Pernille’s Chinese Learning Triumph

Case Study Pernille

This testimonial was written by Mandarin Blueprint Method member Pernille Bønnelykke Christensen from Denmark. This is one of our many testimonials. Thanks to Pernille for sharing her fascinating story, enjoy!


I am a 28-year-old woman from Denmark. I speak Danish (mother tongue), English (second language), and Spanish (third language). In Denmark, we learn English in school very early from primary school.

With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in finance and international business taught in English, my English level is more or less fluent.

Spanish I started learning through in commercial college, but I first really acquired the language when I lived in Spain and Chile years after school.

The cool thing and what made Spanish easy was the fact that I had the opportunity to relate Spanish words and grammar techniques with both my mother language (Danish) as well as English.

Now I moved to China as an ex-pat 6 months ago. I have always strongly believed that if you want to get to know a culture, then you have to do it through its language.

More importantly, when you work with people from another country who speak another language, it gives you a great benefit if you can connect with them through their language.

You will gain a lot more trust and remove many barriers. I thought that now when I knew by experience how to approach a language, Chinese would become no problem.

But. That was not true – CHINESE IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. I had no chance to relate it to any other language I knew or make any sort of connection that eased my learning – I simply did not know how to approach this massive monster.

I tried using different APPs, and I also paid for other online courses alongside a Chinese private teacher, but nothing worked and kept momentum and motivation to keep going. I was almost giving up this entire journey.

What problem were you facing that caused you to search for a Chinese course?

I work a full-time job leaving my home at 6.30 in the morning and arriving back at 17.30 in the evening. For this reason, it was as well challenging to get a regular teaching schedule going and have enough energy to prepare my homework and mentally for these Chinese sessions.

My teacher was excellent (no doubt about it) I just did not have the energy or felt the progress to keep on going that way.

I needed the ability to learn Chinese when it suited MY work schedule and energy. I wanted the ability to decide my progress speed without being dependent on anyone else.

BUT, I also needed to have guidance. Chinese was too big of a handful for me to undertake completely by myself. The language is fundamentally different compared to any other language I speak. I did not know how to approach the language in the best way possible to gain the best outcome.

What would it mean for you personally/work if you succeed in learning Chinese?

Personally, it would be a huge and SUPER COOL achievement. Who does not want to say that they speak Chinese?! I think that languages are really beautiful and I have some languages that I love more than others.

Danish and English are not really THAT beautiful in terms of what you can do with them. Spanish, on the other hand, is a gorgeous language because you can explain a specific feeling on so many levels by altering tiny conjunctions (this, of course, is also veeeery difficult to understand because it is sooooooo much grammar). THEEEEEN, I have seen and studied the Chinese language.

Chinese is beautiful in a completely different way – the beauty is in its history and, of course, is how it is written (characters).

If I acquire Chinese, I would also be able to speak with the majority of the people in the world by knowing English, Spanish, and Chinese – so that’s pretty nice.

When I worked in Chile, my Spanish was a huge advantage because I worked with a lot of people who did not speak good English.

The case is the same here. I work for a manufacturing company in the area of process optimization.

It would create so much trust and remove great barriers if I were able to go to the production line and speak to the people on the line and not get it second hand.

Being non-Chinese there automatically is an authority barrier, which is just further enhanced when I cannot communicate with them. Speaking just a little Chinese would help tremendously.

How long, on average, does it take to learn a character?

And how long did it take you to get that speed?

If we assume that I have learned a character when I have made the Hanzi Movie routine (AND that I have the needed props already), then it probably takes around 5 minutes to build my movie.

At this moment, I usually remember the movies pretty well without failing to recall during reviews.

Of course, it took some time to get here; I have been doing this course since 23-02-2020, so about 20 days and I have learned 124 characters in that time.

I think after five days I reach the 5 minutes level more or less. When you have the method under control, then it is only your imagination that sometimes takes a bit of time to get “in the game.”

The key thing is that Phil and Luke are with you all the way until character 105 guiding you through the Hanzi Method – this was a huge relief for me and removed a lot of stress connected to learning this language.

Which 3 parts of Mandarin Blueprint have made the biggest impact?

