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losing motivation

I feel so hopeless with learning chinese/mandarin right now i feel like its a language thats unconquerable no matter how much you try.I honestly dont even know where to start i have two books i bought i feel like duolingo isnt really helping like its lessons go way over my head like they were designed for someone with a quite a good understanding . When im learning it i just have endless questions and confusion ! i was trying to learn about some of the phonetic components to see if that would help with identifying the seemingly endless characters surely in chinese schools they dont just learn endless characters there must be some trick or logic to pronouncing the characters and not just constant memorisation of arbitrary pictographs ?? surely?? please someone give me some motivation or advice

May 19, 2018



Welcome to Asian languages. Thousand mile journey begins with one step. Then one step a day. Don’t look back. Really, it’s more like planting a tree than planting a summer garden. It takes a few years to see the first fruit, but then the roots are strong.


千里之行,始于足下 indeed


If you need a break from Mandarin, then take one! Learning a language is like riding a bike; you can come back to it a week or even a month later and still remember a lot of what you knew! Taking a break will help you remember what you liked about learning Mandarin in the first place, and you'll come back to it refreshed and ready to learn. Learning a language isn't easy, but it's fun and rewarding.


I agree taking a break and study an easier language and switching back and for between them helps. I'm actually doing that with Esperanto, which I suspect it is the easiest there is.


The best way that I've found to learn a language is to use it. Join a social learning network on facebook or something. There are many Mandarin learner groups out there.

Here are a couple of things that would help. 1. Install pinyin input on your PC and phone. 2. Learn the subject verb object sentence structure.

Then practice using the pinyin input with the social learning groups online. Write terrible sentences.

Just memorize the basic top pronouns, verbs, and objects.

我吃苹果。 我听歌曲。 你听歌曲吗? 我用电脑写汉字。

Simple sentences like that. Don't bother with complex sentence structure for now. You only need to be able to communicate simple sentences for now.


Chinese is a challenging language because it is so different, but it is also rewarding. I recommend taking a class at a community college if there is one nearby, as it helps to have a person taking you through the initial steps, which are the most difficult. But I also find it rewarding to study Chinese. It is like exercise for your brain, like sudoku, but it exercises not only the 'numbers' part of your brain, but also your visual and memory parts, because of the need to remember the pictographic characters.


Some teachers are better than others. Some courses are better than others. Some voices are clearer than others. You know when something is fun for you, seek those teachers and courses. PLEASE, KEEP IN MIND, THERE ARE MANY FREE RESOURCES. I like this FREE Memrise Mandarin Chinese course because of the videos of people speaking Chinese, and the two main voices are sooooooooo good (FUN). This is part 1 of 3. https://www.memrise.com/course/1461152/mandarin-chinese-1/


If Duolingo isn't helping will this website help? I'm not sure what else to do sorry! https://www.loecsen.com/en/learn-chinese


Agreed, a break on occasion can be a good thing! Give yourself a chance to remember why you want to learn Mandarin, then come back at it with renewed enthusiasm.

I am going to evening classes, Duolingo is the supplement for my learning, and a class it is a great way to be able to ask questions (and also get essential practice at actually speaking the language).

As for learning the characters: in my experience (all of ten months so far...) there is quite a bit of sheer repetition to it. I have taken to setting myself a short list of words each day, whereby I first copy out the characters then challenge myself to recall the pinyin and translation, then repeat again starting with the pinyin, then for a third round starting with the English and getting the pinyin and character from memory. Even just ten words a day can make a difference.

But, do not fear! The pictures are not all entirely arbitrary:

  • A few are delightfully visual. The character for people, person - rén - looks a bit like a person: 人. A mouth - kŏu - is drawn as 口. Sometimes the components (particularly on the left) of a character can give a clue to the meaning. To eat: chī, 吃; to drink: hē, 喝. Both of these start with the mouth character, and a mouth is very important for eating and drinking ;)

  • The right-hand component can be a clue to how to say a word, for example when throwing 吗 on the end of a statement to turn it into a yes/no question. The left-hand side, oh look! It's the mouth again. We're doing something with a mouth, this time asking a question. On the right, we have a horse (mă, 马), which is a clue to how to say our overall word. 吗 is pronounced 'ma'.

I sometimes refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_(Chinese_characters), which gives an interesting explanation of the radicals from which Chinese characters are drawn, plus a table with links to individual radicals including: a cute animation to show how to draw each one, a definition of the radical when used as a character in its own right, and a list of characters which include the radical.

By recognising components of characters, I have certainly found it easier to recognise and draw them. Many do still seem arbitrary to me, although that could be because my grasp of the language is still very limited, but it all feels a lot less scary than it did when I started because: I know there are clues to be found; and, I make time for a little bit of repetitive practice every day.

I wish you well in your efforts to learn this fascinating language!


I think chinese is a long term goal, can it be dauting. It has happened to me with the german, after struggling with the grammar, I realized that my vocabulary was very poor and in german is very important.


askbenny.com is a great site for starting Mandarin. Look for the youtube lessons and pick the easier ones. He uses useful phrases and includes pinyin with the Chinese characters. You won't have to worry about the characters, but will gradually start to recognize some of them. You will soon feel like you have some useful phrases in Mandarin. For Duo, use it only with the first few bubbles to start to build a small vocabulary of characters. There are thousands so don't try to learn them too fast. Native speakers take years to learn them and don't learn them all. I make a little story in my head around each character to recognize it. For example (teacher, composed of two characters), I think in my mind "The teacher is an old, mean guy waving a stick and screaming from the pulpit all day long". I've been working on Mandarin for about 8 years, along with my other languages and I only know about 100 to 150 characters well (I didn't worry about anything but pinyin for the first few years) so relax and enjoy the ride unless you are in a real rush to learn the language. If you are looking for instant oral fluency, try taking an evening Mandarin course with a real teacher.

