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Learn Chinese in China


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About this blog

I'm starting this blog because sometimes I feel like saying something about (my) Chinese learning that isn't really worth a forum post or is not a question. Somewhere to document my progress. It has been just about exactly a year now of consistent work, so I'm interested to see where my 普通话 is next New Year's holiday. I will try to use this space to post some interesting things I find along the climb!

Entries in this blog


September update

Time to update this blog. I have been ridiculously busy with work coming back onboard. I have not stopped working on Chinese at all though. I was planning to post more "One minute speaking" recordings, but 1) I realized I was running through them 10 times to get a decent one without too many mistakes and I don't think that is best done unless someone checks the grammar first. 2) I thought it best to wait a while and see if there's any progress over a longer period before posting another. Now its been a few months, I may do another round soon.


I've been doing a lot of speaking practice in class and out on the street, learning characters, reading. listening -  I'm pretty happy with my progress the last 6 months. This last few weeks we've been working on an eating out chapter in my main textbook, so I've made a real point of ordering new(to me) dishes, getting them to modify my order, etc in order to practice what I'm learning. I travel a lot for work, so I ask my teacher what I should try here and there. It gives me a nice language practice mission each time.


I am going to 武汉 for work next week and it's doubly exciting because my teacher lives there. I told her I'm coming and we've arranged to meet for a meal. We have been studying together on Skype for just over a year so it will be really interesting, if weird to talk in person! I'm a bit nervous, but I don't want to pass up the opportunity. She's a great teacher too so the least I can do is 请老师吃火锅!


I'm going through the Growing Up With Chinese episodes much more slowly than i expected. Partially because I'm doing lots of other resources right now and partially because a 15 min episode takes me at least an hour to go through. I've just finished episode 25, 1/4 of the way through the whole lot. Great stuff and perfect for my level.


Been doing a lot of speaking practice on Italki lately. I send them a pdf of a few  chinesepod episodes dialog and and ask them to review/discuss them with me. It has proven to be a decent way to have something to talk about and reinforce what I learned in the episode.


Also joined a Language exchange chat group, which is super interesting and useful for extra listening speaking practice on all sorts of random stuff. I like to post audio messages on there so I can listen back and keep working on my pron.


So I found a teacher on Italki and sent him the first of these recordings. I found a male with good standard pronunciation who is not very expensive. I told him i didn't want a lesson, but rather use the time to listen, correct any grammar, vocab or pronunciation mistakes. I also asked him to send back a recording of him saying the same (corrected version) dialog in his natural speaking voice and normal speed. I will then use this to shadow and work on better sentence intonation, speed, etc.


Here goes another attempt at the one minute of speaking, same rules: no writing anything down, no reading, no editing, no stopping the recording. I did take several attempts to get one that i thought was decent. Hopefully as time goes I can do it with fewer takes.



I felt like doing another one of these tonight. I think its a bit better than the last one. I was in a quiet room rather than a rainy, noisy balcony, so that helped a little. I wanted to say a couple things here but didn't because I wasn't sure how say grammatically.



The project I am starting now (inspired by Imron's  https://www.chinesethehardway.com/article/train-what-you-want-to-learn/  ) is to record myself speaking about a topic freely - no reading, no stopping/starting Audacity and no editing out mistakes. I may record several times to listen for mistakes i can catch myself and trying to improve on it, choosing the best of the lot to post. I will try first to speak for one minute and gradually increase it. My aim is to improve my fluency, speed, pronunciation, grammar and vocab speaking about a topic. That being, for me, the most difficult aspect of learning Chinese.


I am going to post these on my blog to motivate me to keep doing this activity and maybe get some useful feedback as well.  Although I realize listening to a Lower Intermediate level 老外 is not a joy - feel free to listen if you feel like it and give any kind of feedback if you like.


Here goes, topic #1 慢跑 / Jogging

主题 慢跑.wav


Time to get this back up to date. After spending a couple months in SE Asia and studying just a little everyday, it's amazing how just being back in country (days before the border closure) raised my motivation. With only a little work to do, and from home, I've spent loads of time on Chinese study. It's pretty cool to have hours and hours to study whatever i want I am using lots of different resources, but all at a similar level: 3 lessons a week with my teacher online doing CME, Chinesepod, Chinese Breeze, Mandarin Corner, Growing Up with Chinese, etc. No flashcards or vocab lists. I think i've raised my vocab and grammar flexibility by a good chunk in the last few months. I've also been weening myself off pinyin.




