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ronaldrioss

Teach Yourself Chinese - The Hard Way

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ronaldrioss

Hello everyone. I made a blog that works as a guide on teaching oneself Mandarin, it's especially good for those people who feel clueless and lost as to how to do it. It offers some resources, but the main idea is explaining how one goes about actually teaching oneself.

 

https://teachyourselfmandarin.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/teach-yourself-mandarin-the-hard-way/

 

I accept feedback! Thanks and make good use of it.

 

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陳德聰

You should find and replace the word radical with component.

 

I also don’t know that there is much merit to learning all HSK1 characters before ever being able to speak.

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RjMaan

Thats great but i think that one should take proper classes if he want to learn any thing new because only class room environment can give proper learning environment.

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lakesandrivers

Very professional-looking blog, mate!

 

My $0.02.

 

Pinyin deserves all the respect it can get. I am still wondering how the Chinese learned proper pronunciation (likely repetition and brute force) before the introduction of the pinyin ~1950.

 

On radicals, it is enough to know they exist. Pick them up along the way but as you pointed out, the HSK word lists should be the primary focus. Vocabulary is the backbone of a language, I believe. The learner will see a pattern before long, maybe even meta-concepts such as 仁,benevolence is a concept applicable to at least another (二以上) human being (人部). Sure, start by being kind to oneself, but if one is too full of oneself, then benevolence morphs ...

I remember working on these workbooks that taught order strokes of characters when I was little. But now I would classify them as also "good to know". Sure, the order is important for calligraphy (I would seek out such classes at Uni soon) but how does that translate into modern life?

 

Grammar needs to be circumvented through immersion. It is too easy to get bogged down with grammar, then to realize one's command (or lack thereof) of the language has not improved, if at all. I am now taking TEFL certification and am perplexed with seemingly alien formulas of "noun + verb + subject = ..." Goodness, gracious. But they are in the syllabus hence I would work on them still but must I really torture my students as such. How useful is it in daily life knowing preposition, zero article or future progressive/continuous? Percentile 98 English essays for medical school admissions tests did not require me remembering or knowing these ...

 

I would say immersion is the best learning tool: music, shows, movies, conversations, books (at one's level). And this being mainland China it is the ubiquitous language. Cliques with one's own countrymen or countrywomen inadvertently breaks immersion. Drop a lone person, as you would the Google Street yellow (黄皮肤或小黄人,无巧不成书哦) person, into a Chinese city and observe him or her picking up the language at lightning speed. He would be forced to communicate to make friends or to go places, all of which are but forms of immersion ...

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Flickserve
5 hours ago, RjMaan said:

Thats great but i think that one should take proper classes if he want to learn any thing new because only class room environment can give proper learning environment.

 

That's strange. Many people self study away from the classroom.

 

Many people don't learn even when in the classroom. Been there, done it.

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DavyJonesLocker

Hi ronald, 

nice read and thanks for the time to creating a blog. I might change the focus a little, the steps 

Pinyin

Strokes

Radicals

Characters

Grammar and conversation

 

seem primarily aimed at reading and writing. What about speaking and listening, steps 1-4 play little part in that. You do mention up to HSK1 and 2 which is pretty easy but it does different from other guides like Pimsleur and Chinesepod etc where listening is the main focus right off the bat

 

i have never seen the need to focus in on radicals, i found they don't help me in the slightest but accept will help many others 

 

Also I would personally put PLECO higher up the list, it now has graded readers, flash cards OCR capability so become more that an offline dictionary. i'd also add Google translate. Its good to give you the gist of a text if you quickly want to scan the English before reading the hanzi. Also gives the pinyin including tone marks which is useful for copy and Pasting

 

4 hours ago, Flickserve said:

That's strange. Many people self study away from the classroom.

 

Many people don't learn even when in the classroom. Been there, done it.

 

 

i learned in a classroom but only with 3 or 4 people and changing teachers till i got the most suitable one for our style. However in a class of 20 i think i'd get zero from it

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mungouk
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

i have never seen the need to focus in on radicals

 

Agree.  As a beginner I read somewhere that you need to "learn" them, which isn't helpful.  I wasted some time on trying to do that which would have been better spent learning characters themselves. 

 

I have a list of the 100 most frequent radicals on my kitchen wall, and I refer to it from time to time maybe when I've started to notice a new one, but I think it's enough to be aware of them and recognise them as you learn characters. 

 

 

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889

"Sure, the order is important for calligraphy (I would seek out such classes at Uni soon) but how does that translate into modern life?"

 

Input for dictionaries and text editors. Writing small notes for people. Just try to write 觉 and 党 so they can be easily distinguished without a good sense of stroke order.

 

Stroke order also helps you understand other's writing.

 

And like bad pronunciation, bad stroke order is a hard habit to break.

 

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RjMaan
On 5/16/2018 at 3:49 AM, Flickserve said:

Many people self study away from the classroom.

