Wanting to learn Chinese and knowing what to do to actually acquire it is, in fact, not all that related. A desire is great. A desire motivates. A desire feels good to achieve…but it does very little to actually clarify the path to fulfilling it. This is why so many people fall back into the old habit of “Rote Learning”, i.e. doing something over and over until it is memorized.
Seems logical enough, right? I want to learn this! I’ll just look at it 100 times in a row and I won’t forget it! A: Boring B: Completely inefficient, and C: Not even totally true.
Memory is strengthened when something goes into your conscious mind first, hangs out there for enough time to allow you to logically understand what it is, then goes into your unconscious mind for a period of time. This allows for your brain to A. Process the information in your subconscious and B. Recall it so that your conscious logical mind has a chance to see it with a fresh perspective.
If you had 10 years in a Chinese elementary and middle school to learn Chinese, then rote learning might be fine.
This implies that looking at a fact once and then seeing it again 10 minutes later is more effective than looking at it 10 times over and over for 10 minutes.
That inefficiency might not seem like much, but if you multiply the effects of how slow rote learning is over a long-term project like Chinese, you end up taking 10 years to do something that could take 2 years. Coincidentally, that’s about the amount of time Chinese kids spend in school rote learning characters).
The key to changing this pattern is using Spaced-Repetition Software, or SRS. Learn how SRS essentially solves the problem of memorizing Chinese characters in the most efficient manner. Our Memrise review also helps you understand its scope and limits as a tool.