How I learnt Chinese in just one year - the ultimate 10-part guide to learning Chinese

How I learnt Chinese in just one year - the ultimate 10-part guide to learning Chinese, getting started, the basics and beyond


Ever wondered the best way to start learning Chinese?

How many of you like a good story?


A story of hardship, relentless hard work, almost giving up, but then in the end, one of incredible success.


We often imagine them the stories of superheros, people achieving amazing things we might never imagine possible.


The stories of them and never of us.


But truth be told, those people can also be us.


Can also be you.



Let me show you how.



Learning is a journey, a story waiting to be told


Anyone who has set off on the journey of learning a second language, and eventually mastering that second language, can testify to the fact of how eye-opening it can be.


Anyone who has set off on the journey of learning a second language completely and totally different to their first language, can testify to the fact not only of how challenging it is but also how life changing it can be to master a language so different to your own.


For many of us, Chinese is such a language.


But for those of you just thinking about it or still in your early steps of learning Chinese, where would anyone even start on such a journey?


The challenge to learn a second language like Chinese can seem daunting and we can feel lost before we even began.



And this is where the concept of story comes in.


Because for anyone who has been on any type of journey before, the logical step is to look to those who have taken that path before us.


Not just to understand the pitfalls but to get the inspiration needed to know that learning Chinese is fully achievable.


And there are so many out there we can look to for inspiration and ideas. From those who took up the challenge many many years ago to those more recent, those who swear by certain techniques to those who say you should study in China to those who say you don't have to.



Take for example Steve Kaufmann, who knows 16 languages and speaks around 6 of them fluently. He studied Chinese 50 years ago, even before we had cassettes, and in 9 months of hard work and study, he got to a level where he could translate and interpret in Chinese. You can read more of his story here.




Then you've also got Luca Lampariello who approaches learning Chinese and other languages from the point of view that you don't have to be in the country to learn a language well, a position I also agree with when living in the country of our target language is not an option.




Learning Chinese doesn't always have to take an extended period, but this doesn't mean a lot of hard work wasn't involved, as Mary shares some beautiful insights into her epic learning Chinese journey, this time in China, on her website The Ruby Ronin.




There are many other stories I could share from other great linguists, but hold tight because I will be adding these in over the course of this 10-part guide.


In fact message me in the comments or message me privately if you know someone or you yourself have a great learning story from when you learnt Chinese or some insights you woud like to share.


But first, I would like to share with you my learning journey about how I myself learnt Chinese in just a year.


To learn effectively, first we need to learn about learning

You see, too often when it comes to learning language and learning a second language, everybody shares the obvious information: the need to listen, the need to read, the need to write, the need to practise and speak, speak, speak, speak, speak...


After all, those are the four cornerstones of learning a language.


It's all things we know, but often know without actually knowing.


What I call knowledge from repetition.


We hear what people are advising, but do we actually understand? Do we actually understand the true ins and outs of learning language?


Do we really understand the how of learning, how we as humans learn innately and intuitively, and how we can optimize our learning processes to get the learning results we only ever dreamt of?


Because, this is everything I'm going to be sharing with you.


And much much more.


None of which would even come close to fitting into a normal average length article. Unless of course I cut out all the best bits and dumbed everything down to a superficial level.


This is why I would like to take you on a 10-part journey with me and share with you 10 secrets to mastering the Chinese language and give you the tools needed to succeed in learning a second language in ways you never imagined possible.


I'm going to take you on my personal Chinese language learning journey from when I decided to learn Chinese in just one year, and that at a time before internet and even online learning was even a thing!


Yes, you heard that correctly!


People are constantly asking me, how did you learn Chinese in a year? How is it possible to learn so fast? What are your language learning secrets?


And I'm going to reveal them to you.



But first, I need something from you.



The secret to change lies in exchange!


You see, the purpose of this guide, in fact the purpose of this whole website, is not to be a one-directional exchange.


For learning to be truly effective, it needs to be two directional.

For knowledge to be truly effective, it needs to be two directional.

For education to be truly effective, it too needs to be two directional.


What am I talking about?


I'm talking about exchange.

I'm talking about connection.

I'm talking about human interaction.


Too often, when we bring tech into learning, the human side of things vanishes.


We work alone.

We scroll alone.

We learn alone.


I want this to change.


I want to bring the human back into learning.


Not only to better understand how we innately and intuitively learn, but to be part of and at the heart of the whole process.


I want this site to be a site of change.

I want this site to be a site of exchange.

I want this site to be a site of interactional change.


So as I talk to you, I want you to talk to me.


Not just as feedback but also as live commenting throughout the articles.

And who knows, some of your input may actually find its way into the article itself!


So let's start this party off how we mean to continue!


If you are learning a second language, or trying to learn a second language, scroll down to the comments now and tell me which #language you are learning, and if you aren't, just write a #nolanguageyet, then come right back here, sit tight and get ready to take part in a learning journey which started way back when YouTube hadn't even become an idea and I was sitting all alone one day wondering what to do with my summer!


I assure you, you will never see language learning the same again!



Learning Chinese without a single ounce of tech - where it all began

When I first decided to learn Chinese over fifteen years ago, perhaps even a little longer, online learning was only in its early days. When it came to online learning platforms for Chinese there were only one or two websites dedicated to learning Mandarin Chinese and technology had only got as far as us being able to scan the Chinese characters and convert them to pinyin.


That. Was. It.


To say learning Chinese online at that time was a long labourious process would be an understatement, and having decided at the outset that I wouldn't learn with pinyin, I wasn't left with many, I mean, any, options.


So with just my big Chinese dictionary in one hand and pencil and paper in the other, I set out to learn Chinese.


And just to spice things up a bit I decided to challenge myself to learn Chinese in just one year. No, not learn Chinese in one year in China, learn Chinese in a year in France. In French. Which I was also still learning at the time. In addition to working and doing everything else we call life.


The nuts and bolts of how I achieved this is also part of my podcast The Hidden Secrets of Learning so be sure to subscribe to follow the journey there too.


Want to know how I succeeded in learning Chinese in just one year? Don't miss out on my podcast The Hidden Secrets of Learning where I share all my secrets how to succeed in learning. Subscribe now.


Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you How I learnt Chinese in just one year - the ultimate 10-part guide to learning Chinese, getting started, the basics and beyond


Key highlights to look out for include:


Finally understanding Chinese and the phenomena of difficulty in language learning


Should I learn Chinese characters? Why learning Chinese characters may actually make learning Chinese much easier


You asked for a challenge, you got yourself a challenge! Why challenge in learning is actually a key factor to getting those results you only ever dreamt of


Not only will you be learning the secrets to learning Chinese successfully, but you will have direct access to never before published insights into the way we learn and process language, learning secrets I have never before shared and the fruit into over fifteen years research and experience into the science and psychology of how we learn.


Subscribe to the newsletter to be sure not to miss a single part.


Now over to you.


What are your main goals for learning Chinese?

And what are your main fears about learning Chinese?


Let's continue the conversation in the comments