Learn Chinese in China
wushijiao

Some advice for beginners

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This is my first post here, so if I am going about it wrong or anything, please don't get upset and let me know :mrgreen:

I learned my Chinese while living in Taiwan, so I didn't begin learning with pinyin and thus have a somewhat different perspective. I learned using buxiban, which is how Taiwanese children (who grow up speaking Taiwanese, often) learn. I found it very useful in the beginning. If you don't know, these are a set of a few characters each associated with certain sounds; they are written on the side of Chinese characters so you get a lot of exposure to seeing the characters as you learn vocabularly, accelerating the learning process (I feel). I actually much prefer them to Pinyin, and I found that because it was a totally different set of 'letters' I didn't feel constrained to make myself make English-language sounds. I highly recommend these books for beginners (although I'm not sure how readily available they are outside of Taiwan and parts of Beijing).

As I progressed in Chinese, I found the most useful thing was becoming used to saying something in other words. Your vocabularly is going to be limited for quite a while, but you will find that you can still communicate quite well if you learn to say what you mean using what you know. Later, as you advance, you will find out the word for it. For instance, at first I couldn't say 'warm' or something like that, but I could say 'a little hot' and 'a little cold' or something to that effect, and get my point across. That was deeply satisfying and was great motivation for me to continue my studies.

Oh, one word of warning. Many local Chinese have their own dialect. Sometimes, if you go out informally with them, they may switch to that dialect at times. This happened to me often, and at first it was very troubling. I would pick up quite a lot of words and meanings, and then I would be completely confused and not understand anything. It was frustrating, but I learned to just ask what they were talking about (in Mandarin) and they would quickly revert back.

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Eeeek! it seems to me that this takes advice way beyond the beginner stage... I have been in Shanghai since January and have been working my way through Pimsleur since then, now nearing the end of level 3. I did try Transparent Language 8 software, Teach Yourself Mandarin and Living Language CDs all of which I followed for the first 4 lessons and then .... I have to agree that it was like hitting a brick wall. Pimsleur gave me the lead in and the confidence to start trying out those stock phrases on the unsuspecting locals, since then I have moved on to using the Wenlin dictionary ( I keep wanting to buy the print version DeFrancis ABC but have so far resisted ) and Langenscheidt's pocket dictionary when I am away from the computer to help me along ... using Pimsleur as the structure to hang it on. I also tried the Oxford Dictionary for my Palm but it never really seemed to give me the word I needed - the indexing needs work. Pimsleur is like a giant phrasebook that drills you to pronounce the bits and pieces it gives you over a long series of lessons. My pronounciation and understanding jumped forward but the editors' choice of phrases is variably useful shading on the more formal side. There is an underlying plot of a westerner trying to ... how shall I say it ... further international relations . A language lesson course with a subtext who would have thought it! I feel like I have spent a lot of time on Pimsleur and I have at least made some progress but by the end of 80 odd 1/2 hour lessons some of which I reviewed 6 times I still feel like I am just scratching the surface. There is a complete transcription of the first level floating about on the internet which is helpful and some people have recommended the LP Mandarin Phrase Book to accompany the CDs ( especially useful as an intro to the basic grammar. LP decided to use a homegrown version of pinyin which is initially a little helpful but ultimately confusing. So ... the LP book is great for a visitor but not that useful for a longer-term student ) As for the next step I have started chewing on New Practical Chinese Reader and Workbook complete with CDs but it is slow going ( albeit that these materials are for nothing in PRC books around US$4 CDs US$5 ). I started to look at the HSK stuff but I think I will need more basics I can even start with that. I think I am just about to plateau and I have begun to haunt the Foreign Languages Bookstore on the Fuzhou Road leafing through the books that I am hoping willl move me onto the next step.. I might even have to sign up for formal lessons next!

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I also tried the Oxford Dictionary for my Palm but it never really seemed to give me the word I needed - the indexing needs work.

Check out Plecodict , the descendant of the Oxford Dictionary for the Palm. The program now comes with a number of optional dictionaries, including DeFrancis's ABC and the English-Chinese Pinyin dictionary. These two were my favorites and it has been great having them in my Palm. You can also get the Oxford dictionary itself, now in a new edition. Those all cost money, but you can also get a number of free dictionaries as well. I never open a paper dictionary anymore and use Wenlin mainly for writing practice.

