【Case Study】Christine Stumbles Upon Chinese

Christine Case Study

This article was written by Christine Anderssen. Christine is a member of The Mandarin Blueprint Method.

To be honest, learning Chinese has never been an item on my bucket list. If I had been planning to learn a new language, it would make a lot more sense to learn something like Dutch or German. My home language is Afrikaans, the youngest language in the world, which originated from Dutch and other influences about 150 years ago. I can already read and understand most of Dutch and some German, yet here I am, studying Chinese, one of the most challenging languages in the world to learn for Westerners.

When the lockdown happened, my mental state was such that I just could not summon enough energy to spend on my usual hobbies, such as reading or sewing. I was also working full-time from home, which was totally exhausting. I looked for something that would take my mind off things and that I could immerse myself in without having to invest a lot of emotional energy.

I somehow fell into the rabbit hole of Chinese, fantasy/costume TV dramas. After watching a few episodes of the first one, I was hooked. They were perfect for my state of mind – funny, over-the-top, dramatic without asking me to ‘angst’ too much over what will happen.

I am perfectly happy to read English subtitles, but slowly became intrigued by the language. How can this even be a language? It all sounds the same!

Then, as these things happen these days, advertisements for Mandarin courses started to pop up on my social media. Maybe I should just do a short course on pronunciation? That is where it all started. Suddenly I found myself signing up for the Foundation Course, and here I am today, being able to read short sentences in Chinese. (‘My name is bread’)! Oh well, we quickly migrated from there to ‘My phone is slow.’ I still can’t understand anything anyone says in the C-dramas, but boy, am I excited when I watch one where there are dual sub-titles, in both Chinese and English, and I suddenly recognize a character and realize that they said something that I know.

My goal is to one day be able to watch C-dramas and understand at least some of what they are saying without being dependent on sub-titles.

But I am also getting excited by the other possibilities that exist in being able to speak Chinese. I emigrated to New Zealand about two years ago. There is a substantial Chinese business presence here, and I have realized that if I can learn Chinese, I will be able to tap into a vast potential market for work or business.

Apart from that, learning Chinese in the past couple of weeks has really taken my mind off things and enabled me to immerse myself into something so different from what I am used to that I feel I had been transported into a different dimension. The way that the course is constructed and presented makes you feel as if you are playing a game or putting together a puzzle. It is exciting every day to learn new characters and to review the characters and words that you have learned over the past few days to see if you can still remember them. (Was it Lady Di or Marilyn Monroe who entered the bathroom in my grandmother’s house and pushed the hook in her hand through the floating sun-shaped balloon into the electrical socket, causing her hair to frizz and her body to jerk around from the shock? Mmmm… maybe I shouldn’t have chosen such similar, wishy-washy actors…. Lesson learned)!

What do I like about the course?

I like the way that the course is structured so that you work through levels. This gives one a real sense of achievement. Luke and Phil also constantly encourage and congratulate you on your progress, which really helps with motivation for continuing.

The Hanzi movie method approach is a game-changer. It makes it super easy to remember characters and words. I had known about the Memory Palace concept before but have never tried to apply it myself – with Luke and Phil’s guidance, it just all clicked together and is making so much sense. To learn a character – and this includes the meaning, tone, keystroke order, as well as the actual character itself, is a matter of minutes. And you rarely forget a character once you have learned it.

I have mentioned before that Luke and Phil are super involved in giving the course. These guys go over and beyond what is required. They regularly interact with people going through the various stages by commenting on their lessons, but what I also really appreciate is the other advice that comes with the course. They not only coach Chinese but also give you advice on goal setting, dealing with slumps and setbacks, and just overall general advice on how to be successful in tackling something as new and daunting as learning this language.

I also really appreciate the effort they put into creating the Anki decks. I was also familiar with Spaced Repetition Systems before and have tried to create flashcards for my son for some subjects in primary school. I gave up after a few tries since it is just so much darn work to create the flashcards. I therefore really appreciate the amount of effort that went into creating those cards.

I am still in the early stages of my journey. So far, I am amazed at the progress I have made. I am amazed at the fact that I can read and understand simple sentences (I started the Foundation course precisely five weeks ago today). But I know there is still a long way to go. I try not to be too upset that I STILL cannot understand a single word of my C-Dramas (no, I lie.. I do catch a few words here and there), but I know that Rome (not to speak of Beijing) is not built in a day. It is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to reach the top of the mountain, but I am convinced that if I just maintain my focus, learn a few new characters every day and review my previous words and sentences, I will be able to achieve my ultimate goal one day in the future – to watch Nirvana in Fire without subtitles ?

Thanks to Luke and Phil for such an outstanding course – if you ever doubt whether it is worth it and worth the money – don’t doubt it, it is worth it. Even if you just spend a few weeks with it, learning a new skill such as Memory Palaces and learning to use Spaced Repetition Systems, it is already worth it. But the satisfaction that comes from looking at Chinese characters and realizing that you can understand what they are trying to depict is priceless.