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jkhsu

What level of Chinese can you achieve outside of China?

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Scoobyqueen
Your story is great. It's an inspiration for the rest of us. Another question, what do you do on a daily basis now to keep up the Chinese? Is reading the newspaper online good enough?

There are a few people here on these forums who have reached a very advanced level through self-study. a few names that spring to mind are renzhe and Gleaves and jbradfor.

I continue to learn on a daily basis. I am currently writing a press release a week (on any topic) which my teacher corrects. I also read the news every day plus learning at least one chengyua day.

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jkhsu

And what exactly do you think one gains from this that one can not gain, in any manner, outside China? Besides, of course, the speed at which you learn.

Ok, so the only limiting thing is time, as you mentioned we don't have all the time in the world. If everyday one works in a job that has nothing to do with Chinese, comes home and needs to take care of things with the family, one has maybe say at most 2-3 hours of free time a day (if one is lucky). I guess if you spend all that time writing reports in Chinese (for no reason at all) and chatting with your instructor on Skype, you can keep up your spoken and composition Chinese. And don't forget to work through literature, newspapers and watch Chinese TV, etc. The point is, creating that sort of environment outside of China is VERY difficult, not IMPOSSIBLE, but impossible enough that you're a serious outlier.

Also what do you all think of people like 大山(Mark Rowswell), 大牛(Daniel Newham) and Julien Gaudfroy? They had to live in China to get to that level. If one has never studied or lived in China, any chance one can reach that level?

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yellowpower

@scoobyqueen

can you share more about your writing classes, how you structure your classes, and the background of your teacher who is guiding you on business communications (press releases, etc)....and do you study writing with a style textbook or are materials provided by the teacher?

Practical writing vs general essay writing, is an area that I'm interested in. At the moment I do a 'learning diary' for writing.

Thanks for sharing.

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jbradfor
There are a few people here on these forums who have reached a very advanced level through self-study. a few names that spring to mind are renzhe and Gleaves and jbradfor.

While I'm flattered, you have obviously mistaken me for someone else :P Only on my CVs would my level be called "very advanced", 'round these parts, I'm sticking with "intermediate". ;) I think I have significantly improved my reading ability the last couple of years via self-study, and maybe I am proud of that (too proud?), but even that is certainly not at the level of many others here.

Ok, so the only limiting thing is time, as you mentioned we don't have all the time in the world. If everyday one works in a job that has nothing to do with Chinese, comes home and needs to take care of things with the family, one has maybe say at most 2-3 hours of free time a day (if one is lucky). I guess if you spend all that time writing reports in Chinese (for no reason at all) and chatting with your instructor on Skype, you can keep up your spoken and composition Chinese. And don't forget to work through literature, newspapers and watch Chinese TV, etc. The point is, creating that sort of environment outside of China is VERY difficult, not IMPOSSIBLE, but impossible enough that you're a serious outlier.

Could a third party jump in here please and help us out? jkhsu and I seem to be having some sort of disconnect.

I'm not sure why you were yelling at me. YOU were the one setting of the "rules" of this thread. Of course the more time one has to spend learning Chinese, the faster it will be. That is true whether you are in China or not in China. [For the record, I have a job, a family, and I spend about 45-60 minutes on average per day on Chinese. Pretty much most of my "spare time".]

All I'm saying is that I can't think of any skill one can not learn outside China that one could learn inside China, given one has enough motivation and enough time. [Well, OK, maybe it'll be really hard to find a traditional TCM expert in Iran; any takers, razef?]

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jkhsu

@jbradfor - If it seemed like I was yelling at you, I was not. Sorry about that. The whole point of my question was how far one can get with learning Chinese while self-studying outside of China. I believe your response was that anything was possible given enough time and my response to that was there are certain environmental conditions that is very hard to reproduce outside of China for one to get to the level of near fluency (that one can get by being in China). And we were just disagreeing on that point I guess. Is that correct?

Another question for you is how do you utilize the 45-60 minutes that you have daily? Are you speaking Mandarin Chinese daily?

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Erbse

Thanks for this topic :)

I'm a learner of Chinese roughly at HSK 4 level, although I haven't taken the test. I was in China 2 times already, but my life circumstances have changed and now I'm in the same position, lot's of work, little time and not enough money for another trip to China this year or next year.

Jkhsu, I think you are frustrated with your situation. I can feel with you, I'm also very frustrated for not being able to just dedicate a year or two to learning.

That being said there are a few things I want to point out.

- I have learnd English up to the level you see me writing here without setting a foot on a English-speaking country, so it must be possible to learn a language by using the right methods, books, teachers, TV shows, ... (I admit, there are much more opportunities for using English than for using Chinese in almost any country)

- Language exchange through Skype is nice, however I do enjoy a real language exchange in person to person, because every time I learn a new difficult grammar pattern and use it in speech I can see this certain smile on my language partner's face. This gives me a great motivational boost each time. It doesn't work so well with professional teachers, because they are used to the fact that learners learn something new every few weeks.

