While many people choose to learn Mandarin for its academic or professional potential, you don’t have to pursue a degree in China or run an international business to benefit from learning Mandarin.
For anyone interested in self-development, becoming proficient in Mandarin is a fulfilling and constructive use of your time. It can boost your creativity, your cross-cultural competency, your mental fortitude, and your long-term perseverance. Overall, learning Mandarin will help you work towards your goals with greater confidence.
Learn Mandarin to Broaden Your Perspective
When you learn a new language, you familiarize yourself with a different way of seeing the world. The languages you speak have a powerful impact on who you are as a person. You might feel like one person when you speak in English but like a completely different person when you speak in Mandarin.
Different systems of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax force you to engage with the world through different lenses. When you talk about the world in Mandarin, your thoughts sound different. When you write in Chinese characters, your thoughts look different, too.
Thinking and talking about the world in these different forms shows you it’s possible for you to organize your thoughts and communicate with others in very different ways. Ultimately, this shows you how to think more creatively.
Learn Mandarin to Improve Your Cultural Flexibility
Learning Mandarin doesn’t just change the way you think on the level of language. It will also change how you think on a cultural level.
Knowing the Mandarin language opens the door to exploring a whole new world of Chinese history and culture. To speak the language, you’ll have to learn about Chinese etiquette, taboos, common beliefs, and history.
You will also be able to explore Chinese literature, Chinese film, Chinese history, and even the Chinese internet. Over time, these encounters will teach you a good deal about how Chinese culture is different from or similar to your own.
These experiences will make you more culturally flexible. You’ll be able to see things from other people’s points of view, allowing you to be more empathetic and more effective at communicating. And when you take a moment to pause and look back at how much you’ve learned, you’ll also be able to look at your own culture and notice things about it that you’ve never noticed before.
Learn Mandarin to Fortify Your Determination
Learning Mandarin is not easy for English speakers, and it takes a lot of time. As such, the process of mastering Mandarin will empower your strength of will. In particular, learning Mandarin teaches you how to approach new and difficult situations.
You’re going to have to develop a lot of new skills to get to your final goal. This isn’t just about how well you can articulate retroflex consonants in Chinese words. You will also encounter motivational struggles and personal setbacks during your Mandarin studies. You’ll have to learn how to roll with the punches as you persevere.
When you make progress and see that you actually can reach your goals with hard work, you will gain self-confidence. You will believe in your own capacity to achieve your goals, even when they seem difficult. You can then apply what you’ve learned to achieve other goals in your life.
Learn Mandarin to Cultivate Your Endurance
When you learn Mandarin, you will have to study with consistent focus and dedication. There’s a long road ahead of you when you start out, particularly if you’re figuring out how to learn Chinese by yourself. Don’t quit. When you apply yourself, you can invite the full engagement of both your heart and mind.
You’ll have to motivate yourself to stay consistent long-term, and you’ll have to do some planning as well. But over time you will learn how to maintain a learning pace that is challenging enough for you to progress yet not so much so that you burn out. Finding this sweet spot will teach you a lot about yourself and your limits.
Once you achieve fluency in Mandarin, you will have proven to yourself that you are capable of planning a course of action and following through with your commitment. Other people may notice this quality in you, too. But more importantly, you’re setting yourself up to have confidence in your ability to reach your long-term goals.
Measure Your Progress
Even if you learn Mandarin without an academic or professional purpose in mind, if you’re serious about your studies, you should measure your progress. This will show you what you’ve achieved and allow you to adjust your strategy for the future.
One of the best ways to measure your progress is by passing the HSK exam. In case you’re unfamiliar with the HSK exam, it’s China’s official Mandarin proficiency exam, so it’s a standardized metric to determine how much Chinese you’ve learned.
If you are familiar with the HSK exam but haven’t heard about its newest changes, you should know that the exam has been updated with new HSK requirements.
Passing the HSK exam is a concrete way for you to see what you’ve achieved by studying Mandarin, but as we’ve gone over, there are many other intangible personal benefits that you’ll gain along the way. When you learn Mandarin and take the time to reflect, you’ll realize how much you can achieve when you pursue one goal with passion. Who’s to say what goal you’ll pursue next?
Daniel Nalesnik, Founder of Hack Chinese
Daniel Nalesnik is the founder of Hack Chinese, a smart platform for learning Chinese vocabulary. Daniel moved to China in 2009 for a year of full-time Mandarin immersion at Peking University (in Beijing) and Fudan University (in Shanghai). In the years since he has worked with teachers throughout China to discover what learning methods are most impactful for Mandarin Chinese learners? This experience inspired Daniel to found Hack Chinese, a spaced-repetition platform for learning Mandarin Chinese.