🇨🇳Learning Mandarin: what I wish I knew starting from zero 🇨🇳

Chris Eubanks
7 min readAug 25, 2023
Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

At the time of writing this, I only have 186 hours of Mandarin learning time, so I’m just scratching the surface of this beautiful language. I started in April 2023, studying an average of 1.4 hours per day. While an expert at Mandarin will have more comprehensive tips, a struggling learner such as myself will have a unique perspective. I find that the further you advance in a language, you forget what it was like to struggle as an absolute beginner. So it’s better to highlight these tips as soon as possible before I come across new and harder challenges. Here are the things I wish I knew about Mandarin sooner.

I took a unique approach and started with full-immersion from day 1

I get a lot of criticism in the online language community for this, but immersion does work. I learned Finnish to A2 level mostly through immersion, and now it is working for Mandarin. Someone else posted on Reddit that they learned Korean accidentally by watching hundreds of K-dramas. When I went to Russia, several Russians I met who spoke perfect English told me they learned exclusively by watching American TV shows. So there is a huge precedent to full-immersion.

The key to immersion is studying very intensively at the beginning and gradually shifting to extensive studying later on. By intensive studying, I mean watching short length video clips over and over again. On day 1, it is most beneficial to watch the same 3 — minute long video clips with subtitles over and over again until you understand 75% without subtitles. This takes anywhere from 60–100+ times. As you get better it will take less and less watch times to understand. Later you can go more extensively watching entire TV shows. I like to start every single day with Season 1 Episode 1 of a TV show, and then binge watch throughout the day. The only caveat is I have to start over tomorrow again at Season 1 Episode 1. This ensures repetition, while also integrating new vocabulary.

Full immersion is not a perfect system

I started Mandarin with full immersion thinking that the fundamentals such as numbers would fill down. I thought that I would get all the numbers by watching financial podcasts about the stock…

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Chris Eubanks

Language learner. Rapidly learning the Finnish language. Follow me for specific knowledge that can't be found anywhere else on the Internet.