Why You Don’t Want to be Fluent in Chinese

In my 30s, I wanted to speak perfect Chinese. What I really wanted was to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Why do you want to speak perfect Chinese? Think it over. Speaking basic Chinese might be perfect for you. It may not be worth the investment of your time and money.  You may be better off just speaking basic Chinese.

What Would Becoming Fluent Do?

Is your goal to negotiate business contracts in China? Is even a good idea? At a deeper, you probably want to connect with people and be effective. You don’t need perfect Chinese for that. You just need to speak basic Chinese.

Maybe you want to ask for directions. You don’t need to speak perfect Chinese for that either.

So, why become fluent? It may make sense to practice enough to attend business meetings or social gatherings with minimal support. You can get to this level in a relatively short period of time.

You might want to teach Chinese at a university. In that case, you probably need to become fluent.

Why Are You Studying Chinese?

Frankly, if you want to do business in China, learn basic Chinese and spend your time studying the business culture. Understanding how sales, marketing and negotiation work will benefit you far more than fluency in Chinese. If you want to travel, again study the basic language skills and spend your time on the social culture.  This will improve your experience far more.

You Don’t Want to Be Fluent

Even if you speak perfect Chinese, mistakes happen. In fact, being extremely fluent would raise expectations and mistakes might be more embarrassing. On top of that, if you are fluent, you will be expected to have a strong understanding of the culture. Simple mistakes will easily be interpreted as slights, which would be bad. Being fluent could easily work against you.

Motivation and Mastering Chinese

Success Comes from Motivation

This includes learning Chinese. If you don’t stay motivated, you will give up. You will even forget what you have learned. How do you stay motivated in life? Here are some answers.


Life is a Tug of War Between Growing and Drifting

We’ll start with a quote:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Dr. Viktor Frankl

You have a choice. You can give in and drift or make the effort to grow. Both choices are life changing, but only one will lead to becoming fluent in Chinese.


What has Helped You Stay Motivated with Other Goals?

You’ve accomplished something in life. Perhaps you stayed in a job that you didn’t like. You may have stayed in college or earned a master’s degree, raised kids or learned to fly a plane.

What worked?

It probably took making small gains with daily effort. Getting up at 8am for that difficult class or at 6am to get your kids to school.

You also probably made it a part of your schedule. You may have worked with others.

The question is: What did you do then that will help you succeed now? Do that!


The Challenge of Learning Chinese

We often tell you that learning Chinese is easy. It is easy! (but you need to study regularly) Let’s go back to why you started studying Chinese in the first place. Before things got hard. Before studying changed from an adventure to endurance. How do you remind yourself of that burning desire that started you down this path?

Let’s start with another quote from Viktor Frankl:

What is to give light must endure burning. – Dr. Viktor Frankl


Consider These Questions

What vision helped you take the step to start studying? How does that vision apply today? How do you remind yourself?

How can you keep that vision first and foremost in your mind? Have you posted pictures of China around your house?

Do you listen to Chinese music? Do you watch Chinese music? Do you shop in a Chinese grocery store?

Have you told your friends about your goal? Have you updated them about how you are doing? What about your family or people at work?

Do you have a study schedule? Do you study at a time that works? Have you formed a study group?


One More Thought

We have a Facebook Page. We’d love to hear more from you there. Tell everyone about this adventure. Tell us when you are struggling.

Tell Us About Your Adventure

We appreciate your feedback!

We recently sent out a satisfaction survey.

We really appreciate everyone’s time. 9 people responded in the first 24 hours.

We’re also happy to share the results.

Here is what people told us how we can improve:


The survey will go to all students after 3 months in class.

We believe we can improve in terms of how we do homework. People told us that the cd was not as helpful and did not work at times. There were also comments that you would like more support in coordinating all of the different areas of homework: the cd, mp3 files, worksheets and books. We will work on a system to do that!

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to respond.

The link below goes to the full report.

You can view an unedited report of the results here.

I’d love feedback via comments too!