Learning a Language Is Like Learning Jazz

I’m not going to plug every single podcast “You Can Learn Chinese Podcast” we do, but then not every podcast we do has Dr. David Moser! For this one, I took over the interviewing responsibilities and had a good chat with Dr. Moser in our Shanghai studio.

We touch on a few topics I’ve covered on Sinosplice in the past:

(The jazz analogy part is new.)

And if you haven’t read this article by Dr. Moser, you should!


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Really enjoyed this podcast interview. Thanks!

  2. Stavros Says: May 4, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    I read this essay when it first appeared on sinosplice more than a decade ago. At the the time of reading, I was equally discouraged as well as inspired. My sentiments were with Moser and I couldn’t agree more with his cogent (and at times, humorous) argument. He is so damn right. Chinese is so damn hard. But more than ten years have past since the article appeared. Now, we have super computers in our hip pockets – we can learn Chinese whenever we want and how ever we want: Anki for characters, apps for tones, Cpod or Fluent U for content, and of course the endless – endless! – stream of content on the internet (both a blessing and curse). We can learn faster and deeper than ever before. The up coming generation who have grown up digital are doing this already. How I envy them. They learn faster and sound better than the previous generation of learners, and in effect have raised the bar. Of course, there are limitations and some of Moser’s points are still relevant.

    • Well, parents always want their children to have a better life than they did, right? We educators in the field of Chinese language instruction are living in an exciting time, because we truly are part of a revolution that makes learning Chinese so much easier for future generations.

      You could be depressed that you didn’t have it easier, but hey, now you have all those “I used to walk 5 miles through the snow to school every day, uphill both ways” learner stories! Nothing to do but dive in and take advantage of all of these great resources available now! 😀

  3. I read Moser’s article after the Web 2.0 age had just gotten started, in late 2005, when the young Youtube was already covered with pirated Chinese-language content. In my recollection, when I was reading Moser’s article, what came to my mind was that all of these problems had already become a thing of the past. What I didn’t really realize at that time was that Youtube had launched literally in the same month that I decided I need to ‘get serious’ about Chinese! Before Youtube and NJStar, I imagine it would have taken a real genius to master Mandarin.

    • YouTube truly was a game-changer. Now there’s a new, very different YouTube problem: so much content that it can be a pain to filter through it all!

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