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Some good general advice for learning a foreign language.

http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/SITE/data/html_dir/2005/06/27/200506270012.asp

Forstner stressed people often ignore the importance of learning culture related to the target foreign language. But language cannot be separated from culture, and be it a professional translator or a student who has to learn a foreign language should invest heavily in learning culture.

For some overzealous Korean parents who want a quick result when it comes to learning English, Forstner's advice might sound far-fetched. But disregarding the cultural aspect of foreign languages is not a smart move. After all, pushing children to memorize vocabulary or grammar rules will not lead to a high level of language proficiency.

"The first question we have to ask is, what is the purpose of learning a foreign language? And children should be in a playful environment to express themselves actively," said Barbara Moser-Mercer, director of ETI.

In other words, knowledge about the cultural background of the target foreign language and interaction with native speakers are essential. But what about those who rely on self-study and find it hard to go beyond a certain level?

Moser said it is natural that students who learn foreign languages confront a period of slump. That's what is called "ceiling effect," a period in which one's foreign language ability seems stagnant. But it is a period when one's proficiency is actually consolidating before entering a higher level, she said.

Moser also recommended identifying a very specific weakness - pronunciation, for instance - and work on it intensively. "If you want to pronounce sentences clearly even though speaking at faster pace, practice it for 10 minutes a day for three months, not five hours a day. And you'll get the result you want," she said.

Fortunato Israel, director of renowned Paris-based translation school ESIT, said "immersion" is the key to learning foreign languages effectively. "Using languages actively does not mean knowing words and grammar. It's about delivering thoughts and messages effectively."

Israel said a variety of tools like TV programs, DVDs and other multimedia are helping people to learn foreign languages. But more important is whether one can understand not only the language but also social and cultural backgrounds.

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Thanks wushijiao for your shared experience.

Consistency, perserverance, determination, and most importantly motivation truly pays off.

It would have helped if we were born linguistic geniuses, but for us mere mortals, we have to do things the long-winded ways.

As a newcomer to this forum and to putongwah, I really hope us novices can draw from your wealth of experience, and knowledge.

As an aside, I've read summaries of Barry Farbers book on tips on how to learn languages quickly. Somebody has recycled it with more personal flavours.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/11/9/195744/646

It seems the best approach to learning a new language is nowhere linear, textbook and black & white.

(learning more along the lines of full motion, 3D, action packed movie, delivered in glorious 'technicolor' is the best way to make it).

What I'd really appreciate, if permitted, is to have the more experienced members in the forum contribute on maybe mnemonics , memory techniques, or tools and other aids they might have used or made up in the process.

As they say, its better to work smarter, than to work harder.

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Thanks a lot for the advice, wushijiao. As a Canto speaker, I went to HK this summer to learn Mandarin on an exchange program. It was really discouraging 'cause they pushed so much material at us in the month I was there, that I've lost all motivation to learn. But your steps breaking down the learning process is really encouraging, and a good way to get back to learning. So thanks again.

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请, 再说一

Nice post, Wushijiao, only shouldn't the last character be ?

请, 再说一遍

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As a Canto speaker, I went to HK this summer to learn Mandarin on an exchange program. It was really discouraging 'cause they pushed so much material at us in the month I was there, that I've lost all motivation to learn.

Actually HK isn't the perfect place to learn Mandarin.

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Nice post' date=' Wushijiao, only shouldn't the last character be 遍?

请, 再说一遍[/quote']You're correct, atitarev !

(But you only need to look away for a second, you computer can sneakily turn your 一遍 into 一边 :mrgreen: )

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Don't mention it. I didn't mean to be picky at all :D

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Hi guys, I am a new comer to the forum. At the moment, I am teaching a couple of Australian friends speaking Chinese (mandarin). I am looking for a textbook for the beginners. Do any one of you have good suggestions? Many thanks!

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My 0.002 cents: PROJECT your voice and always speak loud, clear and with confidence, regardless if you are sure on how to pronounce the words or not (It doesn't matter one bit.) Even more than how you'd express yourself in your native tongue. People will understand you better, you can hear your own voice better and notice your pronounciation and lots of other obvious advantages.

