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Auberon

Glossika method

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imron

Wow, that sucks.

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JustinJJ
Trouble is that for Chinese there's probably been maybe 30 days over the last three years that I've had a conversation in Chinese. 

 

 

Realmayo, just curious why you have had so few conversations in Chinese. Do you live somewhere where there are very few Chinese people?

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hedwards

I'll have to take a look at this, but their site is rather vague on what they're program is. From what I can tell it's not really that special. SRS has been around for at least a hundred years, and Pimsleur has been using it with audio since the '70s. There's additional materials there, but apart from the audio tracks, the rest is something that you can generate for yourself with the right programs.

 

I'm also a bit concerned that one of the articles references using audio training to help with writing when that doesn't really apply to non-phonetic languages. And even in phonetic languages, the opposite way around is just as commonly desired.

 

But, I suspect that the ultimate judgement ought to be primarily on the accuracy of the materials and what sort of encouragement is built in. And the ability to motivate yourself to use the materials is the second most important factor.

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imron
There's additional materials there, but apart from the audio tracks, the rest is something that you can generate for yourself with the right programs.

That's right.  It just comes down to whether you want to spend hundreds of hours doing that, or if you'd prefer to pay $10.00 to someone to save the time and know you're getting and internally consistent set of material that builds upon known vocab.

 

Tyson's comment about small inaccuracies is a little worrying.  Given what I've seen previously from glossika though I don't imagine those errors will stay around long once reported.

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OneEye
Tyson's comment about small inaccuracies is a little worrying.  Given what I've seen previously from glossika though I don't imagine those errors will stay around long once reported.

 

Actually, they just announced a "critical update" to some of their Chinese products a few hours ago on their Facebook page. I'm guessing it's in response to tyson's post, because I know Mike has been reading this thread. He contacted me about it yesterday.

 

In response to Yadang's earlier questions, I'm not sure if you're asking about the book I recommended or the Glossika products. The book I recommended is pretty good Chinese for the most part. It's aimed at Taiwanese people learning English, not English speakers learning Mandarin, and sometimes the sentences are intended to clarify the English so they're not the most natural of phrases. But they're also not "for learners," so the audio is pretty natural instead of textbook-sounding. It's the English audio that's textbooky, not the Chinese.

 

From checking out the Glossika product samples that Pokarface posted, though, they seem really great. Good audio, natural ways of expressing things, and clear, authentic Taiwanese Mandarin pronunciation.

 

 

Yang Chuanzhang:

I read your post about mass sentences on your blog again and I was wondering if you still record yourself saying the sentences or if you just use the audio that comes with the book? Also, do you do any shadowing at all or do you just listen passively?

 

I haven't recorded myself in Chinese in a long time. I'm very happy with my accent now, so I'm not actively working on it. I've actually lost the audio for that book somehow, and I don't use it very often anymore anyway, but when I do I just read the sentences aloud.

 

I do make pretty heavy use of shadowing though. I have a some recorded lectures from various Taiwanese humanities professors from a lecture series (from the 90s, I think) called 社會大學. It was intended for the general Taiwanese public, but I know ICLP uses it in their highest-level modern Chinese classes, complete with vocabulary lists. I've been shadowing them recently (after re-reading this great paper by NATO interpreter Chris de Fortis), and I'm really happy with the results.

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imron
I know Mike has been reading this thread.

Well then, hi Mike, and how about a couple of free review copies for our members :mrgreen:

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hedwards

@imron, I suppose that's one way of looking at it. But, in practice nobody is going to put together material like this for themselves, it would be a colossal waste of time. Same goes for Pimsleur, Thomas and any number of other courses. Making the effort for a large number of students to benefit from makes sense, but only because the amount of time per student makes the investment worthwhile over all.

 

In practice, people would collect the sentences that express things that they're interested in and that express things that they need to be able to express. And the mining process itself is an essential part of the process. 

 

If the goal is fluency, the recordings aren't really relevant, and that's probably the part of the course that one can't readily do for oneself.

 

Like I said, I'll have to take a closer look to see what exactly they're doing, but based upon what they say on the program's website, I'm not terribly optimistic about it .

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OneEye
If the goal is fluency, the recordings aren't really relevant

 

Why do you say that? I'd say that if the goal is fluency, the recordings are the most indispensable part of the whole package.You can't build fluency by looking at ink on a page.

 

In fact, I don't really understand at all why you're "not terribly optimistic about it." Care to go into more detail?

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realmayo
Realmayo, just curious why you have had so few conversations in Chinese. Do you live somewhere where there are very few Chinese people?

I live in London which is full of 'em! I just figured that if I was ever going to use the language seriously I'd need a further period of full-time study and that would include at least a few months somewhere Chinese-speaking where I could restore and then improve my speaking ability fairly easily. So what focus I have at the moment is all passive: reading and listening, and vocab. If I had more time to study, of course I'd add speaking. But my experience has been that although speaking can deteriorate quite quickly, it can bounce back very quickly too in the right environment. Reading, however, has proved far less elastic.

