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agewisdom

Podcast on HOW to learn Mandarin

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agewisdom

I found the below on reddit, so I'll just repost it here. I'm not involved with the podcast.

 

Update:

I've gone through two of the podcasts and can safely say that all beginners of learning Mandarin should listen to this.

 

Main highlights:

1. Jared Turner has a very 'comfortable' voice and it's easy on the ears.

2. His experience in learning Mandarin is substantial and he knows the subject matter inside out.

3. Looks like Jared is putting a lot of effort into the Podcast, with interviewing different people and their learning experience. It's great to listen the difficulties various interviewees faced in learning Mandarin and inspiring as well. Gives one a lot more motivation to proceed.

4. There's no 'agenda' or 'pressure' to sell certain products, so you can get real honest feedback and advice. There's some minor advert in each podcast, but it's not a big deal at all.

5. It's somewhat more lively than just reading advice on the forums or from books. I think new listeners can give feedback for new topics as well to make it even more topical and interesting.

6. It's also great to listen to John Pasden's history and how he got into learning Mandarin.

 

Two thumbs up! Can wait for the new podcasts to be out in 2 weeks time. A big thanks to @Rufus for sharing your knowledge and helping us newbies in learning how best to learn Mandarin.

 

***

Just launched our podcast “You Can Learn Chinese”, a podcast for learners, by learners. It’s a podcast about learning Chinese without trying to teach it to you. Have a listen!

http://mandarincompanion.com/blog/announcing-the-launch-of-our-podcast/

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DavyJonesLocker

Thanks for the link. I really really respect these two guys. They talk a lot of sense, don't overly market their products and recognise it's not a one size fits all! 

For too many false claims and hidden agendas in the Chinese learning  environment. 

 

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Balthazar

Off topic, but listening to music/podcasts while driving a scooter sounds like an extremely unwise (and possibly illegal?) thing to do.

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Rufus

@DavyJonesLocker thanks so much for your kind words! I always say that there are a lot of ways to learn a language and they all can work, it's just some are more effective than others 😉. Of course I am partial to extensive reading, there is just so much research backing it up as one of the most effective ways to learn, but alone it's not as effective when combined with other learning methods as well. I think where some of us go wrong is when we succumb to confirmation bias when we say things like "I learned Chinese this way and I am fluent now, so that is the best way to learn Chinese". I appreciate your support!

 

@Balthazar you wouldn't be the first to say so! I've been riding a scooter around Shanghai for nearly 9 years, listening on headphones for about 5 of those years. I always drive super defensively, assume someone is always going to do something stupid, and never take any dumb risks. So far so good! But of course, that could just be my confirmation bias speaking...😁

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DavyJonesLocker

@Rufus

just listened to your second podcast. It really resonated with me going through 2 years of a language school, putting in a huge amount of effort and dismally poor progress. 

 

The traditional teaching methods is still a problem with many schools in Beijing, i.e. that is, they teach the way they were taught as a student. I and others became very disillusioned, not so much by the actual difficulty of the language, but rather the stubbornness of the school administrators and teachers to even take on feedback or attempt change. I used to argue that you simply cannot ignore results.  Most of the students lost interest, felt the material is not relevant to real life (as you mention poetry) and fundamentally just did not learn. Topics like poetry (as you mention) Beijing Opera, fidel piety and over emphasis on restaurants is not of interest to the average student. Chengyu are hard to learn over when the right situation comes up its actual quite natural and easily rememberable as you have context and  perhaps personal affiliation towards it. (I often wonder if it was due to languages being in the humanities discipline and myself, coming from a business environment the concept of Know Your Client (KYC) is vital, i.e. satisfy their needs not your own. 

 

I never understood this concept of learn like a baby nor think like a Chinese native. It's like asking an apple to become an orange. As a middle age guy I have 45years of English firmly imprinted in my brain, I do not have a blank slate like a baby and my brain will immediately revert to English. This is why grammar explanations in Chinese simply do not work for me. For example I really struggled with compliments and many times tried to understand the result complement 下去 . However once i saw your explanations on the grammar wiki of "keeping the ball rolling",  it immediately "clicked". Similarly Chinese explanations of Chinese words. It just quite simply does not work for me personally, despite the huge amount of attempts. 