Chinese in 柬埔寨 🇰🇭

In Cambodia jian3pu3zhai4 at the moment. We were at Angkor Wat the other day and I  overheard somebody listening to Chinese vocabulary. It was a local Cambodian guy, I asked him if he was learning Chinese. He was. We had a little conversation in Chinese and I found it quite amusing to chat with him. I think we were roughly the same level.


I've also taken my mother in law to the grocery store and as we chat about what we're buying, other shoppers seem quite interested in us lol. Maybe they think we have the "you know what". We've been out for over a month and we don't thankfully. There's a lot of Chinese characters around on signs, some stores actually take Rmb and the souvenir stall type people have the basic bargaining in Chinese down. One woman was saying 五块 when she clearly meant 五十块。 And there pronunciation seems mostly just passable.


I've also seen quite a few private homes with the Chinese door decoration (don't know the name for that).


Lately Ive been doing about 3 hrs a day of very relaxed study with this period of free time.


Well, I took about 10 days break from studying Chinese while the virus news started breaking. However, over the last week, I've resumed studying.  I'm still somewhat distracted and finding it harder to focus. Partially because of the virus and partially because I've temporarily left China, in S.E. Asia at the moment. But, I'm with my wife and mother in law, so there's still plenty of Chinese spoken around me. I've doing a lot of Chinese podcasts and other online study material. I probably did about 3 hours worth today. I have been keeping up my Skype lessons with my teacher, who lives in Hubei. She looks totally normal, but I still worry for her and feel sorry for her that she's locked down in her house. I think she enjoys doing the lessons though as something to keep her busy.


 I'm going to really try and take advantage of having no work this month and do as much Chinese study and practice as I can.


Though I'm going to double it and go for 160. This includes going through the podcast, doing the audio review (using vocab in context) and recording my own version of the dialog. I will passively listen to Intermediate episodes while on subway, train while I work on the next 80 elementaries.


I can't remember the last day I did no study/practice/listening/reading for at least an hour. Because I have an excrutiating hangover. Ok, i've done something. I just looked up the word for hangover 缩酒 su4jiu3. Maybe I can muster the energy to listen to a podcast on the subject.


Due to my work schedule, I had to take a lesson with a different teacher than my usual one. She was friendly enough, but she did this common teacher thing that I find so irritiating: go through the vocab list before studying the unit and saying to me: "给我一个句子“。 I fail to see the point of me making a completely random sentence, with no context using 往返票 , 决定,etc。 I tried to explain to her that this was a useless activity. In the end I said lets just spend the rest of the lesson chatting. Pretty much a waste of a lesson. For the life of me I cannot see how a teacher thinks making a random sentence, with no prompts or anything to give you ideas, is a useful learning method. 😵


So two months ago, I started NOT looking at the transcript when doing any kind of audio material. I found I was relying on the transcript and/or vocab list too much. I feel this has helped me a lot in being able to hear the tones of words in full sentences just from listening. It has also been helping me with more natural sentence intonation. I've gotten better at it over the last two months and only look at the script if absolutely stuck.


For the month of January, I am going to stop doing flashcards entirely. I am going to try following the advice thats often seen on this forum: practice whats hard for you (or something similar). I find it incredibly easy to repeat single words. However, full sentences keeping the correct tones, natural flow and the right grammar is another story. Even if just repeating them is a much harder task for me than single words. I think the reading and listening I do will act as natural spaced repetition for vocab anyway. My goal is(with the exception of naturally one word answers) no Chinese comes out of my mouth unless its a complete sentence. 



I hand an off hand compliment last night. I was at a 湖南饭馆 last night. I was sitting around a corner kind of out of the way. at one point, I called out 服务员, the waitress instantly stopped and looked around for who was calling her. She turned to the guy sitting at the table behind her and asked him what he needed, he said he hadn't called her. She did the same with another customer. I then called her again and she made eye contact with me. This was a small victory, because when I first started, I could never seem to get a response from saying 服务员, last night the waitress thought it could have come from a native speaker😃


Peppering in some Intermediate Cpod

The last few days I've been moving up to some Intermediate ChinesePod lessons. The thing I love about them, compared to Elementary ones, is the Chinese host speaking completely in Chinese(at least the John Pasden and Fiona Tian episodes) while the native English speaker speaks English. This 50/50 banter is great listening practice and nice grammar and vocab reinforcement. I had been getting pretty tired of listening to Jenny, etc speak English to be honest, as its kind of a waste of time. Looks like theres over 700 of them in front of me, yeehaw!

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