Of course, that is why you are reading this post. And do not fear, my young padawan, in the following chapters I will introduce several learning techniques that will set you on your way of becoming a master of Chinese language in no time.
Overcoming Your Fear
Do you know that phrase: there are no stupid questions? Well, you and I both know that that isn’t true. Questions can very easily be tagged as obvious, dull, or plain old duh, but when learning a language, you will have to forget about all that. If you ask me, and you are, a big part of learning is asking. How do you say this in Chinese? Why do you say it like that? What are the rules? What are the exceptions? What do you mean by ?”it just sounds right”?
When learning Chinese, you have to adopt a very Zen attitude of making a constant fool of yourself, because, it will, sooner rather than later, happen to you. First, there are the tones. The four tones (and the fifth, unaccented one) are tricky, and if you don’t get them right you will get: 1) blank stares 2) chuckles 3) confusion. But even if you get the tones right, you might mess up the intonation of the sentence, which happens, quite naturally especially in the situations when you are emotional, anger for example.
Although, the above might seem rather discouraging, there is one huge factor working for you, that is, Chinese people absolutely adore foreigners that want to learn Chinese. I said adore, and I mean it like that; just try your most simple Ni Hao and you will get smiles and enthusiastic nods all around you (followed by a rapid round of excited questions that most probably you won’t be able to understand). Chinese people will be very accepting of any attempts of communication; so don’t be afraid to try your new phrases with the hotel receptionist, a waitress, shopkeeper, or just anyone really.
And not just speaking, the same goes for other areas of studying. For example, when you don’t know how something is pronounced, and you don’t have a dictionary handy, turn around, and ask a Chinese person to help you. Since Chinese people do tend to be curious (especially if you live in an area where foreigners are considered ‘rare goods’), mostly likely it won’t stop at that: they might start asking you more questions, and even encourage you to practice, or give you study advice (my all time favorite is when they say: I think Chinese language is so difficult that it’s impossible to learn it). Never mind those pessimists, overcoming your fear and speaking or asking questions will make you feel great.