It's a simple challenge. As soon as you can speak Chinese at the level of the average school-leaver, you'd get your money. (This is hypothetical situation, please don't send me an invoice.)
Do you think that, before you went to bed tonight, you'd learn 10 more words? And maybe you'd revise yesterday's words too? Do you think, if getting a language-exchange partner would get you to your million dollars one year sooner, that you'd make the effort to find someone you could converse with?
Would you listen to more podcasts? Use flashcards more? Watch more Chinese-language movies?
Forgive me for being presumptious ... but of course you would!
What you do, and Why you do it
There are two aspects to achieving any goal: (1) the technique behind what you're learning, and (2) the motivation to keep on applying that technique.
The reality for most people, however, is they focus on the technique - and they ignore the requisite motivation. And then they fail. Bummer.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you get all psyched up, banging your head against the wall, shouting, "Yes, dammit yes. I can do thisssssss!!"
But if you go back to the million dollars example, I think we all know that if there was enough resting on it, you'd find the time, you'd make the effort. And your excuses about how hard Chinese is, and how little time you have, would be forgotten as you work your brains out to get your reward.
But of course you don't need to have a million dollars at the finish line. Sadly, no-one has offered to pay me money once I'm fluent in Chinese - and yet here I am, 00:50 on a Monday night (uhm, Tuesday morning) blogging about learning Mandarin, thinking about what works and what doesn't work.
Make it happen
So spend a little time trying to work out why you're learning (or going to learn) Chinese.
But don't be lazy - don't wait for the inspiration. Try to create the inspiration. Get excited about travelling to China, or conversing with Chinese people in your local area.
And if you really think it's better to focus on learning, and to not worry about your motivations, then ask yourself .... who is going to become fluent first? Will it be the person who only has access to one podcast series, one textbook and one dictionary (but who has a million bucks resting on fluency)? Or will it be the person who had access to lots of podcasts, many textbooks, medical research papers into the optimal way to memorise lists - but no real interest in becoming fluent?
So some of you are reading this post, rolling your eye-balls, and wondering if I've lost the plot. But others of you are (I hope) are going to take a little time to examine your own motivations.
If you're already learning Chinese, what got you motivated in the beginning? And what excites you now? Are there things you could do to re-ignite the flame?
And if you're new, take a moment to work out why you've set yourself the goal of learning Chinese. It really doesn't make a difference whether it's a dumb reason - if it fires you up, then use it.
Perhaps rate yourself on these questions, on a scale of 1-10 ...
- Do you want to know another language?
- Are you embarrassed about only knowing one language? (Or two, or ...)
- Would you like to be able to impress the cute girl/guy in Accounting because you can speak their native tongue?
- How about aiming to impress your friends by ordering in Chinese, at a Chinese restaurant?
- Would you like to travel China, speaking to the locals in their own language?
- Would you like to make more friends? (There is no shortage of awesome Chinese people wherever you look.)
- Or would you like to move to China because of the opportunities that country offers, but you'd like to be different to all those people who go there and hang out in their little communities without learning the local language, even after several years?
- Is this just another challenge, because you're the kind of person who thrives off challenge and personal growth?
But don't take my word for it ...
Once you've read this post, there are two things you could do.
- Quickly learn some Chinese words. You might start off by reading one of my WordPacks, and find 3-5 words you don't know - and learn then. It won't take more than a couple of minutes.
- Do something else.
What more evidence do you need that - ultimately - motivation is everything?