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

Chris Eubanks
7 min readAug 25
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…

Chris Eubanks

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