Learning Chinese is a gruesome task.
Or is it? I have written a few other articles on this page where I describe the scope of the Chinese language in relation to the proportion of it that you need to master in order to use it in business, and in life; Its tiny. Chinese consists of over 50.000 words. You need 3.000 of these to get into university and most Chinese people do not graduate with more than 6.000 in the bag. The rest is jargon and terminology. So the first tip on how to overcome motivational issues is to realize that the mountain is in fact a hill.
Because you are reading this I take it you speak English. It is of course harder to learn Chinese than learning a more similar language like German, French or Spanish. But motivation should be put into the context of what the rewards are like when you reach the summit of your climb, not only the size of the hill.
Lets look at Europe for a case study on what the relative rewards may be for learning different languages. According to The University of Manchesters language faculty around half of Europe speak English, 17% speak German and French and 10% speak Spanish. Less than 50.000 speak fluent Chinese. I of course listed these because if we are speaking about language skills then we are talking niche pockets on the labor market.
When we are speaking about niches; the more unique you are, the more your skills will be worth. If you are one of ten people that have a degree in Economics from a good university and is also familiar with English and Chinese you are placed in one beautiful position in future wage negations. It can simply not be compared to learning only English or German as it only narrows the niche to 50% or 17%, respectively, of the graduates in your field. The pool future employers will fight over is too large for you to be in that same advantageous position.
But money is not all that matters in the world you cant buy happiness, right? In my mind there are many things that make life so fantastic to live, but perhaps foremost is new impressions. Part of learning a language and forming new impressions is to travel and if we revert back to our old example of Europe, one thing is abundantly clear, for all its internal heterogeneity, Europes differences are nothing compared to that difference which exist between China and the West. Because to travel from Iceland to Italy, or from Portugal to Lithuanian, is simply nothing compared to traveling from Berlin to Beijing. The first sight of a real Hutong or the taste of Baozi dwarfs the differences within the European Union and the scope of what you will learn when you go there.
But if we are talking about learning throughout life and of new impressions: of becoming a more balanced person through foreign perceptions and alien vantage points, we cannot ignore the issue of language and thoughts. Right this moment I cannot remember who said this, but I think that the most important aspect of learning a language might very well be because we think in words, a larger vocabulary will mean larger thoughts. That is an eternal truth; with more balance in our mind, with more nuanced thoughts, we will be able to appreciate more aspects of a multi faceted and complex universe. This may sound pretty strange to you, it still does to me, but a lot less strange than before I started studying eastern philosophy in my spare time while living in Beijing.
To summarize these points: I came to China to study Chinese because of the immense benefits it will give me in my career. I was happy when I discovered that the Everest I was climbing was not a huge cliff, but a very manageable undertaking, but the decision made ever more sense when I realized that on top of the hill there was not just a pile of gold waiting. The journey up the foothills, and the climb itself had equally much to offer. I have traveled my whole life, been to thirty or so countries, lived in five and worked in three, but never have I seen such fascinating differences as I experience in China.
Learning Chinese is a very enjoyable exercise that will broaden your mind; in fact it can be an adventure and a hobby - a hobby that you in the long run will reap immense benefits from.
Learning Chinese is not a gruesome task.