- Stubborness has been one of my best friends so far. I will keep on learning, even if the only achievment is proof that I can keep on learning. I have long asked myself if I should keep up learning, but finally came to the conclusion, that learning Chinese is my fate and life goal.

- Good time management is essential. Be creative to free up some time. For starters, use commute time for reviewing vocab. Listen to Chinese news while cooking a meal, ...

- Motivation is key. Seeing other non-Chinese persons speaking Chinese on youtube is one of my best motivators.

- Don't waste your time being frustated. Open your Chinese book and hand write some characters, read a text, or review vocab.

Scoobyqueen, thanks for your contribution. :)

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jbradfor
was there are certain environmental conditions that is very hard to reproduce outside of China for one to get to the level of near fluency (that one can get by being in China).

I agree with you on the difficulty in reproducing immersion outside China. Where I guess we disagree is that I think these conditions just make you learn faster but doesn't affect how far one can get, while you seem to think that these conditions are necessary to become fluent. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we will just need to agree to disagree.

I would also like to add that the mere fact of being in China does not provide this immersion. Beyond a certain level of functional fluency for day-to-day activities, if you speak with your family in English, interact with your co-workers in English, watch English TV and movies, read English newspapers and books, I think that you will not see much progress in your Chinese just because you are in China. A little, perhaps, but not much. To progress beyond that level, I think you still need to make an explicit effort to improve your Chinese, and in that case an immersive environment provides motivation and can speed learning.

As to your other question, currently I've been focusing mostly on reading. On average, I would say 10-15 minutes of SRS-ing (flashcards using ZDT), and most of the rest has been reading comics. I do listen to some podcasts (currently SlowChinese is my favorite, because it's slow, interesting, uses useful words, all in Chinese, and has a transcript), and I've found some very nice people on assignment here from Beijing and been talking with them for 60-90 minutes per week. [i still can't believe there are people nice enough to put up with my Chinese and not expect to be paid for it!] So it's going slowly. I estimate that at this rate of progress, I'll be about 125 years old when I become fully fluent :o.

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jkhsu

Where I guess we disagree is that I think these conditions just make you learn faster but doesn't affect how far one can get

I'd actually like to get some opionions of others as well on this, especially those who have lived in China among locals to give their assessment. I also spend the majority of my time reading and that's why I mentioned in my original post that with work (and time), reading fluency is definitely possible. Where I think the difficulty lies may be in speaking and composition. Imagine this scenario, you are sitting among a group of Chinese locals in China who are telling jokes to each other speaking very fast. It's really hard to comprehend, digest, come up with something of your own in the limited amount of time you have before the topic moves on to something else. I can't even explain it unless you've been in that situation. Podcasts, TV shows and news doesn't replicate this type of environment. I guess you could hang out with recently arrived Chinese and be part of their every day activities but they'd probably talk to you slowly though.

I would also like to add that the mere fact of being in China does not provide this immersion.

Not only do I completely agree with this but I would add that unless you continue to learn like crazy while in China, you would not get to near native levels in Chinese because the natives would rather speak to you in English if your Chinese is not at a certain level.

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Scoobyqueen
can you share more about your writing classes, how you structure your classes, and the background of your teacher who is guiding you on business communications (press releases, etc)....and do you study writing with a style textbook or are materials provided by the teacher?

I work in media relations so it is useful to be able to write a news story so I suggested that to my teacher I write a news release for each lesson. It can be on anything such as high-tech products, personnel announcements, goverment subsidies etc etc. I choose the stories. I have specific structures and words I wish to practice and I am deliberately using very long sentences in order to get a better grasp of syntax. My teachers are all graduates of teaching Chinese to foreigners. We improve my text and I will prompt her for better synonyms, formal expresions, cheng yus and different ways of saying stuff. Normally if you ask someone to correct something they will just correct it but not necessary improve it. However I am after improvement and this is what I require of her. Since I have already gone through various text books on reading newspapers I dont need a style book as such(see above book). I will give you an example of an extract of a fictitous press release I did so you get the gist. This topic came out of an area I am interested in namely data fusion which is now also applicable to agricultural equipment, following on from cars:

新闻稿 - 精准农业

为了消除目前威胁世界保持食品产量稳定的因素,全球农场主现在有机会应用精准农业解决这种情况。根据统计世界人口40年以后增长百分之30,同时农业趋势表明耕地减少, 但是影响食品产量的气候变暖很可能是不能预测或控制的。精准农业能够有利于世界应对该问题。

精准农业涵盖所有的令农场主提高效率,保障安全同时环保的使用自动控制传感器的农业装备。

直到10年以前在农业装备上使用某些传感器的成本还是遥不可及。此外为了达到最有效率的效果,使用不同传感器的系统都必须互相沟通-- 数据融和“,从而计算并建议对于农场主的情况最理想的方法是什么。目前的技术革新涵盖了广泛的解决方案使农场主得以:

xxx

”目前的精准农业 给农场主带来很大的机会选择针对他的情况最理想的技术革新和 模式。我们的研究表明使用精准农药可以降低百分之十八的农药成本。另外一个例子是自动转向可以减少百分之一到百分之二的重叠,但是手工装备会有八分之五到十的重叠” 教授说。

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jkhsu

@Erbse - Thank you for your comments. The fact that you can write like you do without having been in an English speaking country is inspiring. I am not frustrated at all actually as I love learning Chinese and will continue learning. I just have my own opinions on limitations of being outside of China but it's certainly not stopping me from continuing to learn or creating an environment where I can learn.

