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Learn to manage your time when teaching yourself Chinese

Teaching yourself Chinese is a viable solution for those who don’t want to pay for lessons. Given the abundance of the learning resources available, it is very easy to start.

However, self-study Chinese is something hard to carry on. One of the reasons is that students can not manage their time right.

In this article, I’d like to offer some time management suggestions to help students succeed when they self-study Chinese.

Manage your time right. You’re half way there.

Manage your time expectation

For many of us, life is “I want it, and I want it now!”

This quick fix mentality is re-enforced everywhere. We are constantly surrounded by headlines like these:

  • Loose 10 pounds in two weeks!
  • Improve your memory in 2 hours!
  • With these pills, you can get stronger bones and joints in just 1 week!

And of course:

  • Speak fluent Chinese in a month!
  • Learn Chinese in 3 months!

All these are giving people unrealistic expectation. The truth is that there is no quick fix.

When you’re teaching yourself Chinese, remember it is a long term effort. 

Nobody can learn to speak fluent Chinese in a month or three. The real and transformational result comes to you from slowness and persistence.

Think time as your biggest cost

When you’re not paying for lessons, you probably still need to purchase learning materials, such as audio lessons, learning APP subscriptions, books, and etc.

It’ll be a good practice to think time as the currency, as you only have a fixed amount. 

Once time is used as the measurement, there are some time drainers you need to avoid:

  • Chinese learning APPs such as Duolingo

APPs such as Duolingo are build upon a spaced repetition method which you have little control of. 

They always give a good start. A few minutes here and there will get some visible results.

However, sooner or later you will find that their demands for time grow exponentially. 

Everyday you must spend a bit of more time to complete the task, until one day you stop.

In the end, you are only human. You have other things and commitment to do besides learning Chinese. But these APPs do not know that.

  • 5,000 or more Chinese audio lessons

If there is deal to offer you 5,000 audio lessons for the price of $20, don’t take it. It’s cheap in terms of money, but very expensive in terms of time.

Suppose, on average, each audio lesson is 12 minutes. 5,000 lessons will be 60,000 minutes, which is 1,000 hours of listening time. 

That’s a lot of time. If you spend two hours per day to listen to these audio lessons non-stop, you’ll need 500 days just to finish listening all the lessons.

If you want to achieve the best learning result, as shown in this Chinese Learning Pyramid, do some re-enforcement, you’ll need at least double that time.

Since listening to audio lessons alone is too linear. Without other measures of support, it produces minimal results. 

The $20 you spend turns out to be a very expensive way of learning Chinese.

Build learning Chinese into your routine with small steps

It is important to include learning Chinese into your routine, either daily or weekly. 

It’s like those athletes train for Ironman Race, you need to know yourself and build a routine around it.

For example, try something like these:

  • Wednesday evening, use 30 minutes to finish a listening exercise in the Work Book.
  • Friday morning, use 10 minutes to read aloud the text while drinking coffee.

These regular and frequent small chunks of time helps greatly. Just make sure each task is achievable within a reasonable time slot. 

Step by step, task by task, you know you’re moving forward.

When you need to take a break

There will be times that your routine is interrupted, holidays, business trips, and etc. Managing your learning time is difficult under these circumstances. 

At this time, it is better to switch focus from learning to maintaining, so that you won’t feel that you’ve forgotten everything after the break. Here are some tips on how to do some Chinese during holidays. 

Learning Chinese is something that brings joy and true self-satisfaction. 

Manage your time right. So, when you’re smiling at your own happiness and your progress, you don’t have to enlist yourself to be a slave of its mercy.