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10 Myths That Make Learning Chinese Inefficient & Frustrating

Have you considered learning Chinese yet? If so, you’re far from alone. The language is the most widely spoken globally, with Mandarin being core. Myths about learning Chinese abound; however, it is essential to take a pragmatic approach toward learning what is at its heart, a beautiful language. 

Learning Chinese can be very intimidating. There are so many different Mandarin dialects spoken in other parts of the country, and each has its writing system and unique slang and sub-dialects that make it confusing for an outsider to learn. However, learning Chinese doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems.

 Many people are bogged down by myths that seem real but aren’t. Here’s my list of the top 10 myths about learning Mandarin Chinese and why they’re not true:

1. Learning How To Write Chinese Characters Is More Important Than Learning How To Read Them

I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “You can’t learn to read Chinese characters without learning how to write them.”

This myth is based on reading and writing being two different skills. They are closely related. If you have never studied a writing system before, it will be challenging to master reading. But once you have mastered reading, learning how to write becomes much more manageable. 

Learning to write Chinese characters is an important skill, but it’s not as important as reading them. That’s because reading is more practical and valuable in everyday life. 

For example, if you can’t read a sign on the street, you can’t know where you’re going or what the store sells. If you don’t know how to read Chinese characters, many of your daily interactions will be limited and frustrating.Many people think that writing Chinese characters is more important than learning how to read them because it’s easier for us to see ourselves as writers than readers. But writing well doesn’t mean we can understand what we’ve written or explain it clearly to someone else. This is especially true in a foreign language like Chinese. Even native speakers struggle with writing formal documents like resumes and business letters due to their complex grammar rules and unfamiliar vocabulary.

Imagine if you had never learned how to read English before learning how to write it. You would have no idea what any of the letters mean, so it would take you forever when someone asked you to write down a word. 

You would have to think about each letter individually and figure out its pronunciation before putting them together into words. This happens when people try to learn Chinese characters without first mastering reading them!

You can read Chinese without knowing how to write anything at all! Learning how to read Chinese characters should be your top priority when you start learning Chinese. Reading will help you understand how the language works and develop a solid foundation for speaking and writing later. You won’t be able to master any other skill without this first step!

2. You Can’t Make Sense Of Chinese Characters Until You Know All The Strokes

This myth is one of the biggest reasons people give up on learning Chinese. It’s hard to tell how many people have been turned off by the idea of learning Chinese because they don’t want to spend years learning all the strokes to read it.

The myth that you cannot make sense of Chinese characters until you know all the strokes is a huge misconception. This myth has been around for many years. And it is still being promoted by some people who do not understand how learning Chinese works.

The truth is, you can make sense of Chinese characters without knowing all the strokes. You can start reading characters without knowing a single stroke! It doesn’t matter if you only know a few characters or none. The best way to learn how to read Chinese is by learning pronunciation first and then practicing Reading Characters until you get comfortable with them.

Chinese characters are often said to be “written” with “strokes,” which makes them seem like some kind of secret code. This can make learning Chinese characters seem very difficult and confusing. It’s much easier than it seems.

The first step in understanding how to read Chinese characters is to forget about strokes. Chinese characters aren’t written with strokes at all! They’re made up of smaller components called radicals (or keys) representing entire words or concepts. You can start learning Chinese characters by knowing some basic strokes and tips from a teacher or online resources.

For example, if you know how to write 我, which is wǒ, you can write it by just learning about “left stroke” and “right stroke.” You don’t need to know all of the strokes individually.

There are many different ways to learn Chinese characters, but one thing remains consistent: learning basic strokes first and then combining them into meaningful words like jīn (禁), yìng (药), shǐ (使), and so on.

3. You Need To Learn All 10,000 Standard Chinese Characters

As every learner knows, learning a new language is not easy. The first step in understanding a new language is mastering the basics. This includes learning pronunciation, spelling, and grammar rules. 

However, many learners are overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters they need to know before they can start speaking and writing Chinese. Learning all 10,000 standard Chinese characters can be quite a daunting task. And it’s not necessarily a good idea. 

It’s inefficient and frustrating to know all of them because there are only about 2,500-3,000 characters you will regularly use (and even less if you focus on reading).

