Motivation for Self Study

Motivation for Your Self Study Project

Motivation to Learn Chinese, Standard Mandarin

Are you learning Mandarin Chinese on your own? Would you like to know the secret formula to success?

The key is "motivation". If you had been attending a Chinese course of some sort, then you might have had a good teacher, who could have supported you a lot, and perhaps your fellow students would also provide some help. But how do you keep motivated when it is just you? Read on, the answer is right here in this article.

Let me just make one thing clear first: Yes, you can learn Chinese without attending class. Being motivated will carry you through to success.

So let us get to it. What can you do to stay motivated?

Long-term motivation

Why do you learn Chinese in the first place? Is it part of your education? Are you interested in Chinese language and culture? Is it to business with China? I'm sure you have a good reason for it, but that will not necessarily keep you motivated all the way through.

Short-term motivation

This is what will help you enjoy your journey towards Mandarin fluency! Below you'll find 3 principles that will help you stay motivated, and the reasons why it works.

Choice of Method

Which method is the absolutely best method for learning Chinese?

The answer is: The method that will keep you motivated.

The fact is: If you get sick and tired of using a particular method, you're not going to benefit as much from it, as you would from a technically inferior - but more amusing - method.

So, don't waste your time constantly being on the lookout for the best material out there. Just get hold of something, and start using it. Of course the quality does do a difference, but I'm sure you get the point. And sometimes changing to something different, can be very refreshing.


Having fun while learning Chinese is very important! The simple reason is: Since you're having fun anyway, you will not even subconsciously consider whether your effort is worthwhile. Having fun is in itself a very motivating, even if it isn't long lasting. The question then is "how do I have fun learning Chinese"?

Useful stuff. Make sure you learn some useful stuff, learning useful stuff will make you feel it is fun, simply because you see the practical value.

If you don't see the usefulness of something, then you're going to need discipline to motivate you through that particular lesson.

What is useful stuff? That depends on your circumstances, if you're learning Chinese to do business, then learning vocabulary for how to change a diaper may not seem very useful. On the other hand learning vocabulary closely linked to your field should naturally be given high priority.

Humor. Sometimes, learning less useful, but fun stuff will give you that fresh breeze of Chinese you need to keep on learning.

Let me give an example. Do you know the Chinese word for a dog's poop found on the sidewalk? Well, is that useful? Maybe not, but knowing some slang for it, might give you the chance to crack a joke the next time you pass by one of them, together with a Chinese person.

A slang phrase for that particular phenomena is 地雷 (dì léi), which really means "landmine". Just imagine the similarity between a dog's poop and a landmine. You don't want to step in any of them.

So is that a useful word to know? That really depends on your circumstances. But if you use it at the right time, your Chinese associates will definitely give you the immediate gratification of a smile perhaps even laughter. You will at least have impressed them with your vocabulary.

Do you see the connection this has to your motivation? Learning phrases that you can keep in store for the right moment, will make you feel more like persevering, because you're hunting for small gems in the big pile of Chinese language items.


Your final goal would probably be to achieve Chinese fluency, but setting some smaller goals or milestones along the way will help you reach your fluency. How to set some good milestone goals?

When you define your smaller goals, you should always bear in mind what the purpose with them are. To motivate you. And what is less motivating than having an unreachable goal? To avoid that, you need all your goals to be measurable.

All goals must be measurable. If your goal is not measurable, ditch it and make a new one. You have to be able to say "Yes, I did it! I have reached my goal!". That will motivate you to set a new goal, and carry on. Before you know of it, you'll be speaking Chinese like a pro.

Here is a few examples of bad milestones often set by students of Chinese.

  • Be able to have a conversation
  • Be able to understand all that is said
  • Be fluent

Of course, any student would want to achieve these goals. But the problem with them is, it is very hard to say when you have reached it.

Here is a list of good goals.

  • Learn all phrases in a particular section of a phrase book
  • Learn 50 new phrases
  • Finish a Chinese textbook with at least 80% correct answers in the exercises
  • Learn the 1000 most used characters
  • Construct a sentence of my own twice a day for 1 month
  • Translate a list of universally common words
  • Master all words in a list of universally common words

So would you have learned Chinese perfectly after reaching any of the above milestones? Hardly. But you would have completed a great task, and motivated yourself to take on another.

Motivation - the key to learning Chinese.

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Please leave a comment


Nick Lenoir
Mittwoch, 30. Juli 2014 at 14:35:00

I wish to find and marry a Chinese wife. This page was very helpful in my effort to learn the Manderian Chinese language. Motivation to accomplish such a formidable task is very important and you have given me a fantastic start.

Freitag, 9. September 2016 at 13:54:27

Nick, you can have mine. Aaaargh.

Annette Jordan
Mittwoch, 21. Januar 2015 at 05:04:51

I have found your site very helpful, easy to use and enjoyable.

Montag, 20. April 2015 at 16:16:44

Thank you for this article and so good goal suggestions.

Yes, have the goal to understand all the conversation it is really too high and can be frustrating.

Thank you for the tools you have on this site, especially the annotation tool. Have being very useful.


Daniel Avery
Samstag, 30. Januar 2016 at 21:39:45

Great advice on concrete goal setting

Raul Nunez
Freitag, 31. März 2017 at 13:37:22

Very helpful . I am more motivated now after reading this article. Thanks

Mittwoch, 9. August 2017 at 15:28:44

I did like this page very much