The Language Mastery Blog
150+ Free Articles & Resources to Help You Reach Fluency Anywhere in the World
If you are learning Mandarin Chinese, check out this video interview Olly Richards from I Will Teach You a Language recorded last year. Olly is a great interviewer and even went to the trouble of getting a complete transcript made of the interview (available for free on his site). In the interview, we discuss: 1) My journey to learn Mandarin Chinese. 2) The ways in which Mandarin is actually an easy language. 3) How to learn Chinese characters the way Will Smith would. 4) How to best learn tones. 5) The myth that you need to move to China or Taiwan to learn Mandarin. 6) Differences between the Mandarin spoken in Mainland China and Taiwan. 7) The importance of chéngyǔ (成語, “idioms”), which are usually 4 characters in Chinese. 8) My top 3 resources for learning Mandarin Chinese. 9) More about my Master Mandarin guide and how it can help beginning and intermediate learners.
Is it ideal to learn Japanese in Japan and Mandarin in China or Taiwan? Yes. Is it a mandatory condition? Absolutely not. Let me be clear: living in Japan and Taiwan for a number of years was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I go back to visit as often as possible. But while living in a Japanese or Mandarin speaking country can certainly provide learners of these languages many advantages, it’s critical to understand that it’s not a requirement for success. In today’s world, “I can’t learn Japanese or Mandarin because I live in rural Kansas” is an excuse, not a reality. With Internet access, a little creativity, and a lot of hard work, you really can learn any language, anywhere.
I made just about every possible mistake when starting out in languages. I used terribly inefficient methods, slogged through boring materials I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and almost gave up more than a few times. But this is good news for you: struggling so much in the beginning and later correcting course makes me a much better language coach. You never want to learn from a “natural” who picks up new skills easily. As Tim Ferriss points out in the The 4-Hour Chef: “The top 1% often succeed despite how they train, not because of it. Superior genetics, or a luxurious full-time schedule, make up for a lot. Career specialists can’t externalize what they’ve internalized. Second nature is hard to teach.”