One of the most frustrating and inefficient ways to learn Chinese is to memorize all of the 10,000 standard Chinese characters. To be clear, it’s not impossible to learn all 10,000 standard Chinese characters. But it’s also not necessary.

Even if you could remember all 10,000 standard Chinese characters, you would still need to use Pinyin (romanization) or a dictionary whenever you encounter a new word. And this makes learning Chinese inefficient and frustrating because it slows down your progress and makes it harder for you to read real-world text.

If you only learn 500 characters at first (which is more than enough), you can read 80% of all modern-day texts with no problem whatsoever. And if you add another 1,000 characters into your arsenal, that percentage goes up even further!

If you want to read the newspaper or any other book in Chinese, then learning all those characters will take you years and years. For most people, however, this isn’t necessary. You don’t need to learn all of them if your goal is to get around in China and speak basic conversational Chinese. Sure, it would be nice if you could write better than me (which is not hard), but that isn’t necessary for most people!

For most people just starting, learning only 500-600 characters at first is fine (the exact number depends on their level). This will give them enough vocabulary to understand most things they hear or read.

4. The Simplified And Traditional Character Sets Are Equivalent

One of the myths that make learning Chinese inefficient and frustrating is that simplified and traditional character sets are equivalent. It’s not true.

First, let’s look at what the two character sets are. The traditional character set is the one you learned in school. It contains all the characters used in ancient Chinese texts, including thousands of characters that have been simplified over time.

The government developed the simplified character set in 1949 to simplify the writing system by reducing the number of strokes required to write each character. This made it easier for people to learn to read and write Chinese, but it did not change the meaning or pronunciation of words.

So what’s so wrong with these two sets being equivalent? Well, some key differences between them can make a huge difference in learning Chinese efficiently:

1) There are more than 5000 characters used in modern-day Chinese textbooks, newspapers, and magazines, but only 2500 or so are used in both sets. So if you learn one set but not the other, you will be missing out on about half of all commonly used characters! 

The good news is that most of these familiar characters are pretty easy to recognize because they have similar shapes between sets.

2) If you learn the simplified system first and then go back to studying it later, it’s easier because the simplified characters are based on the traditional ones. However, if you start with traditional first and then go back to learning simplified later, it will be more complicated. 

This is because many characters have different meanings or pronunciations that don’t correlate. This is why many people who study Cantonese end up learning both sets before they get into severe reading or writing work.

3) Many people believe that the simplified set is easier to read, which makes it easier to learn how words sound. This may be true for native speakers of Mandarin who have been exposed to both sets from childhood. But it’s debatable whether this is true for learners who start with Pinyin first (like most foreigners). 

This myth makes learning Chinese inefficient, frustrating and ineffective. It is based on the assumption that one set of characters is as good as another. And also equivalent to their usefulness. This means that if you learn one set, you will be able to read the other set. However, this is not true. Learning both sets will take longer than if you just learned one set. It is impossible to understand Chinese without knowing both sets of characters fully.

This is because there are many differences between traditional characters and simplified ones; these differences are in their appearance and their meaning. In addition, many words have different forms for each character set even though they may be pronounced the same way (e.g., 不让 bù ràng “not allow” vs. 不允许 bù yǔn xǔ “not permit”).

5. It’s Essential To Use Pinyin When Learning Chinese Characters

The truth is that you can learn Chinese without using Pinyin at all. You just have to be patient and consistent. Pinyin is a system for romanizing Mandarin Chinese characters used to write the language. 

The name comes from the pinyin word for “spelled sounds,” developed in the 1950s by the People’s Republic of China. It’s essentially an alphabetical representation of Mandarin pronunciation, allowing learners to read Pinyin and associate it with characters. 

The primary purpose of Pinyin is to help people who can’t read Chinese pronounce words. For example, if you see a character written “hong,” you will know it sounds like “hung.” This makes it much easier to learn how to pronounce Chinese characters.

The “pinyin myth” is a common misconception among non-native Chinese speakers learning Mandarin Chinese. They believe that you cannot read Chinese characters if you don’t know Pinyin, which is an alphabetical representation of the sounds of Mandarin Chinese characters.

While it’s true that Pinyin can be used to help people learn how to read and write Mandarin, it’s not necessary to learn how to read Chinese characters. Many people make the mistake of thinking that you need to learn Pinyin to be able to read and write Chinese characters. 

