other people’s hands. If they say you are not good enough, there is no room for you to say anything else. Or, you could be measuring yourself against an ideal that is keep moving no matter what you’re doing. In this case, you’ll always feel disappointed. 

When you measure internally, you are measuring against the previous you. Unless you stop working on Chinese, you’ll always see small improvements from time to time. If you have some soft goals, reaching them will fill your heart with joy.

#4 Never be a victim

When learning Chinese, temporary setbacks can not be avoided. When this happens, don’t be a victim.

It’s easy to blame other things for what have happened. “I had an inexperienced teacher.” “My textbooks were so boring.” “I didn’t have anyone to speak Chinese with.” “I was overwhelmed by work.”

Blaming seldom helps. 

Taking control does.

#5 Do experiment, take action and repeat

Learning Chinese is a way to explore yourself on so many levels. 

What jumps out and what hides itself? What is easy and what is difficult? What is important and what is not? How long can you concentrate? How tolerate are you with your mistakes? How good is your memory? And so on.

Different people answer these questions differently. 

Therefore, it is important to know what works for you to reach the goals that you set for yourself. That means you need to do experiments and try out different ways when learning Chinese. It also means that you need to keep doing experiments and trying out different ways when your Chinese level is getting higher and higher. Something works for you when you are at a lower level doesn’t necessarily work as well when you are at a higher level.

#6 Knowing how to take advantage of new technology

Technologies are everywhere and they can lend a helpful hand to anyone who is learning Chinese. 

The trick is to know how to take advantage of technologies, not to let technologies take control of you. 

Human brains don’t evolve as quickly as technology does. And no technology makes learning Chinese any easier. You still need to make that effort. 

In the end, it's not about what smartphone apps you are using. It's how you use them.

#7 Learning Chinese is only a small part of a life

Successful Chinese language learners enjoy life as a whole. 

Learning Chinese should enrich life, not deplete it. Learning Chinese shouldn’t cannibalise other hobbies or commitments.

Learning Chinese is a lifestyle only when it is part of your life.


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April Zhang
Chinese Teacher
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