Jeremy Lin’s 7 Assists to Take Your Mandarin Game from Frustration to Fluency

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

-Leo Buscaglia

Jeremy Lin (

Do you ever feel embarassed with your non-functional Mandarin Chinese?

Does your attempts at speaking Chinese make you sound like a clueless 2 year old?

Do you get irritated when you know what you want to say but still can’t express yourself?

If you answered yes, you’re definitely part of Club Frustration. Not really a place you want to get stuck on for too long.

So let me show you how to book a one way ticket to Fluency Heaven care of the NBA’s zero-to-hero sensation – Jeremy Lin.

Head-Scratching Frustration


The funny thing about frustration is that it’s really a sign of progress. It means you have a goal you want to attain and are doing the things you can to accomplish it. Kudos to you!

It just so happens that everything worth doing comes at a price be it time, effort, money etc. This is where the temptation to quit becomes more prevalent.

I think most of the time it is not even whether we can do it or not, it’s simply getting a little push or better yet a little ASSIST whenever we get stuck and frustrated.

So here are 7 assists from NBA’s Jeremy Lin, who knows a thing or two about frustrating situations, on how to turn your Mandarin game from frustration to fluency.


1. Knowing Thyself


Knowing Thyself (




Jeremy Lin understands his strengths and weaknesses. He puts himself in the best position to win by leveraging on his strengths such as amazing court vision and quick decision making instead of competing solely on speed and strength.



Mandarin Assist

Take advantage of your innate talents and interests. When you are doing things that you like most, you are:

* motivated
* passionate and
* focused.

Leverage on these by learning about Chinese words and expressions related to your interest. Plus, you’d always want to talk about your interests anyway, so these words and expressions will be often used thus making them worthwhile to learn.


2. Taking risks


We often associate Harvard graduates with success, right? Jeremy could have used his degree in economics and built a comfortable career in corporate America.

But he choose to go for the road less taken and faced numerous uncertainties and rejections in the NBA. Somehow, this has been the story of his career. He displayed his willingness to get out of his comfort zone and face unknown challenges in achieving his goal.

Taking Risks (

Mandarin Assist:

Get out of your language comfort zone. You will never be ready for every social situation there is. So just take your stock knowledge and run with it.

Don’t be afraid to get embarassed. It is actually the best way to learn. Embarassing situations tend to have a way of searing stubborn lessons in your brain that you otherwise would simply forget.


3. Being Relentless


No scholarship offers for college :
All First-Team Ivy League (Harvard)

Undrafted (NBA) :
Performed in Summer League – signed by the Golden State Warriors

Got cut :
By Golden State and Houston (on Dec 24!), signed by New York

4th string point guard :
Named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Feb 6-12, 2012 after getting extended minutes

Being Relentless – New York City (

Mandarin Assist:

Just keep pushing. Success doesn’t normally come in a straight line. Shake it off and quickly move on to the next conversation.

Roadblocks are meant to happen so just embrace them and keep chugging on. Who knows? You might just end up in a better place than what you planned for.


4. Having Fun


Do you think he is having fun? Look at how pumped up he is in this video. When you enjoy what you’re doing the easier it becomes.

Mandarin Assist:

Don’t take Mandarin too seriously. Have fun with it. Play games, sing in Chinese and just fool aroundwith it.

The more enjoyment you get out of it, the more you’ll look forward to learning it.


5. Practicing Prudence


Practicing Prudence (


Jeremy’s contract with New York was not fully guaranteed. Hence instead of getting a place of his own, he made the choice of sleeping in his brother’s sofa. Far from the lifestyle of many NBA players who are used to lavish living.



Mandarin Assist:

Start small. Don’t go out and buy the premium course or the expensive software hoping it will be the solution to your struggles. Without investing the right effort and time, it will just add undue pressure for you to learn. Frustration will build up faster because of the increased expectation.

Be prudent and start out with free courses, watch Chinese movies and listen to Chinese music online, find language partners etc. Once you have developed the proper work ethic and mindset, you can then graduate to more advanced courses.


6. Grabbing Opportunities


Immersing oneself in Mandarin (



The rise of Jeremy Lin came when a series of unforeseen events occurred to his team which led him to get extended playing time. None of these were planned but he was right there raring to go. He took an opportunity that may never come again and ran away with it.




Mandarin Assist:

Find opportunities to immerse yourself in the Chinese language/culture:

* Language partners online
* Comics
* Music
* Television
* Movies
* Tai-Chi etc


7. Staying Humble


Staying Humble (


Jeremy conducts himself beautifully. You could see his humility during his interviews. He always talks team basketball and constantly credits his teammates for their success



Mandarin Assist:

Swallowing your pride. Learning a new language is a very humbling experience. We never want to appear dumb to other people with our awful tones and limited vocabulary in order to preserve our “smart” persona.

Ironically, this is probably the dumbest thing to do to if you want to get smarter in the Chinese language. Just like with any skill, you will definitely suck at first and gradually improve over time.

Try to record yourself speaking in Chinese and do so in a regular interval to see how you improve. This will give you more confidence to get out there and apply what you learned.


What other assists do you have in mind?

I’d love to hear them. Just share your thoughts on the comments section below.


Allan Ngo is the founder of Money in Mandarin. Join the e-mail list below and receive a FREE report as our thank you gift, He can be reached through


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  1. Interesting post! I am currently learning Spanish and these tips can be for any language, not just Spanish. And since I’m a basketball fan too, I loved the angle 🙂

    Keep up the great writing!

    • 谢谢你!/ Muchas Gracias Lindsay! I’m really glad you found the tips useful. And you’re right, I believe these tips could be applied to any language.

      I’m a huge basketball fun myself and enjoyed writing this post quite a bit. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. I remember back in my seminary days when our spiritual director ask me why do you excel in studies. I just said I enjoy it. Most kids don’t want to go to school because it is not fun but if you trace the word school it is from the latin word schola… which means roughly means leisure time 🙂

    So don’t be to strict in using or learning Mandarin use it regularly and make it a fun activity always.

    • Awesome story Louis! Thanks for the tidbit on school 🙂 Yeah agree with what you said. You can only force yourself to do something for so long before you quit. When you make something enjoyable, you tend to stick with it.


  1. Hao Hao Report - Someone thinks this story is fantastic... This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report - a collection of China's…

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