However, this isn’t true at all! Knowing Pinyin makes it harder for many learners because they think they need it before they can start learning how to read and write.

Why It’s Not Necessary To Use Pinyin When Learning Characters?

People think it’s necessary to use Pinyin when learning characters because they want a shortcut. It seems logical: if you’re going to remember something, then make it easier by adding some context so you can relate it to something you already know. 

This approach often works well with vocabulary lists because they’re usually made up entirely of words already used in context. But when it comes to characters, there’s no context at all!

There are many reasons why people use Pinyin (or other romanizations), but it’s not essential for learning how to read and write Chinese characters.

Many learners find it easier to recognize characters in isolation before learning how they sound when spoken aloud, so they start with Pinyin first, then pronounce each character individually before associating them with its meaning. 

Many students have proven this process effective over the years, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it too!

6. The Only Way To Get Fluent In Chinese Is By Immersing Yourself In China

A lot of people believe that learning a language is all about immersion. They think, “If I’m not in China, I’m not going to be fluent in Chinese.” But this is a myth. Immersion is essential for learning Chinese, but it’s not the only way. You can learn Chinese effectively even if you aren’t in China.

For example, if you want to learn Spanish, do you need to visit Spain? No. You can study at home and still become fluent in the language. The same goes for the Chinese.

The myth that the only way to become fluent in Chinese is by immersing yourself in a country where people speak it, like China, is one of the most common misconceptions about learning Chinese.

This myth can be easily debunked by looking at the fact that many people who live in countries where people don’t speak Chinese have been able to learn it very well. When you look at all the different methods used for learning Chinese, this myth becomes even more ridiculous.

Many people believe that the only way to learn Chinese is by taking classes in a classroom setting and then living in China for some time. This is not true.

The truth is that there are many different ways to learn Chinese, both online and offline. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or an experienced learner. These methods are effective at helping anyone learn Chinese more quickly than they could through traditional methods.

One of the most common myths about learning Chinese is that it’s necessary to go to China to immerse yourself in the language and culture. The reality is that there are plenty of tools available online for learners who wish to study abroad without leaving their homes.

Several resources are available for those who want to learn from home without worrying about expensive plane tickets or hotel stays. There are so many methods for learning Chinese that it would be hard to count them all! Some people use rote memorization techniques, while others use audio-based methods like Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone. 

Others prefer the direct approach and study with a tutor or take classes at school or university. Some students choose to study abroad, while others go online and find resources like FluentU’s videos on YouTube or TED Talks on Netflix.

Many people believe that the only way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in the country where it’s spoken. This is not true at all! There are many other ways to learn a language without leaving your home country.

7. You Shouldn’t Speak Chinese Until Your Grammar Is Perfect

You want to speak Chinese, but you’re afraid that people will laugh at your grammar mistakes and make fun of you. It’s normal to feel this way, especially if you’re just starting in Chinese. But there is no need to worry about it.

If you are afraid that people will judge you for making mistakes, try not to worry about it too much. The truth is that most people don’t care if they make mistakes when they speak a language; they just want to be able to communicate with others. Most people are too self-conscious and don’t want to make any mistakes because they think they will look stupid or uneducated if they do so.

The fact is that when people make fun of someone else (even if they do so in a playful way), they are saying something about themselves. They are trying to make themselves feel better by putting down someone else. In other words, they are looking for an excuse to be mean and negative.

If you encounter people like this, do not take them too seriously — remember that they are probably just trying to make themselves feel better by putting down others. If you try hard enough, you can even learn from these situations and become stronger!

The best way to overcome this fear is by practicing as much as possible and speaking as much as possible with native speakers willing to help you learn the language. The more often you practice speaking Chinese, the more confident you will become in your ability to talk to Chinese without hesitation or fear of making mistakes.

This myth is so widespread, but it’s completely unfounded. The truth is that speaking is a highly effective way to learn a language and the best way to learn any new skill. When you start speaking Chinese, you will make mistakes. And this is okay. 

It’s natural to make mistakes when you first start speaking a new language, especially if it’s your first time speaking a tonal language like Chinese. But as long as you keep practicing and eventually become fluent in Chinese, your grammar will improve along with everything else!

