In my final year of university I joined the university Kungfu club. One day the head instructor asked the class who wanted to get good at Kungfu. Almost everyone in the room put up their hand.
“Right”, said the instructor, “I’m going to tell you the secret for getting good at Kungfu. It’s simple. All you have to do is practise every day. If you practise every day, you will eventually get good.”
About a month later, the instructor once again asked the class who wanted to get good at Kungfu, and once again, almost everyone in the room put up their hand. He then asked how many people had been practising every day since he last asked. Most people, myself included, put their hands down.
That question, and my response to it, left a lasting impression on me and it changed the way I went about learning things. Although I later stopped training that style of Kungfu (I graduated from university and went to see the world), I did learn a valuable life lesson - if you want to get good at something, you need to practise it regularly (and preferably daily). This was something I found to be true not just in my training but for any other skill I wanted to learn.
Natural talent might make a difference for beginners or for world champions, but with regular practice you won’t be a beginner for long, and without regular practice you’ll never be the world champion anyway.
What this means is that for most people and for most skills, lacking natural talent at something shouldn’t prevent you from being able to acquire a useful level of skill in that thing, so long as you are prepared to put in the time and effort.
“Practise, practise, practise”, is a worn out and clichéd phrase, but it’s also valuable advice - you just have to put it to practise ;-)
Unfortunately finding the motivation to keep practising can sometimes be difficult.
It helps if you have a strong interest or desire to learn that thing, but even then it’s still easy to be lazy and/or procrastinate. Instead of relying on motivation you should rely on developing habits instead. Luckily, there are tools that can help with that.
Put your hand up if you want to get good at Chinese.
Now you know the secret, there’s nothing stopping you.
Practise every day.