 

Still, I'm tempted to try one of these Glossika things: I listened to a sample which included a couple of sentences about 退税 and -- perhaps this is a particular feature of Chinese -- I like to think I'd have guessed the meaning of that if it was written down, I probably wouldn't just listening.

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Yang Chuanzhang

This mass sentence method sounds very similar to Core 6k, which seems to be very popular in the community of Japanese learners. I always envied them for this and it's great that we are finally getting something similar now!

 

The 'spaced repetition' product that Glossika sells seems to be spaced repetition in the literal sense of the word, with repetitions being spread out over time, not the spaced repetition of Anki that uses an algorithm to schedule cards. I've always wondered how big a difference these algorithms really make and I'd be very interested to hear from people who've used this method or product. (Please correct me if what I said in this paragraph is wrong, I don't want to spread false information).

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Auberon

 

I'm also a bit concerned that one of the articles references using audio training to help with writing when that doesn't really apply to non-phonetic languages. And even in phonetic languages, the opposite way around is just as commonly desired.

 

If this refers to the same thing I read somewhere on the website, did he not say words to the effect that it's much easier to learn to write a language one already has a fluent spoken command of? I should have thought this was self-evident, particularly in the case of the Chinese writing system. After all, written vernacular Chinese is full of inconsistencies and redundancies from a purely ideographic perspective. It is easy to put together a string of characters that ought to make perfect semantic sense but which no-one would ever say or write. If you have good command of spoken mandarin, however, then writing it is just a case of substituting characters for syllables. Why should this not be desired?

 

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hedwards

@OneEye, I say that recordings are completely superfluous, because they're completely superfluous. Fluent speech is the result of internalizing grammar structures and vocabulary so that you don't have to think about how to use them. Recordings don't actually address that in any way shape or form. People use them for that, but it's the production of speech within the alloted time that results in the fluency gains.

 

As for the listening component of that, it's better to learn to listen from varied sources as people don't generally walk around uttering menu item X to say something, they usually utter one of the possible formulations which may or may not correspond to menu item X.

 

I used to drill myself on German expression without tapes and wound up with pockets of fluency covering the areas where I had vocabulary. I'm rusty and my pronunciation sucks these days, but that's because I don't do much with it. But, I've retained enough of that so that I could pick it up again quickly.

 

As for the optimism, I'm not skeptical about it because I think that somebody who finishes it won't have learned a lot. I'm skeptical because I'm not seeing anything in the advertisement that suggests that they've addressed the typical problems with courses like this. The big one being that they tend to take a lot more time than it would take to just talk with some native speakers.  Well, that and any program that requires or encourages study in isolation tends to get inferior results to one that encourages actual discourse.

 

Now, I might be wrong about that, as I've said, I need to take a closer look at it to see if it really is what it looks like. But, the site doesn't seem to give me any reason to believe that there's anything new here. And the formula tends to be one that's effective, if you finish and then have the guts to make use of it. Which is commonly a losing proposition.

 

@Auberon, to an extent I see your point. But the point you're ignoring is just how much harder it is to try and learn proper spoken Mandarin without knowing the characters. I'm sure that people do manage it, but it's definitely not an efficient way of going about it. There's probably at least a dozen different shi words with various tones and even if you limit that to a single tone, you've still got multiple tones that you have to differentiate from each other. Bear in mind that Mandarin has only a little over 400 unique syllables that you have to match to meanings, whereas the characters are much more tightly linked to a specific meaning.

 

I think even English is easier to take from verbal to written without retraining than Chinese is. Because while there are a ton of possible spellings, there's a ton of vocabulary that adheres to one or another convention of spelling to help you go. Chinese has that to only a very limited degree with a much larger number of meanings mapped to the same utterance.

 

Granted, you do pick up the grammar effectively in that fashion, but it's not really the grammar of Chinese that scares people away, usually it's the memorization of characters that does. And learning spoken Mandarin is going to be of very little value in learning to read and write. Now, for a phonetic language, I wouldn't recommend focusing on one or the other unless there was interest.

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imron
I'm sure that people do manage it,

Every native Mandarin speaker does it.

 

There's probably at least a dozen different shi words with various tones

This is an incorrect way to look at the language which will cause difficulty later on.  Learners really need to build a mental model of Mandarin pronunciation where different tones are as distinct as different vowels or consonants - it just so happens that in pinyin they are represented with the same letters which can be misleading, however there are other romanisation methods that make this more explicit.  So there are a dozen different shì words and a dozen different shí words (and likewise for the other tones) but not dozens of shi words.