For example, if you are a beginner-level learner, then you should not be waiting until your grammar is perfect before you start speaking Chinese. Instead, practice speaking first with your teacher or friends who are native speakers of the language before trying to talk with native speakers in real-life situations.

You need to realize that there is no perfect grammar in any language, including English. The best way to improve your grammar skills is by speaking with native speakers or other learners at an advanced level.

8. Technology Isn’t An Effective Way To Learn Chinese

The writing system is also very complex, with thousands of characters (called hanzi) difficult for English speakers to master. But technology is changing this! Technology has made learning Chinese easier than ever before.

Technology makes learning Chinese easier by helping you improve your pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar skills. It also allows you to create flashcards, listen to audio lessons, and find resources on topics like travel and business in China.

It’s a common belief that technology can’t be used to learn Chinese. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology has made learning Chinese more accessible and more efficient than ever before. It’s not just about memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. It’s about getting used to a new alphabet and learning how to pronounce words so that people can understand what you’re saying.

That’s why many people believe that technology can’t be used to learn Chinese. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology has made learning Chinese more manageable and more efficient than ever before.

Here are the top three favorite ways to use technology for language learning:

Online dictionaries: The best online Chinese dictionaries allow you to search for words based on their written form, pronunciation, or meaning. They also provide example sentences and explanations of individual characters.

Chinese flashcards: Flashcards are a great way to memorize vocabulary and improve your reading ability by exposing yourself to new words in context. Most flashcard apps allow you to customize your deck based on the difficulty you’re trying to achieve (beginner, intermediate or advanced). Some even let you choose whether or not you want Pinyin included.

Apps/programs that teach Chinese through immersion: Some great apps help students learn how to speak Chinese without prior knowledge of the language! Duolingo is probably one of the most popular programs because it’s free, interactive, and fun!

9. Chinese Writing Has No Structure Or Logic – So It’s Impossible To Learn Without A Teacher

The myth that Chinese writing has no structure or logic is why people give up learning Chinese. This myth is perpetuated by teachers and tutors who are too lazy or unskilled to teach their students how to read Chinese characters correctly.

Chinese characters don’t have an alphabet or phonetic system like English, so it’s easy to assume they don’t have any structure or logic. But in fact, there are many different ways to organize individual characters into groups based on their radicals (or components) and pronunciation. This makes learning new characters faster by recognizing patterns among similar ones.

This myth has been around for a long time, and it’s false. Chinese writing has structure and logic, but it’s not the same structure or logic as English writing. The main difference between them is that the characters in Chinese are made up of different parts of speech, which makes sense when you understand how each part of speech works.

In English, we use nouns to name people, places, and things; verbs to describe actions; adjectives to describe nouns; adverbs to modify verbs; pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘me’ to stand in for nouns; and prepositions (like “in” or “by”) to connect other words. 

These different parts of speech work together in various ways so that we can tell what something is by looking at its word parts alone — without having to read any additional context clues. 

How can you learn to write Chinese characters without a teacher?

1. Get a good book or software program that teaches Chinese characters. Many of these books and programs are available online at reasonable prices.

2. Practice writing characters every day until you feel like you’re making progress. Focus on practicing the strokes first, then practice writing them in order until they become second nature.

3. When you’re ready, try writing them by hand with a pen or pencil on paper instead of typing them into your computer or smartphone. This will help you get more comfortable with how the strokes look when written by hand, which is not always evident from an electronic device’s display screen.

4. Study with an interactive online tool like Flashcards Deluxe or Memrise (see below). These tools can help you practice writing characters repeatedly until you get them right. They also let you see how other people are doing on the same character so that you can compare your progress.

5. Use spaced repetition software such as Anki or Mnemosyne (also below). This kind of software allows you to program your flashcards and review them at regular intervals until they are memorized. 

It’s excellent for learning lists of words or phrases, including foreign languages like French or German. Still, it doesn’t work well for learning Chinese characters because they’re so complex and have multiple meanings (even though some claim otherwise).