 

Many people don't learn even when in the classroom.

Yeah, i agree. In these days the learning is becoming more advanced. One can learn online as well. I was voting towards the traditional classroom environment because it provides an effective communication between students and teachers.

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Moshen

This is so contrary to the way I learned Chinese!  Also contrary to the way I learn languages best in general.

I began with audio language lessons - equivalent to the Pimsleur method - and then worked with a tutor on Chinese conversation and pronunciation.  After three months, I began living in China for a year, and upon arrival I could already do business with a taxi driver, shop and carry on little conversations.  After a year I could carry on much more substantive conversation, but I still struggled to read anything.

 

I'm sure some people could use the method you outlined, but it would fail spectacularly with me.  More importantly, I don't think I would be able to stick with it.

 

You need to know and take advantage of your own learning style.  I am an auditory learner and am very good at picking things up by ear.  Other people are visual learners...

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Flickserve

It is inherently easier to learn the written language.

 

I am not sure about this visual and auditory learner distinction. Both are skills that need to be practiced and you get better at the one you do more. It becomes easier and then you focus more of your time on the easier way to learn. By living in China, you get in an instant feedback from listening and speaking which leads into a reward system and positive reinforcement. 

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Zbigniew
10 minutes ago, Flickserve said:

It is inherently easier to learn the written language.

Sorry, I don't quite understand the assertion you're making there. Are you saying that for most people it's easier to learn to read and write Chinese than it is to speak it? If you are, I don't think I've ever met anyone who's seriously attempted both and would agree with you.

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Flickserve
11 minutes ago, Zbigniew said:

Sorry, I don't quite understand the assertion you're making there. Are you saying that for most people it's easier to learn to read and write Chinese than it is to speak it? If you are, I don't think I've ever met anyone who's seriously attempted both and would agree with you.

 

If you are in an environment which lacks hearing Chinese, then you get relatively more positive reinforcement by looking at characters and recognising it's meaning. What's so illogical about that? Humans use that give them a sense of achievement and satisfaction. 

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Zbigniew

Thanks for replying. I'm relieved that your point now seems to be that learning the written language is easier than learning the spoken language only when you don't have any access to the spoken language.  Such an assertion is scarcely contestable, but very different from saying learning the written language is inherently easier.

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mungouk

The Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic theory of learning has been discredited by Neuroscience for some time (despite it still being taught to teachers!).

 

However this doesn't mean that individual students don't have their own preferred modes of learning, where that is practical.  Personally I tend to map things out spatially and visually when possible (which also aids in recall).

 

Obviously reading/writing and listening/speaking have very specific requirements in terms of modality. 

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Moshen
Quote

My main point is one may need to reassess this visual/auditory learner style a little more deeply. 

I don't care what neuroscientists say.  It's just a fact about me that I pick up languages more easily by hearing than by looking or reading.  I could add loads of other personal facts that add up to me having an auditory learning style:

  • Even in English, my experience of language is auditory.  I have been a professional writer for 35 years, and when I write I hear (and fiddle with) the rhythm of each sentence as I write it.  For some years I wrote and performed/delivered commentaries for public radio, something that definitely called upon my auditory ability with language.
  • I have long decades of experience in classical music that informs my experience of language.  I generally don't have trouble with tones in Chinese because of this.
  • My auditory memory far outperforms my visual memory.  If I didn't have contact with a language for 10 years, I can still understand much of it when I hear it, but I struggle to comprehend it when I see it.  With Chinese, after coming home from a year in China, I quickly lost the reading ability I had but retained my listening ability for the most part.  It was also faster for me to regain listening than reading.
  • I never forget people's voices, but I forget faces.  Once a classmate from high school showed up in a class I was teaching 25 years later.  As soon as I heard her speak, I knew who she was, but I had not recognized her by sight.  This happens a lot.

Other people have reverse abilities and preferences - they remember more easily what they see than what they hear.  We don't need scientific backing for this observation.

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mungouk

@Moshen none of what you say (or the personal preferences of other learners) negates what "neuroscientists say".   

(Nor could it, that's not how science works.)

What they say is that the VAK theory has no basis in science.  This is not the same.  We all have personal preferences, and that is totally valid. But they are preferences, not innate differences in our brains.

 

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imron
16 minutes ago, mungouk said:

But they are preferences, not innate differences in our brains.

Yep.  If you are better with auditory recall compared to visual recall, it's likely because you have more training with that.  Building up your visual recall is also a skill that can be trained.

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Zbigniew
1 hour ago, imron said:

Building up your visual recall is also a skill that can be trained.

I wish you could train me to better remember what characters say. I've got very good visual recall in the sense that I know when I've seen a character (or a person's face) before, but some characters I've seen a hundred times continue to stare out at me from the printed page soundlessly and meaninglessly virtually every time I encounter them.

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