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Learn Chinese in China

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Practicing and learning Chinese has been inconsistent recently. I haven't had much time at my computer.


I still try to keep the Mandarin radio on. Even though I have it on much more than any other language, I don't really understand much more after four years.


I continued with creating a couple more decks from the Growing up in China series. Each episode had about 30-40 sentences. That's pretty manageable.


I now have the audio for the John Defrancis textbooks. Unfortunately, I don't have any of the books. My closest uni library has a couple so hopefully I can get some time to borrow them. I have been a fool. I never thought to try and look for Chinese learning books in the library. I am an alumini of the university and can easily get access to the library. There seems to be some other gems there.


Glossika Mandarin - this is a bit disappointing. I think I don't fit the product. Here are my gripes after about more than 40 sessions at A2 level. It is extremely annoying to have incomplete translations or to have sentences that rely heavily on context. There is just enough of these sentences to throw me off. For example, there is an English sentence which says "I am new around here" and the equivalent Chinese sentence could be about moving house or department. I think it is too vague especially as one is supposed to listen to the L1 and then think of how to say it in L2. We can flag these sentences up and report them but whether glossika actually listens is another matter. In principle, if you are paying USD 30 per month and acting as a scrutinizer for their sentences, I think that it is taking things a bit far.


Next is the method itself. For me as a learner, trying to follow native speed is impossible. My voice deteriorates into a mumble. My ten year old uses Mandarin at school everyday and her comment on the recordings was "they speak fast". I threw this issue out to their Facebook community and people said I haven't done enough reps. This got me thinking a bit more. Just how good are people's Mandarin after many reps? Yes, maybe your inherent knowledge of grammar is better. Your fluency may be better but can you be understood trying to speak garbled Chinese? What if someone could not understand you and you wanted to slow your speech down. You wouldn't be able to separate the words out clearly as a back up option. In my mind , this would adversely limit the communication process.


There is also another issue which I learnt from my sports as a player and coach. You simply cannot get people up to speed in a new technique, even in a sport they are familiar with. You have to give them enough reps at one time and gradually build up the speed. . Moreover, we don't do two reps and then change to a different technique for two reps and change to another technique for two reps and so on. Why not? Because it doesn't work like that! Different people also work at different speeds. Coaches at an amateur level do reps of ten, have a break, and another ten reps and so on. Later, we start introducing sequences of patterns.



Adult learners are also not so refined at their sports coordination - those that are are a small proportion. So, is it reasonable to expect native language speed when learning an L2? The mouth, for Lost people, simply cannot articulate fast enough. Some people don't even speak their L1 that quickly. I am quite happy to speak slower, but more clearly and smoothly. 


Glossika doesn't give the option of more than two reps of a sentence at a single time. That means you haven't been able to speak a sentence smoothly before moving on. Although the sentence comes round again later in the algorithm, you start almost from the beginning again when it comes round. 


So, for glossika Mandarin, I have my doubts on whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. For verbal fluency practice, it doesn't seem to be the right product for me. For helping listening skills, I think it is quite OK.


*Note - this post was written two weeks ago but only published today.


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