Tweet Sometimes starting the journey of second language acquisition can be the hardest part. In those first few months of studying Chinese, many find characters and tones incredibly complex. A quick Google search reveals that you need to learn around 4000 individual characters to read (and understand) a newspaper cover to cover. At that point the route to fluency seems almost impossible. Even a basic conversation with someone who has a slightly different accent than you are used to can be frustrating.
Part of this might be that we set our goals too high. A while back a blog popped up with the goal of "being fluent in a year." After a few months of daily posts, and the occasional rant on the impossibility of the goal, the blog was gone. The user gave up. The bar was set to high. While it is important to set long-term goals, I think the short-term goals are what is ultimately going to keep us going.
What if the aforementioned blog had a goal of learning 1000 characters, getting through a textbook, or even finishing a novel? Those are things that are measurable, and certainly achievable. By reaching short-term goals, we still get that warm and fuzzy feeling of success. We should be proud of learning a new grammar pattern, a new set of characters, or understanding what a waiter said to their boss at our favorite Chinese restaurants, not discouraged that we didn't learn more.
Take pride in the little things, and meeting the short term goals. Those are the things that are going to keep us coming back for more. As cliché as it might be, learning a language really should be about the journey and not the destination.