1: Focus on learning character through the Hanzi Method

I have always said, “I don’t need to write and read; I only wanna speak Chinese,” mainly due to learning Chinese characters seemed even more like a challenge.

The Hanzi method makes it fun and allows you to be creative (it can also be hard sometimes if you study too long in one stretch). I knew about this memory technique from school.

However, I would never have thought to use it this way. I am amazed at how many characters I have acquired in such a short time, every day, I feel motivated, and I feel little victories every time I do my AnkiDeck.

AND by learning words via characters, I also get a better understanding of the word itself and its origins. It is simply amazing.

2: Course structure and guidance

One of my big issues was that I couldn’t do this by myself. The structure of the entire course makes complete sense to me.

The pressure to not go out and speak and meet defeat day by day from Chinese people not understanding me was a huge relief.

I must say that it was crucial for me that Phil and Luke guided with videos a lot in the beginning.

They made this method manageable and easy. I just leaned back and followed along – it was great. I felt the progress, saw the different milestones, and was motivated every day to achieve more.

3: AnkiDeck

A gift to all people who have tried to acquire Chinese or other languages before. Before Mandarin Blueprint, I made my own card with a loooooooot of characters by hand to practice. Of course, without any real progress.

Anki is essential for you to remember your movies, and it points out exactly where you have issues.

I don’t worry. If I am just truthful with my Anki replies, then I know it will let me know when I need to make some changes to my movies such that I can remember the characters.

It is awesome! Another thing about Anki is that it also boosts your self-confidence and motivates you.

It is amazing when you quickly go through your cards because you know the answers.

It’s also cool when you see a word, but you are not sure about the character, and then you try to write it down by remembering your movie; and all of a sudden, you produced the correct character. It is super fun!

What results have you achieved & what impact has it had on your life?

Well, I have just finished level 13, which means that I am not THAT far yet. When I go to work and look at signs, I am now able to understand many of the characters (also a lot I do not know), but I can somewhat guess what it says.

I would have never thought I would have been able to do that in 20 days. I use a lot of time on my new grammar deck in Anki, and every time I read a sentence without pinyin, I am so excited.

Because you guys made this journey so manageable with a complete structure and guide, I now believe that I will be able to master and speak Chinese in the near future more easily.

What were you skeptical about?

As I mentioned, I have spent a lot of money on other Chinese courses without any luck; I was afraid that this course would just become another one that did not move me in the right direction.

This is definitely not the case with Mandarin Blueprint. I think it is both the method, your own ability to choose your progress, the fact that you can see progress from day one and that it is fun, and Anki is a game where you are a part of building the pieces that make this course so great.

You are in complete control, and Phil and Luke are good at letting you take over little by little when you are strong enough to do so.

I was afraid that it would become very in-personal as many online taped courses are, but when you have to use so much of your creativity, and you get inspiration from other students, then it feels like you are very personally connected to the course.

Any suggestions for how we can improve the course?

The shift you make when going from level 12 to 13 is a bit big in many ways. As you mentioned, level 13 is a big level (fair enough).

I usually did a level each day after work, and it took me several days to go through level 13 due to two things; 1) you have to get used to the new set-up, 2) I did not had the chance to review all my Anki Deck cards from the latest levels words which I created the day(s) before.

I do Anki every day, but I have a lot of cards, so sometimes I cannot review all the newest cards. I was filled with frustration. I looked at a sentence, and there were some characters that I did not recall because they were too new.

After the first day, I decided that I wanted to do my word reviews from level 12 before moving on to the grammar reviews; this was a huge relief.

I know that you say that we should mix the decks, but I think when you go from 12 to level 13, it would be a good recommendation to either take one day break where you only do Anki or to advise people to review their new cards before starting level 13.

At least for me, it removed a lot of frustration, and I gained my motivation and success again.

Would you recommend Mandarin Blueprint? Why or why not?

I would DEFINITELY recommend Mandarin Blueprint, and I already did to a fellow Danish colleague.

I have never tried anything like this course before. I think that if you have a full-time job and work in China for a couple of years, this method is the only way that you can reach an excellent level of Chinese without having it feel like a burden.

I just wish that I had known about this course before I came to China or at least when I arrived, I would have come very far in 6 months, or so I imagine.

Pernille Bønnelykke Christensen