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Using NPCR for self-study


scootermclean
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I have purchased a copy of NPCR v.1 (with audio) and am looking to start a self study regime of Chinese.

When using this book for self study, are there any things in particular I should keep in mind? How much should I focus on the characters in the early lessons? or should I devote most energy to the sounds and pronunciation?

Can anyone recommend some additional resources that would complement the NPCR book?

Thank you

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Hello, I would always recommend studying all three together Characters, pinyin, and speaking. I feel it helps to "weld" it altogether. I am no expert in teaching but I have been learning Chinese for about 20 years now and have tried lots of different methods but all through them I study all 3.

I would recommend Pleco in addition to whatever study method you choose. Great program. Good luck

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NPCR is relatively complete, but you will have to concentrate quite a lot on character and vocabulary study. No textbook alone will give you enough practice with characters or enough vocabulary. It's just the way it is. Make sure you go over the vocab often and to review it regularly. But this is a general comment which is always valid, not specific to the early lessons, or specific to NPCR.

In the beginning, you should concentrate on proper pronunciation above all else. If AT ALL possible, get in touch with a Chinese person, and have them pronounce things for you, and correct your pronunciation. You can avoid years of pain if you do it right at the beginning. Watch the DVDs, parrot everything you hear, and get someone to listen or correct. If you can't find a live person (there must be a Chinese student in your area interested in a language exchange!), post your pronunciation samples in the pronunciation forum here, and get people's opinion. Proper pronunciation of Chinese is not difficult. Yet many people get it so horribly wrong that they never fully recover from it.

Other than that, get an SRS flashcard program (Anki and Mnemosyne are popular choices) and do flashcards daily. Try to listen a lot, and read a lot, as soon as you are able to. There are learner podcasts online, and there are comic books for children, you'll find many resources by searching here. All of this is supplementary to your main NPCR course, but the more volume and variety you put in your study, the more results you'll get.

I agree with Shelley that a combination of all aspects tends to work the best. Practice listening, speaking, reading, vocabulary and grammar. Mix it up, but don't let any of them fall too far behind. It seems that most people who get really good in the end tend to follow such a program.

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I learn with mainly NPCR as well for about 5 months now, and also started from the very beginning. Here is what works for me so far:

1) I found it's VERY helpful to learn the new characters in advance. For example when you plan 1 week per lesson, then in one week you already learn the characters of lesson 20 while still in lesson 19. I have a little A6 format notebook, every day I write 5 or 6 (or even 10 if more time for studying) new words on one page. The next day I review these words in the morning and in the evening when I'm on my way to/from work. I ensure I always have about 6 or 7 pages written in the notebook. In the evening I tear out the first page and write my new characters on the last page which is page 7 now. Next day the same, that makes sure to review every character or word at least 7 times. If the week is not over yet, it's possible to include new words and characters from other sources as well. Learning in advance allows you to concentrate on the other aspects (texts, exercises, grammar) when you start the next lesson and you already have recognition practise. Also you have quite a constant number of new characters per day and can learn very quickly.

After a lesson is over, I put all words of that lesson into Anki. And at that stage these words are not new anymore, another advantage. Also you see the same words over a longer period of time which is good for bringing them to long-term brain. For example in one week I learn the characters of lesson 20, these will appear in the lesson next week, and in the following week these will appear as new words in Anki. And I also delay the workbook for one more week. Thus I have a period of 4 weeks in which I reinforce the same words and characters. I found that supports long-term memory.

2) For review purpose I also put the key sentences of every lesson into a separate Anki deck. Every day i review a part using the "Cramming" function.

3) Generally review is very important to make the content stick in your brain. Anki does the job for characters and words. For bigger structures, plan some time every day for reviewing the communication practise section of every lesson. These dialogues mainly include the grammar structures and new words of the respective lesson. You can speak the dialogues aloud and also freely retell in other words or with adding other vocabulary in the same talk situation. That works really fine for me improving speaking skills.

4) For characters which are very similar or can be easily confused, I have a separate Excel file. Not grouped by radical, but grouped by the other components. For example i put 及,级,极,吸 and others together to review and distinguish them now and then. I think that's harder and more effective than e.g. a list of "all characters with the food radical".

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