Whether you are just starting your studies of Oriental or have been studying for some time, it’s of great importance you are conscious of your motivations for attempting to learn the language. The more clearly defined your motivations for learning Chinese, the higher you can be at reaching YOUR individual goals. Sure, you may well be saying, “I already have reasons for learning Chinese.” You may even have several apparently known reasons for learning Chinese, such as for example:
“Chinese is the language into the future” or
“Chinese speakers are in popular”
“China has 1.3 billion people” or
I’m not saying they are bad known reasons for learning Chinese. They are fine reasons. The thing is that they are not personal enough. It is very important to have YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL known reasons for learning Chinese because those will be the only ones that will keep you motivated you during the long and occasionally difficult journey of learning Chinese. Also, having more specific reasons is better. An individual who’s motivation for learning Chinese is “Let me research the consequences of China’s Western Development project on ethnic minorities in XinJiang province” will have a easier time than someone who’s reason is “I love kung-pao chicken.”
Having specific outcomes for learning Chinese will also enable you to learn Chinese much more efficiently. You see, if we think about the first three reasons given above, we’ll come to the realization they don’t address a few key questions that everyone should ask themselves when making the decision to learn Chinese. In the coming days, we’ll deal with what these questions are and how to answer them. Right now, we’ll just consider two questions in an effort to show how getting the right kinds of reasons can help a lot when learning Chinese:
1) “MUST I learn simplified characters or traditional characters?”
2) “Am I going to just learn conversational Chinese, or learn to read and write too?”
In case you have clearly established your individual known reasons for learning Chinese, answering these questions will undoubtedly be much easier, and thinking about these questions will make sure that your reasons are the right ones for YOU. In this manner, your progress in learning Chinese will undoubtedly be much quicker.
Let’s consider the initial question. “I am interested in diaspora literature written by Taiwanese authors” might be your reason behind learning Chinese. Well, given that they utilize the traditional writing system in Taiwan you’ll most likely desire to learn traditional characters from the start. Or your reason could be: “I want to find a manufacturer of widgets in China without going through a middleman.” If this is your reason, learning traditional characters may not be so crucial. Lots of people don’t really think about this question too carefully before making a decision on which system to use when learning Chinese. With both systems, simplified and traditional, it’s rather a HUGE task to return and re-study all of the characters in the other system. So making sure to take into account this kind of question in early stages can really save you a HUGE amount of time.
It’s the same if you are trying to decide if you would like to just learn “conversational Chinese” or if you want to figure out how to read and write the characters as well. Lot’s of people are scared off by the a large number of Chinese characters and elect to stick with “conversational Chinese” and prevent learning the characters. I would say that this is not a good decision for anyone who desires to achieve at the very least an intermediate degree of skill in spoken Chinese. It might be the right choice for a lot of though, in several limited cases. Like in the event that you just want to impress your friends by ordering a few dishes in Chinese at the local ‘Sichuan Palace.’ Whatever your decisions may end up being, having individual and thought-out goals can help you in making your choice.
These are just a couple of ways that having thought-out and personal reasons will let you on the road to learning Chinese. Lot’s of other questions will come up all the time. For those who have clear motivations for learning Chinese, you will be more likely to make the correct choices according to your own unique situation.