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Going Back to the Basics


Yang Chuanzhang

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John Pasden posted this on his blog a couple of days ago:

 

Remember when you first started studying Chinese? The teacher always made you introduce yourself. [...]

 

Unfortunately, this self-introduction (自我介绍 in Chinese) often goes un-updated for years on end. So you’ve been studying Chinese for 2 years, are at a solid intermediate level, and yet you basically still recite the same self-introduction

 

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. I feel like many of the most common activities (ordering food, making friends, etc.) are harder for me to do in Chinese than they should be, because I never went back and took care of them. Teaching these topics using the most basic grammar points, as is done in most text books, seems to me to be simply an artefact of the fact that when starting out, people want to be able to say useful things quickly but they also don't know any complex grammar.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on this?

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Learning a language is not a process of 'learning how to say this' and 'learning how to say that', its about acquiring the unconscious ability to produce grammar patterns to say anything you need to. The only things you may be missing are vocabulary for certain things....with so many 'things' its hard to acquire enough. If you can't order food or whatever then maybe you don't know enough words for types of food or words like 'menu' etc. Or maybe you haven't come into contact enough the particular grammar patterns usually adopted when 'ordering things' whether its plane tickets, an item on taobao or your lunch.

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