  • 1284

Learning a language is VERY difficult especially one that is totally alien to your own. The only way to do it is to keep doing it no matter how frustrating it is, and you will get it eventually.


Chinese is one of those languages that's around me where I live, constantly used by many people. For me , that's motivation enough to keep at it!

  • 1233

There are tons of free resources to find someone locally or online, who can help with. See if you have a local Chinese learners meetup (meetup.com). With someone being able to answer your immediate questions, you'll feel easier to move forward in the beginning.

Chinese/mandarin is a monosyllabic language. In other words, any syllable corresponds to a character and you can use those characters as building blocks to form words and phrases. The most frequently used words are single syllable (character) word and two-charactered words. And you can start with something you've already known about mandarin, like place names and person names. For instance, you know Beijing (北京), Shanghai (上海), Guangzhuo (广州), Sichuan (四川), Hunan (湖南), Menggu (蒙古), right? If not, take a trip to your local Chinese restaurants and try to order Sichuan Chicken (鸡), Hunan Beef (牛), and Mongolia BBQ. Figure out the meaning of each characters as they are the building blocks to form tons of other words. Can you figure out what 南 京is? How about 东 京?(I use Google Translate a lot! shhhhh, my secret.)

For tones, don't feel stressed about it if you feel you don't get it in the beginning. To tell the truth, even many local Chinese cannot pronounce the mandarin tones correctly due to the influence of their own dialects. But guess what, when they string their incorrectly pronounced syllables together, people can make sense out of them as these sounds build up some context. That buys you time to improve your tones and pronunciations.

Take it easy!


Chinese is exactly what you think it is. The mistake I think you make is you assume there must be a shortcut. There isn't. It's hard. Living in China, I can tell you that when you think you understand something it is disheartening to discover people don't pronounce the words like you are learning or they use more common words. Every city and many towns will have their own language and that filters into the Chinese Mandarin you are learning and may make it unrecognizable to you.

Without a good reason to study Chinese you may find it daunting. Constant practice and repetition will help. Even the Chinese can have a difficult time understanding each other. It is common for them to stop for clarification about a sound or word. The result many be that the person being asked writes the character in question before resuming the conversation.

Personally I see no reason to learn to speak Chinese without understanding and being able to read the Hanzi (characters). I find the written Hanzi most fun, interesting and challenging.

The Chinese people will respect any attempt to communicate with them in Chinese no matter how small. Keep it up or give it up just make sure what you're doing is enjoyable.

加油 Jiāyóu translates to "add oil" or we might say "come on!" or "you can do it!" to encourage someone. I would recommend an App called Pleco. I love to study the construction of the characters so I can write them properly.


Thank you very much for the indepth response and yes i guess your right. I think i was looking for a short cut in some ways . I wanted the result with out doing the work inbetween i think xD im just going to keep calm and carry on practicing

  • 1699

I think you hit the nail on the head when you used the word "motivation." What is your motivation to learn Chinese? I think it needs to be a pretty good one, because if it isn't why would you put in so much work - and believe me - it is a huge amount of work. To learn the thousands of characters and to get the hang of tones takes time. A lot of time. I have spent about an hour a day for the last 4 years learning Mandarin, and certainly not only with Duolingo, and 7 hours a week is the low end od time one needs to spend to become reasonably proficient at Mandarin. You need a good reason to spend so much time. If you have one then just carry on and take as much control as you can over what you are focusing on (check out Hacking Chinese). If you don't have one, then that is what you should be thinking about first.


I suggest you plod along, don't try to go too fast, and just just plugging away with a few lessons very day. The weird symbols will gradually become less weird to your eyes with familiarity and you'll start to see some patterns automatically. And yes, a good chunk of time in Chinese schools is about learning characters ... it takes years!


if you need to have a more fun and organic way of learning you should check chineasy https://www.chineasy.com/ it mostly about learning the meaning of each individual character , still it helps a lot. also don't push yourself to much if you fell you need a break take one , learning a new language doesn't happen over night it takes time , and consistency as long as you still want to learn look for new ways of doing you are still on your way to learn and exciting new language :D


I know you are not looking for "more" but I have found using one or more other services in conjunction to DL to be very helpful. Recycling through the materials with different approaches has given me a better platform to do well with all of them. I like HelloChinese which is also free.


download "Hello Chinese" app, also check out their Youtube ;) first do Hello Chinese, then Duolingo Chinese ;)


Duolingo sucks at teaching you when you start out. It's something I recently noticed. It sucks, it really does, but Duolingo is definitely not the end all be all, it's simply a great tool to help you in addition to a primary platform. You should look into a tutor who has Mandarin Chinese as their native language or at least an Asian language as their native, and has great teaching skills...either that or try to learn by watching videos. Good luck!


The current version of the Chinese course surely needs improvements. You can try other websites... in the meantime. It looks like you are learning many Asian languages at once. That might have made your learning seem overwhelming. I suggest starting off with Japanese first, IMHO it's a good introduction to the Chinese characters. Also, the Japanese course is better developed than the Chinese one.

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