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How to learn from Textbooks


one99

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Hi,

I am hoping to get some advice on the most effective methods when learning Mandarin from a textbook.

I am doing classes at a Mandarin school (lower intermediate level) and am not sure that I am using the textbooks effectively. As the school concentrates on speaking/listening, the books contain Pinyin (also characters).

In class we will read through the new word list with the teacher explaining the new words. Then we will read the text. Then we will be asked some questions on the text. We cover one chapter each two lessons.

What should I be doing at home to learn most effectively?

At the momment I will read over the text several times at home, but this is about it. Should I make myself remember every new word. Currently I probably remember 80% of the words after reading the text several times at home and in class.

What do other people do?

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It depends on what your personal goals are. To practise speaking, it is definitely not enough just to read the texts. You should imitate and recall the contents freely and add vocabulary and phrases which you already learnt in the past lessons. Most textbooks have communication exercises, for example cloze texts. To use these effectively, you should not just read it and fill the gaps, also recall them freely after reading. Try to imitate the talk situation, do a monologue if you have no partner, always conscious of what you are talking about in that exercise. It's pointless to rush. Don't do too much, but what you do, do it carefully.

80% memorization of new words is not very much, don't you learn vocabulary systematically? You can try a SRS for that, for example Anki or Mnemosyne. Maybe it's no need to learn every new word (I assume you have no exam at that school), but you should definitely increase the percentage.

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What do other people do?

My textbook didn’t have Pinyin, but otherwise the class sounds similar. I learned all the new words, definition and pronunciation, with the aid of ZDT and later put them into Anki to aid long term retention via spaced recall.

When reading the text at home, I always read it aloud, trying to be real careful with pronunciation (I tend to get sloppy with the tones if I don’t do that.) Then did the grammar exercises and other drills that were present in the book to help it stick.

Perhaps the most important thing I always did was to use the new material outside of class. Use it early and use it a lot. I did that obsessively and shamelessly: made ridiculous excuses to put the new vocabulary and sentence structures to work. I was that foolish foreigner who would even talk to the taxi driver about 京剧 and talk to the waitress about 武术。I got a feel very quickly for whether or not I was saying things understandably or not.

In my opinion, unless you "make it real" like that, it isn't worth too much. I'm assuming you are studying in China. If not, you have a much more difficult task.

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It's a good question. Some extra things I do:

1) Use plecodict to create flashcards for new vocab. (www.pleco.com)

2) Most textbooks have audio cd - so listen to the lessons as much as possible.

3) Try and pick out 3-5 useful sentences or phrases and repeat them till I can say them fluently.

4) Try and use the new vocab with chinese friends or language partners (italki.com or qq.com)

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I would say take what you've learned from the textbook - the vocab and grammar points and take them away and do something else with them. Holiday vocab - write up a paragraph about your last holiday and stick it on one of the language exchange sites. 把 - next time you're out with Chinese friends use a 把 construction to ask them to pass you stuff (and do it every five minutes till they figure out what you're up to).

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If you're remembering 80% of the vocab, which is already really good, you should probably pick out the other 20% you haven't remembered or have trouble remembering and focus on them especially.

Another good way would be to review the chapter/lesson you're going to study before class and learn all the vocab so when the teacher goes through it in class, the things you learn will be etched more deeply into your memory. Having a good knowledge of vocab makes everything else a lot easier when you're learning a language. :mrgreen:

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I would say take what you've learned from the textbook - the vocab and grammar points and take them away and do something else with them. Holiday vocab - write up a paragraph about your last holiday and stick it on one of the language exchange sites. 把 - next time you're out with Chinese friends use a 把 construction to ask them to pass you stuff (and do it every five minutes till they figure out what you're up to).

My thoughts exactly. Couldn't agree more. My friends have by now caught on to my tactics. They say, good naturedly, "Ah, you've learned lots of new things since we were together last week. Nice going!" And I also utilized the language exchange write-up sites.

The fact of the matter is that textbooks and classrooms are only a starting point if you really want to learn something in a way that will help you day to day, not just for passing exams.

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  • 1 month later...

There are many useful resources on this forum.

For example, you should try reading some simple comics in the comic reading project, or watch some of the TV series over at the TV subforum. It might be too early, but it's always worth a try. You can also try some of the podcasts. Chinsepod, CSLpod and Slow Chinese are quite popular.

Going over the lessons from your textbook is a good thing, but it's always good to mix it up a bit. It helps to learn if you see familiar things in new contexts. Reading and listening are very important when learning Chinese since they are both rather unusual (most learners have trouble with characters and tonal patterns)

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  • 5 months later...

Maybe I could continue this topic with my question.

I'm studying Chinese in a university and we have courses is reading, writing, speaking and listening. With the three first ones I don't have problems because we have good teachers that go over the new words and make us use them. But the listening course is little bit different. We just go over the new words really quickly and then start doing the listening exercises. I've notices that I don't remember the new words from our listening textbook as well as from the other books.

So how should I practice the vocabulary in my listening textbook? Should I write them down many times just like I do with reading class? Or could be there some other method that would allow me to remember those words when I hear them and also recognize, but maybe don't know how to write as it isn't so important with the listening course.

Do you guys have different learning methods for different vocabulary in different courses and textbooks?

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Independent of if preparing for reading, listening or whatever courses, I think the way of learning new vocabulary does not necessarily to be different. I found it is very helpful to learn the new words in advance, maybe start with it one week before you deal with that lesson at class. Then you can concentrate on the actual content which is, in that case, listening to and understanding the text during the class.

I learn them just by going through the vocabulary list one by one, in the direction Hanzi --> Pinyin and meaning. When the lesson is finished, I put everything into Anki, in both directions, then the new words appear in the following week as new words which spreads them over a longer period of time what is good for long-term memory. Difficult items I put separately into a small A6 notebook and go over them until I know them, then cross them out. They are still in Anki, of course. Anki is for memorizing, not for learning, in my opinion.

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@xuefang, some people learn better orally, some people learn better written. [Personally, I'm a total idiot when it comes to learning orally.] If you learn better written, I would strongly suggest learning, or at least getting familiar with, the "listening" words first.

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