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imron
4th graders can read newspapers in China.

I wouldn't be so sure. It would depend greatly on the 4th grader and the newspaper, and there would be a lot of vocab/discussion that would go over their head. Sames goes for 4th graders in English speaking countries too.

Also what do you all think of people like 大山(Mark Rowswell), 大牛(Daniel Newham) and Julien Gaudfroy? They had to live in China to get to that level. If one has never studied or lived in China, any chance one can reach that level?

I think their Chinese is excellent and they've obviously put in a lot of hard work to reach that level. As for whether you can reach that level outside of China, I would say no. I'm not sure about Daniel Newham, but Mark Rowswell and Julien Gaudfroy have both received training from top Chinese Xiangsheng performers, which undoubtedly has helped with their language skills. You are unlikely to find such training outside of China.

I have learnd English up to the level you see me writing here without setting a foot on a English-speaking country, so it must be possible to learn a language by using the right methods, books, teachers, TV shows

Not to anyway disparage your achievement, but it also helps when your native language and the foreign language you are learning share some things in common. For a westerner you will not find that with Chinese.

It's really hard to comprehend, digest, come up with something of your own in the limited amount of time you have before the topic moves on to something else. I can't even explain it unless you've been in that situation. Podcasts, TV shows and news doesn't replicate this type of environment.

I would say that most advanced learners know this situation very well :mrgreen: I would also say that watching TV shows or listening to the radio probably come close in that they are only missing the "come up with something of your own" component. Initially it can be really hard to comprehend, digest and figure out what's happening before the topic moves on. After time and practice, things get easier.

The point is, creating that sort of environment outside of China is VERY difficult, not IMPOSSIBLE, but impossible enough that you're a serious outlier.

Well, unfortunately, there's your answer then. Reaching an advanced level outside of China will be VERY difficult, not IMPOSSIBLE, but impossible enough if you can't put in some serious time and effort.

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jkhsu

新闻稿 - 精准农业

Great new story. What if you didn't have to write such a formal news story but instead just have to write the stuff in this forum in Chinese and very fast (as fast as English). Can you do that?

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yellowpower

@scoobyqueen

thanks for sharing and the sample of your writing :-) Seriously, very impressive. It's great that you've hooked up with reliable/cooperative teachers which is a hard find, though undoubtedly most of the credit is due to your directed and very focused studies, plus hard work and persistance .

My method is not the best , but if there's a news article I like/or think it's important...I attempt to 'copy' the style by reusing important phrases, vocab, and especially the formal 'grammar structures' (so called classical chinese influences) in my own made up version on the same topic. Sometimes I read the editorials/letters to the forum pages in Chinese newspapers, etc to see how things are expressed.

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Erbse
Not to anyway disparage your achievement, but it also helps when your native language and the foreign language you are learning share some things in common. For a westerner you will not find that with Chinese.

True. This did help me to learn English a lot faster, than I learn Chinese right now. But it isn't prohibitive to learn a high level of Chinese outside of China eventually.

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Scoobyqueen
What if you didn't have to write such a formal news story but instead just have to write the stuff in this forum in Chinese and very fast (as fast as English). Can you do that?

Writing a news story like this is not as easy as just typing stuff on a forum. I mean you cant learn news writing before you master the other skill.

renzhe responded to your thread. Now there is a truly inspirational role model. Always worth listening to his advice as it is always objective and based on a logical way of going about things. Also I dont think renzhe has had any formal teachers so he is closer to what you are looking for what one can achieve. But bear in mind some people also has a natural talent.

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jkhsu

Thanks to everyone who responded and shared your experiences. Hopefully, this thread will be inspirational for the many folks who are trying to learn Chinese outside of China. At least I know if I continue on, I'll get somewhere and while I will constantly want to learn more, I will be happy about where I can get to.

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creamyhorror

Great discussion, folks. Thanks for sharing your methods, Scoobyqueen - your progress is mighty impressive, as is renzhe's. It seems I'm going to need radio and podcast recommendations (ones with transcripts). I've seen some talkshow videos with transcripts but I forgot which thread contained the links. Anyone want to throw out some of their favourites? (I've already listened to some Slow-Chinese.)

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雅各

I've met plenty of Chinese in China whose English was virtually fluent.

Given this, the questions I would raise are:

1) Do non-Chinese have significantly less ability to learn a new language?

2) Is Mandarin significantly harder to learn outside the immediate cultural context than English?

_______________________

My only piece of advice as far as learning Chinese outside China would be: When/if you participate in language exchanges with a Chinese-speaking friend (i.e. with English time and Chinese time), the Chinese time MUST be in Chinese. Any situation in which it's half an hour speaking English and then half an hour "teaching" Chinese *in* English... is a waste of your time.

雅各

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