 

Bear in mind that Mandarin has only a little over 400 unique syllables

I disagree with this strongly for the same reason as above.  Mandarin has between 1-2 thousand unique syllables because tones need to be counted as unique as vowels or consonants.  If you view things differently then you're just going to make it more difficult in the long term because you'll have an incorrect mental model of the language.

 

And learning spoken Mandarin is going to be of very little value in learning to read and write.

I agree in general for a non-native speaker it's a good idea to learn to read and write at the same time as learning to speak because I do think it makes things easier.

 

Having said that, I disagree that learning spoken Mandarin doesn't make it easier to learn to read and write.  It might not be as helpful as with phonetic languages, but it's still useful because you'll already know the meaning, will know how to pronounce the word and how to use the word, all you need to learn is how to read/write it.  It reduces the burden because you already know a large part of what you need to learn.

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JustinJJ

I agree in general for a non-native speaker it's a good idea to learn to read and write at the same time as learning to speak because I do think it makes things easier.

I 100% agree with this comment. When I lived in Beijing I noticed that out of the people who had been studying Chinese for years who were at a very low level, almost all could not read 汉字 because they thought that 口语 was all that was important to them, however their 口语 was also terrible. Could just be that they didn't put in enough effort, but the ability to listen to a word and look it up in a dictionary is going to make your learning process easier I think.

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imron

I definitely agree that learning characters as you go is the way to learn Chinese.  That said, there is nothing about the Glossika content that prevents you from doing that.  Pinyin and Simplified and Traditional and audio for every sentence seems a great resource.  Even if you ignore the audio entirely, you're still getting a set of sentences that build upon each other with known vocab spaced to reappear regularly in future sentences.

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Auberon

 

the point you're ignoring is just how much harder it is to try and learn proper spoken Mandarin without knowing the characters. I'm sure that people do manage it, but it's definitely not an efficient way of going about it.

 

I'm afraid I don't really see what you're saying. Mandarin speakers don't 'see' characters in their heads while speaking any more than English speakers 'see' spellings. Illiterates and children have long had no trouble differentiating between homonyms in any language.

 

 

There's probably at least a dozen different shi words with various tones and even if you limit that to a single tone, you've still got multiple tones that you have to differentiate from each other.

 

Aside from contrived exercises and tongue-twisters about lion-eating poets and the like, I can't see how knowing the characters helps to differentiate homonyms in speech. Besides, most of them are already differenced in vernacular by being part of polysyllabic words, having different counters, etc. And those that aren't (十 and 時 spring to mind) are just matters of context; how does knowing either of these characters help you tell if someone means ten or time?

 

My point is merely that any living, spoken language should be able to exist, be learnt, understood and mastered independently of its written form. They are all composed solely of sounds, after all. And I don't see how knowing characters (or spellings, in alphabetic writing systems) helps in producing the right sounds in the right order that correspond to whatever you want to say in the language, regardless of how many homonyms it might be necessary to discriminate between. At its most basic level, speech and hearing, and visual recognition take place in different parts of the brain.

 

 

Granted, you do pick up the grammar effectively in that fashion, but it's not really the grammar of Chinese that scares people away, usually it's the memorization of characters that does.

 

Perhaps I am atypical, but I find memorising pronunciation and tone a lot more difficult than remembering characters. I find I'm much more likely to remember how to write a character but forget how to say it than the other way round. Which is why I was interested in the glossika method in the first place, and why I'm inclined to think that speaking helps writing more than writing helps speaking.

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imron
any more than English speakers 'see' spellings.

I do this with English, and have done basically for as long as I can remember since learning to read.  I've been training to get myself to do this with Chinese also, but am still a long way off.

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Auberon

 

I do this with English, and have done basically for as long as I can remember since learning to read.  I've been training to get myself to do this with Chinese also, but am still a long way off.

 

Are you really seeing the spelling of every word you say? Or do you mean you can simultaneously summon the spelling into your mind's eye if you choose to? I can do the latter, in English, without effort, but normal, natural speech has nothing to do with the written form otherwise. But suggesting, as hedwards seems to be, that knowing characters helps speech seems to imply that we should be thinking of characters whilst speaking, which doesn't sound like speaking naturally to me. I imagine that being able to call the right characters to mind during speech just comes of a huge amount of reading and writing exposure. But actively to think of a Chinese word as primarily something visual rather than aural is surely not the way the brain works, at least until both sounds and words are internalised to the point where they can be understood effortlessly in a fleeting moment.

 

I apologise for meandering off the topic of the thread in this way, but I'm increasingly thinking that I've been approaching Chinese from the wrong direction, so to speak (as I said to hedwards, I don't really have a problem with characters). However, I'm glad I posted the first question, as it's produced a lot of interesting replies, and I think I will try glossika properly. If, after a month or two, my spoken Chinese has improved markedly then I'll certainly let people here know. One can but hope!

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