I’ve just listened to one of favourite podcasts, You are Not So Smart, and the topic on this episode was rejection. Not only the situation of being rejected, but also the fear of the possibility of being rejected. This is a topic that really applies to learning Chinese, and learning languages in general – the fear you might have of making a mistake when using what you have learned in the wild.
The episode centers round Jia Jiang who, after being rejected by a potential investor to his business, and seeing the effect the rejection had on him, decided to embark on an adventure he called 100 Days of Rejection. The idea was that he would make requests of people, be rejected, and in the process become desensitized to the rejection. This is known as rejection therapy, and he recorded each of the rejections and posted them on his blog.
We can apply the same logic to language learning. The fear of what might happen if you mispronounce or use the wrong word when speaking Chinese can really affect you. The other person might not understand you, they might ignore you, they might laugh at you. Even though the outcomes don’t seem that bad, when you are faced with the situation in the wild these negative thoughts can really affect your reasoning.
In the videos Jia puts himself in some great situations, they’re usually awkward and amusing, but the rejections are never the end of the world. Which goes to show that any fear you may originally have is unfounded. Actually, not all situations end in a rejection, either. In some cases quite the opposite. Jia’s Olympic Ring Donut request provides a glimpse at how nice some people are.
So when you’re out and about, don’t shy away from a situation because you think your language skills aren’t good enough. If someone laughs at your mispronunciation, so what? As Jia proved, it gets easier, and you just might meet some great people in the process.