Chinese Language Learning – My 15 month learning journey: errors and small victories so far

First of all, big thanks for this community, your opinions and experience really helped me out so I wanted to share my progress with you so you can also learn from my mistakes.

My job makes me interact with Chinese people online on a daily basis. They all write a decent level of English, but I’ve always wanted to seriously learn another language and that was my main motivation to enroll in Chinese lessons at the local university January last year.

**Months 1-3: The beginning:**

Together with classes I started learning pinyin and downloaded the Hello Chinese app. I completely ignored memorizing any characters and when speaking with a Chinese friend online she made me know how useless pinyin was in a non-scholar setting, so that was a couple of months wasted right there.

Then COVID hit and lessons turned online, but the experience was not the same: when you were there you had to focus but online the constant interruptions for basic questions and curiosities really took a toll and I felt I was better off learning by myself. Met the girlfriend of a friend who took HSK5 and she provided me some learning materials and I started the HSK1 path, while simultaniously still practising on Hello Chinese.

**Months 4-13: Memorizing characters:**

Writing characters down is hands off the best way to memorize them for me, so I started listing all characters I knew and writing them countless times. Every day I would add one or two and write each of them down at least 40 times, together with reviewing by writing the last 20 characters I had learnt just from looking at the meaning. Whenever I missed a character I would write that character down until I had memorized it again and every Sunday I would apply this method to review all the characters I had learnt so far. You may see what is the problem with this: the more characters I had learnt the more the Sunday review took, going from 20 minutes to 1h30 in no time and not being very efficient as I was writing characters I knew by heart every time, together with re-writing the ones I did not and not spending enough time with them.

During this time progress was slow. I was watching a lot of videos, listening to the HSK lessons, Hello Chinese and repeating the character pronounciations multiple times, together with the written component I’ve mentioned. I did at least part of this routine on an almost daily basis, I would say 6 out of 7 days per week, with a break here and there on a Friday or Saturday.

**Month 14: Anki**

With Anki I only had to write down the characters I had not memorized, not wasting time with the ones I knew. Chinese Redux helped me create my own deck with sound, meaning, pynyin and hanzi. I would do front as character and back as meaning/sound and front as meaning/sound and back as character. This turned learning new words much more efficient and much less tedious. It became a game, a challenge, instead of massive mindless repetition, which was still there because given my new anki based writing routine. Things started speeding up.

Minimum daily Hello Chinese, videos stopped. Still following HSK

**Month 15: Anki + Chinese Teacher**

As my vocabulary was getting better, my pronounciation and listening were lagging behind, so I found a local teacher to give one to one lessons. This was the best, happened only 3 weeks ago but having someone give 1h of their time plus fully preparing lessons based on your needs is priceless and helps listening, pronounciation and connectiong all your vocabulary, forcing you to express yourself and conjuring your own phrases. I am very happy and seriously recommend if you want to make fast progress. Anki still there and combined with lessons is a very powerful weapon.

I wanted to summarize my main errors:

1 – Ignoring characters for the first months
2 – Relying on massive mindless repetition for character practise
3 – Doing this on my own


1 – Discipline: almost daily practise
2 – Adopting anki. Better late than never.
3 – Finding a good chinese tutor

Feel free to add anything you think would help me progress even further or any of your own mistakes while learning this language!

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