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funny. what's with basketball and chinese?

i made a poster for my students last year, all of whom were college freshmen attending my "oral english" class (barf to the notion that english should be broken into "spoken" and "written"), and because they were so adamant about and proud of their having studied for six years but yet most would never dare to utter a word, i made a poster with some pictures of players making slam dunks and the message: "speaking english is like playing basketball: you can't learn to play just by watching tv ... practice, practice, practice." the message was a little ambiguous, so i hope it made them pause and think a bit. my version of propaganda.

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Thank you, wushijiao, for the very detailed tips on how/where to begin!

I have been to China two times, but was only able to communicate with very basic phrases and hand gestures. My favorite shopping memory from my first visit was when it took me 5 minutes -and a group of 4 friendly female employees- to find where they had a flag of China for purchase. We all had some good laughs over that experience.:mrgreen:

I have the first 10 lessons of Pimsleur Mandarin 1, as well as Before You Know It and the Rosetta Stone demo. I am trying to decide whether or not to 'bite the bullet' (also known as empty my wallet) and buy RS 1+2. I use NJStar often when I want to mess around with characters.

I work at Hewlett-Packard, and are increasingly involved with projects that are being assembled in Shanghai. That -and the emerging Chinese economic boom- is motivating me to progress in my studies so that my boss will consider sending me to China on business.(sh)

In closing, I am happy to have found this forum and look forward to reading the many posts that are here.

Blufox

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for me one of the best advice is to create crazy conversations..try to use the words to say crazy things..if you dont want to get bored with the standard lessons like ni hao! ni hao ma etc

make it more like your personality

this is the way i learned english and this will be the way i will learn mandarin.

my chinese teacher made some big eyes when i asked how to say to a girl "i like your ass" and stuff like that.....this is a crazy way to evoid becoming bored....but...i am a crazy guy...so is perfect:):mrgreen: for me

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I'm taking an online class in Chinese at a community college. We are using an ActiveChinese CD as our textbook. The campus is about an 60 to 70 minute drive from my home, so I don't have much opportunity to chat with my teacher. There are a couple of Chinese co-workers I could talk to, I'm sure they might be happy to help. I must admit, though, that my initial interest in Chinese was motivated by being attracted to one of them. My attempt to hit up on her failed... :(

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My attempt to hit up on her failed...

That’s too bad! Better luck next time!

At least in my experience, however, if you really want to learn Chinese well, you need to have a tremendous inner source of passion for doing it. That was the main idea of this post. And for me at least, it always works better if that passion comes from different sources. That way, if at any one given point in time, one of your sources of inspiration (a Muse) leaves you or fades from your interest, or you get disillusioned from one source, you can always get inspired from other sources (Chinese current events, history, martial arts, Daoism, Chinese Buddhism, learning about Chinese cuisines, meeting/ hanging out with Chinese people….etc).

Good luck! :D

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At least in my experience, however, if you really want to learn Chinese well, you need to have a tremendous inner source of passion for doing it. That was the main idea of this post. And for me at least, it always works better if that passion comes from different sources.

I do have an inner desire to learn the Chinese language. I have had a long time fascination with the Chinese culture and history. Back when my European ancestors were living quite primitively, the Chinese had all kinds of inventions that have me impressed - earthquake resistant building techniques, carts with statues that always pointed south no matter which way it was turned, and quite a few other inventions that don't come to mind right now.

Adding to the passion is the encouragement I get from my instructor, a very supportive person. So far I have received top grades in my assignments. So far, my lessons have covered topics such as introducing yourself to others, ordering drinks, giving directions, and making social appointments.

Today, the second language of choice in the USA is Spanish, because of the high number of Spanish speaking immigrants we have. However, I am looking beyond today, believing that Chinese speaking skills will be needed in the near future. China is rapidly rising on the world scene today. It is a far different country than the China I knew about as a kid.

There is an increasing number of Chinese immigrants moving into my neighborhood. I had a lighthearted moment with an older Chinese couple while I was out jogging. I said Hi to them as I was going by. They said, "We're Chinese. We don't know English." I told them, "I don't know Chinese either!" At that, we all had a good laugh.

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