14 days of learning Chinese

Let’s start a new challenge: learning to speak Chinese! I love learning languages. My mother tongue is Dutch and besides that I speak English, Portuguese, French and German (in descending order of proficiency). Time to add another one to the end of the list, albeit with a very small font.

Why would you do that?

For many reasons:

  • I love a challenge!
  • It could be useful: Over a billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language. With China being a growing economical power the use of the language will probably increase even more.
  • It’s impossible yet achievable: At first it seems impossible for me to understand or speak any Chinese at all, as it’s so different from any other languages I know. Yet I’ve learned that with practice and the right focus it’s possible to achieve a very basic level of proficiency in a language pretty fast. It should be great to be able to understand just a couple words of what at this moment sounds as gibberish to me, which makes me very motivated.
  • It’s an experiment: I’ve never done any public challenges like this before. I’m curious about the journey.
  • And last but not least: why not? 🙂


For the forthcoming fourteen days I will practice using the Book2 Chinese audio course every day. Every day I will post a blog and a video of my progress. I will try to master one lesson per day, but less is fine too. The challenge for me is about the consistency in the effort and reporting on it; if it leads to some results then that’s a bonus.

Book2 is a great free audio course which I’ve used when I started out with Portuguese. It offers written exercises too. The great thing about an audio course is that you can listen to the lessons any time when you’re doing something that doesn’t require a lot of cognitive capacities like on a bike ride, during a run, when travelling, during cooking, doing housework or shopping. As David Allen calls these moments in Getting Things Done, our days are full of “weird pockets of time” that we can use to achieve surprising results. I will use these weird pockets of time to achieve a very basic level of proficiency in Chinese.


If I would manage to master the first fourteen lessons I would be able to say and understand things like:

  • I read a book and you write a letter.
  • What colour is the sky? Blue.
  • Today it’s Tuesday.
  • Where’s John?
  • He is at the office.
  • Grandma likes apple juice.

Which to me would be amazing as I speak exactly zero Chinese right now. Ok, admittedly, I know “ni hau”, but nothing besides that.

I will not try to do any reading or writing. Mastering the Chinese alphabet is a different beast entirely.

And after that?

To be able to have anything but a very simple conversation in Chinese, much more than this is needed of course. Maybe I’ll do a sequel of this challenge, we’ll see. Let’s first get those fourteen days down.


2014-11-02day 1Lesson 1
2014-11-03day 2Lesson 2
2014-11-04day 3Lesson 3 (partial)

Image from Alpha Coder.

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