This month, I finished my latest language challenge to learn enough Mandarin in 90 days to be able to hold a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker. I have done these 90 day language challenges before. This time was different because I had never studied an Asian language before and I had never studied a tonal language before. I saw that other people had achieved this through 90 day challenges and I decided to attempt it but was unsure if I could achieve the final goal.
One of my main motivations was that I had a stopover visit to China on the way back from New Zealand to the UK and this was near the start of my challenge. You can read about my short trip to China on this blog post.
I was on a guided tour with a group and on the tour we stopped at a kindergarten so I felt more confident practising my very basic Chinese with the children rather than with adults at that time!
I found an Italki tutor called Amy who gave great lessons and worked very well for me. I had about 20 lessons during the challenge. I focused more on speaking and not so much on the characters because I needed to make sure I could manage that 15 minute conversation after 90 days.
I didn’t actually use that many resources during the challenge as I felt the work from my tutor was enough for me, although I did use the BBC Talk Chinese book too, especially before my trip to China as the book is aimed at gaining basic knowledge in the language for the purpose of visiting the country as a tourist. This was my video at the start of the challenge.
The Challenge also provided the participants with mini challenges throughout, such as building sentences each day on a spreadsheet for 2 weeks, working in teams to gain the most points and another one for speaking time. We also had a fun optional challenge to make a funny video doing something in our new language. I made a video with my cat, Mario, about Chinese animal words. Mario responds to the Chinese word for cat “mao” so I made a video to show this.
I was surprised at how easy the grammar is in Mandarin. The most difficult aspect for me is learning the characters. I recommend the Collins Easy learning Chinese Characters book as it explains some interesting stories associated with the characters. Another book I read during my challenge was Collins Chinese Language & Culture. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in the Chinese language or history.
During the last 3 weeks of the challenge, my confidence was starting to build and when I attended the Language Show Live in Glasgow, I felt confident enough to approach Chinese people and start talking to them. I also kept going to my local Chinese restaurant and the staff there now always speak to me in Chinese and they have taught me new food vocabulary.
This is my final 90 Day video in Chinese with English subtitles
I still need to keep practising the tones but they’re not as difficult as I thought they would be. It’s just a case of continuing to practise as much as you can.
My plans for Chinese are to carry on and keep it as one of my regular languages. It has now become one of my favourite languages.
UPDATE: I won this challenge and I won a flight to China for November!! Now I am working on Chinese a lot in preparation for my trip!!!