I’ll admit: I’m not huge gamer, but I have played a few games in my day. I’ve sunk some time into RPGs (Role-Playing Games) like Final Fantasy. But I’ve definitely spent more time doing on a real life RPG–studying Chinese.
Intro to RPG
RPGs come in many different shapes and sizes, but they tend to have the following features (via wikipedia):
- A player takes on the role of another character or group of characters
- A player collects experience in order to increase their character’s abilities and level.
- The development of the character is controlled by the player.
Is Chinese an RPG?
- Do Chinese learners play a role? I’d say yes. There is lots of evidence of manly men who talk like girls, or well-mannered people who turn into potty mouths. Learning to express your personality accurately in Chinese is really difficult.
- Do you collect experience? Definitely. All the vocabulary practice, sentence drills, tests, etc. Are helping you build up experience. Occasionally, when a learner gets the chance to look back on their Chinese, they’ll notice their Chinese level has gone up.
- Is development controlled by the player? Yes. Although you can’t always select your textbooks or teachers, ultimately you’re in control of your Chinese destiny.
Why this matters
In an RPG, you wouldn’t only upgrade one attribute. If you never increased your health, you’d get wiped out on later levels. And ignoring your strength would make killing bad guys take forever. Most people playing RPGs try to increase all of their attributes while at the same time focusing on making a couple attributes really good (I’ve always preferred magic users).
Learning Chinese shouldn’t be any different. In the early levels, you have to spend a lot of time writing out lots of characters (the low-level bad guys). But eventually, studying characters for three hours a day isn’t worth the reward. You’re better off studying another aspect of Chinese.
Not having a balanced study plan is a recipe for getting stuck. If you want to reach the highest levels of Chinese, you’ll have to spend time leveling-up everything: grammar, pronunciation, listening, reading and writing.