10. To Learn Chinese, You Must Read From Left-To-Right And Top-To-Bottom

The first myth is that you must read from left to right and top to bottom to read Chinese. This is not true at all! If you’re looking for an easy way to learn Chinese, one of the best ways to do so is by reading right-to-left (just like Hebrew). If you’ve ever been on Google Translate or Baidu Translate before and seen something like this:

That’s pretty close to how Chinese work. The columns go from right to left (and usually top to bottom). When we say “column” here, though, we’re referring more specifically to a word or phrase being written as one big chunk rather than each character being written individually (this is called “vertical” writing).

Most Chinese people read from left to right, but many exceptions are. For example, Chinese newspapers are often printed from top to bottom and right to left. This is because newspapers were initially created for illiterate people who didn’t understand the written language. 

They needed a way to visually see what was going on in their country, so they made newspapers that everyone could read. The newspaper would print pictures of the latest events on one side, and then on the other side, it would have a summary written in simple language so anyone could understand what was going on.

You can learn Chinese by reading from top to bottom and left to right, but it’s not necessary. It takes a lot of time to do this. The only reason why people do this is that they think it’s how Chinese people learn their language.

However, this is not how Chinese people usually read Chinese books or newspapers. They just read from left to right like we do in English or other languages. When we were kids, our parents taught us how to read from left to right by showing us some pictures on the wall and then told us “this one first,” “this one second,” etc… 

Until they put all of them together in one sentence: “This cat likes milk.” Then they told us, “this sentence is written in English.” That was how we learned our first words in English (and later in other languages).

For example, if a word starts with a character on the left, it must be read from left to right. Whereas if a word begins with a character on the right, it must be read from right to left. This myth had caused many students to become frustrated when they could not understand how to read Chinese characters.

The truth is that while this is true in some instances (such as in Japanese), it is not always accurate in Chinese. Many people think that Chinese characters are always read from top to bottom because they do this when they learn Japanese or Korean. But there are many cases where this does not apply at all!

Many of the myths about learning Chinese prevent you from learning it effectively

There are plenty of myths that can keep you from learning Chinese properly. Chinese is one of the easiest languages to get started with because there are no conjugations or declensions, like Spanish or German. 

There are no tenses either. Instead, verbs are used in the present simple tense (such as “eat”), continuous present (such as “eating”), and future simple tense (“will eat”). This makes it much easier for Westerners to understand than other languages like Russian or Arabic. 

They use different verb endings according to who’s doing what to whom, when, and where they do it — which can be confusing even for native speakers!

There are thousands of characters to memorize, but Chinese grammar is quite simple. The biggest challenge will be getting past the tones and pronunciation; if you’re like me, they can be a real struggle at first. But once you understand how they work, they become easier to master.

Chinese is too hard for foreigners to learn because most people don’t speak English well enough to communicate in Chinese with foreigners who want to learn their language! This is another “too much information” situation. 

Where there’s no way for anyone to know what kind of person will come along and try to learn the language, that said, we have found that people are generally more than willing to help out if someone is genuinely trying to learn their language – even if it’s not perfect yet! They’ll often give a lot more information than you expect or need, even though you sometimes make mistakes or struggle with pronunciation!

Chinese isn’t that difficult to learn compared to other languages. Suppose you can speak a Romance language like French, Italian or Spanish. In that case, you will find Chinese easier than these languages because they are both Sino-Tibetan languages, whereas French, Italian and Spanish are all Indo-European.

The only thing that makes Chinese hard is memorizing characters (kanji), but there are ways around this obstacle without spending hours upon hours studying flashcards or having an eidetic memory. 

You can use mnemonic devices or simply look up the meaning of each character once you see it enough times so that its purpose sticks in your head automatically without needing much effort. 


Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. With more than 1 billion native speakers, it is the official language of China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia and one of the official languages in Hong Kong (alongside English). 

While most people speak Chinese in China and many other countries, it is not an easy language to learn. Learning Chinese will improve your career prospects and open up new travel, study, and work opportunities.

HAO Chinese Learning Center offers high-quality education at affordable prices in small groups or one-to-one tuition. Our teachers are highly qualified native speakers with years of teaching experience at secondary schools and universities across China.

The school offers a wide range of courses for students of all ages and levels, including general Chinese, business Chinese and conversational Chinese. Classes are taught by experienced native speakers who have been teaching at HAO Chinese Learning Center for many years. 

The teachers are familiar with the most up-to-date teaching methods and use various materials such as videos and audio recordings to help students learn quicker and more effectively.

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