Benny Lewis' 3-month quest to become fluent in Mandarin
Posted 05 January 2012 - 10:10 PM
He's detailed his mission more on his blog (see this post). He defines fluent as being able to participate in multi-party conversations in a social context without slowing down the pace for native speakers, either because he can't express himself or because they have to change their speaking to let him understand, as long as the conversation is about non-specialist topics. He also refers to the C1 level in case your into that kind of stuff.
So, what do you think? I just know I've studied for many years and native speakers still have to slow down sometimes.
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Posted 07 January 2012 - 04:03 PM
Posted 07 January 2012 - 05:05 PM
Posted 07 January 2012 - 05:41 PM
I haven't read his blog, but...
If he thinks he can reach that level in 3 months, then he's a jackass.
If he proves me wrong, I'll graciously accept the mantle of jackass myself, but in the meantime, I won't be holding my breath.
Posted 07 January 2012 - 07:12 PM
If you get something out of following these people, fair enough. It's like personal trainers - you could do it yourself, but if you want or need a role-model and cheer-leader (and the psychological committment of having spent money on something), on you go.
Posted 07 January 2012 - 07:27 PM
I have not read his blog, I don't think it would change my opinon because as said earlier chinese is so different from other language families that if this is what he bases his method on, i think he is in for a shock:)
As anonymoose says (in is own way:) if he proves me wrong, I will eat my hat.
P.S. Are we going to be to know how he does at this task, have we got some kind of ajudicater, judge, or other competent person to be able to inform us of his progress and success or not. Because of course now i know about this I want to know the outcome:)
Posted 07 January 2012 - 07:56 PM
I am seriously impressed you know that word.
The Chinese Forums will gladly perform this role.
Posted 07 January 2012 - 08:14 PM
Posted 07 January 2012 - 09:18 PM
Posted 07 January 2012 - 09:46 PM
But it will be nice to see how far somebody motivated can get if they devote 100% of their effort towards it, and have some talent. I'm guessing that A1 is a more realistic goal than C1, though.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:23 AM
It's also interesting that he has decided to document the process, which will serve as an interesting data point for others in the future.
Personally I don't think C1 is going to be possible in that time and it will be interesting to see how realistic his assessment of his progress is after three months or whether he just declares himself "fluent" by adjusting the definition and moves on.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:28 AM
I would be more interested in seeing the least amount of time someone could go from beginner to passing the highest-level HSK.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:38 AM
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:05 AM
Hopefully you'll like joining me along in the journey! I can definitely understand the scepticism, but if you are somewhat supportive of me trying (I don't promise to reach the level I said, but I am going to aim for it), I'll come back in here to ask specific questions, and be happy to answer any friendly questions. Otherwise the majority of details of how much progress I'm making will be on my blog. Next week I'll outline specifically what I did in my first week to get into using the language quicker, in another week I will definitely make a video entirely in Mandarin (yes, already after just two weeks, because it will be a scripted one) so you can give me feedback on my pronunciation and tones, and then at the end I will interview a native spontaneously on camera and upload it to Youtube. As I maintain the language after this mission, I'll have other interviews on Youtube or podcasts, as I've done in my other languages.
So far, after 4 days in Taipei, I'm not discouraged in the slightest. For example, Heisig's book says:
"If you were to study them full time, there is no reason why all 1,500 characters in book 1 could not be learned successfully in 4-5 weeks"
While I'm not going to be full-time studying them (my focus is on speaking), I will be devoting a lot of time to reading, and I am already very experienced in using the kinds of mnemonics suggested in this book with other languages. Although I am confused at the order in which they are given to me. For example #17 is "recklessly". How is this priority 17?? Perhaps this book is more ideally suited to someone studying in advance, rather than someone who urgently needs to read asap.
But as someone pointed out, I am having trouble getting understood - most likely because my tones are so off. I am looking for private lessons starting tomorrow, to have someone help me drill this out. Soon I'll focus more on social interactions, rather than lessons, to improve the majority of my spoken skills.
All the best from rainy Taipei!
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:13 AM
Sure more realistic, but A1 is a breeze. If someone is in an immersion environment committed and can't reach A1 in 3 months I think he has a real talent for failing. Sure, mandarin ain't easy, but if the guy is talented, has experience with tonal languages and knows already several languages I think he should at least be able to get well into the B band.
C1 essentially means HSK5 (apart from the debate or the levels really match), 1709 characters, 2500 words. Less then 30 words a day. It won't be easy, but is doesn't sound impossible to me.
Where the guy imho fails is in what he can do with this level. C1 really isn't that high a level. But then with limited vocabulary and without any shame to make mistakes and the extravercy to 'rattle' on one can get fairly conversational with very limited vocabulary.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:16 AM
So what you'll find is that you'll have learnt 1,500 characters, and you still won't be able to read much at all, except under very specific circumstances, and even "gisting" text will be difficult.
Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your goal, and be sure to check out the rest of this site. There is plenty of information here on how to study Chinese in an effective manner, plenty of which could be useful for you over the next few months.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:17 AM
Imho languages are meant for communication. For professional use you really need fluency. For getting around, for travelling some basic knowledge makes things a lot easier. Makes the population more accesable which also adds value.
What I really don't see is the value of (near) native level language proficiency as many people here seem to aim for. Who cares if you have an accent? If I reach a level where I can converse freely without too many errors or hesitation and without being limited too much by my vocabulary I'm perfectly happy. My language skills may still improve through use, but I won't put any serious effort in for the sole pupose to improve further.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:22 AM
We are skeptical because we've all been there and know how elusive it is. But I think that most posters will wish you luck, and hope that you make good enough progress in 3 months to develop a healthy appetite for more. I don't believe that you will reach a level comparable to C1 (like I say, A1 is more likely), but you can make excellent progress in this time and develop a good foundation.
The dirty secret is that you will forget all of them. You're not done after 5 weeks, you need to invest a certain amount of time to cement these things in your memory, or they will be gone. And in my experience, this takes about 2 years -- if you completely forget a character, you start from scratch.
Also keep in mind that characters on their own are not that useful, and you need to learn words just like in any other language. Learning 3000 characters is very similar to learning all the letters of the alphabet. Then you need to learn words and how to use them.
I'll give you a piece of advice here -- Heisig teaches mnemonics, and it is important to think of them as such. True etymology of Chinese characters is often very difficult, and often makes little sense from today's perspective. A lot of it is purely phonetic, which Heisig ignores. It's not a perfect, logical system like some people think. They make more sense once you get used to seeing them in words and different contexts.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:26 AM
I will be extremely impressed if somebody passes HSK5 after 3 months.
Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:32 AM
Also, to be clear, I will not be sitting the HSK5 exam. I had a previous mission to sit a C2 exam in 3 months (in German) and it was stressful and way too academic, making me focus on the wrong things. The priority of this mission will be to speak very well, and have a useful (but not fluent) level of being able to read.
Thanks for the tips though - very helpful!
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