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Why did I make a ‘British Westerner Speaking Fluent Mandarin Chinese’ video?

Why did I post a video of myself speaking ‘fluent Chinese’? Some people will say I wanted to show off, some people will say I wanted people to pay attention, some people will be impressed, and as always there will be naysayers and critics. The video is far from perfect, there are going to be a few mistakes in tones, some expressions which don’t sound authentic and so on. If I waited until I thought I could make a ‘perfect’ video, then it would probably never get done.

I have been asked whether I sometimes I sit back and think ‘I can’t believe I actually speak Chinese!”, but the answer is no, I don’t find it hard to believe, because I have been learning or using Chinese every day for more than six years. That’s why, in fact, there is nothing really surprising about a British or American person speaking fluent Chinese. Where you come from or what ethnicity you belong to doesn’t actually make a difference. The tagline of one of the blogs that I like, All Japanese All The Time is ‘you don’t learn a language, you get used to it’, which is something that I completely agree with.

Let me use a metaphor to explain this. Many people think it is amazing the way Ronaldo was able to play football. I’m not saying he isn’t a great player, of course he is, but when you saw him on the television, you were just looking at the result of his efforts. You can’t see the years of training he has put in, in all wind and weather, you can’t see (so many of) his mistakes and his falls. He has put in years of practice in service of his art, and that is what made him the great player that he was. The same is true with an accomplished language learner. There is nothing mysterious or unbelievable about their skills, it is just a result of a long effort.

Therefore, the reasons I made and uploaded this video are as follows: 1) I want to show that it is perfectly possible to speak fluent Chinese if you make a long term commitment to it, 2) I want to step out of the darkness and introduce myself to readers of this website and Chinese learners everywhere. The title of the video is deliberately catchy, as I hope that it can reach the largest audience possible, and along with this website can persuade more people to start learning Chinese and other languages.

In another post I mention that Chinese is just like any language, it is made up of repeating patterns and structures, something that the brain can get used to. We are wired for this kind of thing, but you are not going to be fluent in Chinese after reading a textbook, or listening to a couple of CDs; of course it takes a lot of repetition and practice, but if you start that process today then perhaps you have already taken the most difficult step. Good luck to everybody who is learning Mandarin, and if you have already started, then keep up your efforts!