 

Your conversation with Josh is very encouraging. He mentions it takes a lot of work but achievable. I mentioned before on here that I doubt the many internet style claims on learn fluent Chinese in X number of months. I became quite disillusioned initially as I had quit a high paid job in an investment bank in london threw caution to the wind, rented out my house, got rid of half of my possessions, then came to China with no plan apart from learn Chinese. I thought 2 years and I'd be 'done'

 

Long post but I'd add one more point I think is relevant. I know you chaps mention about extensive reading. I fully agree with that and when you created those excellent series of books, which I gladly recommend to learners, a prerequisite is to read at the right level. However herein lies a problem. For beginners your material is excellent but for intermediate there is very little around that is of interest. The Graded reader series goes to 3000 words but the topic are all pretty much the same, that is reflection on contemporary Chinese society in the 60-90s . I have read most and they certainly help reading ability but I have also found that motivation to read and interest can be a very powerful and possibly the driving factor rather than the reading ability. For example: I can't seem to get through a single page on my HSK 6 material without a feeling of how cringy the stories are. It takes about 5 mins to read one text yet that's a struggle. However, I can easily become engrossed in 三体 ( @imron I think you know how many unique words in Vol 1) I read it for two hours every day in a coffee shop The book is much much higher than my reading level and my word recognition comprehension is far below the 98% word recognition. Although I should mention that i read it on a tablet PC with a lot of PLECO OCR. My point is though, I find it is really helped my Chinese learning ,simply by lengthy exposure and technology (reading a hard copy would be impossible)

 

PS:I would push 有道词典 over the Zhongwen add on. Its far superior in that it works on the native windows environment (so on  word,  adobe) and not just browsers. It contains more dictionaries, translations, screen readers like PLECO and so on. The disadvantage is that it all is in chinese but I have a guide floating around on Chinese forums on how to install it

 

 

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amytheorangutan

Just listened to episode 2. I agree that there are a lot of native Chinese teachers who use really bad unsuitable books and techniques to teach Chinese to adult foreigners. I have had  6 different teachers so far and only 1 of them is really really good. The rest are ranging from terrible to so so. 

 

However, I must say there are a lot of bad students. People who come to class thinking arrogantly that they are going to master the language in 6 months, don’t want to put in extra time or effort yet demanded result, not at all interested in Chinese culture or even look down on it but want to be able to speak the language. They are almost as bad as bad teachers in making you lose the will to learn.

 

So I really love hearing how Josh Campbell suffered through 4 years of bad teacher and uninspiring classes and still stuck with it and found other ways to improve his learning. At the end of the day, I think your own effort, dedication and passion is the things that will carry you through the years of struggle. 

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imron
5 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

 @imron I think you know how many unique words in Vol 1

Not off the top of my head, but I can find out without too much difficulty if you'd like.

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DavyJonesLocker
1 hour ago, imron said:

Not off the top of my head, but I can find out without too much difficulty if you'd like.

 

That would be great. I thought I saw a post somewhere whereby  you mentioned it. I'll do a further search! . I agree with your many reminders  to read more,  and with the advice from the Mandarin companion chaps to read at the right level but I do think there is a special case for reading well below the 98% (or whatever the guys recommend) optimal comprehension  level, especially if interesting material is in scare supply.

There are a ton of graded readers but even if one has  a word capacity of say 5000 one may not well not recognize several hundred  of a 2000 word graded reader. 

 

 

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Flickserve
1 hour ago, amytheorangutan said:

 I agree that there are a lot of native Chinese teachers who use really bad unsuitable books and techniques to teach Chinese to adult foreigners. I have had  6 different teachers so far and only 1 of them is really really good. 

 

I thought it was me that was a problem. I tend not to choose italki professional teachers because of getting locked into a rigid teaching method. I felt community teachers were a bit better in being adaptable.

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imron
17 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

That would be great. I thought I saw a post somewhere whereby  you mentioned it

Possibly.  I also have the electronic copy on disk, so I plugged it in to CTA and it tells me there are ~10,400 unique words.

 

Of those, only about ~6,000 appear more than once in the text.

 

17 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I'll do a further search! 

Just buy a copy of CTA, and you can get the numbers yourself for any book you have the electronic text for :mrgreen:

 

17 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

but I do think there is a special case for reading well below the 98% (or whatever the guys recommend) optimal comprehension  level, especially if interesting material is in scare supply.

I get this, because I've been there.  I also know there is a strong desire among learners to be reading advanced content, even when you're not quite ready for it (I was like this too), plus it feels like you are learning when you read well above your level because it requires more effort.

 

But having been there, and having come through it, I now firmly believe that you'll see bigger improvements in a shorter amount of time if you read a whole bunch of easier material first.   It's not just about building vocabulary, it also about developing the other skills needed for reading, and the mental stamina to read for longer periods of time without getting exhausted.  The advanced content will still be there when you're ready for it, and it will be more enjoyable then also.

 

And yes, there is a dearth of suitable long-form reading material at the upper-intermediate level, but there are still plenty of easier novels around too.  One that I frequently recommend is 活着, which comes in at ~4,800 unique words (with ~3,000 occurring more than once).  Those numbers are half of what you get from 三体, and if you don't like texts set in Cultural Revolution China (not everyone does), I'm sure there are plenty of other choices at around the same level.

 

So yes, it is possible to read things above your level, and it is possible to learn things from it and gain some benefit, the question is whether it is the most efficient thing to do in terms of long-term learning outcomes, and I don't think it is.

 

 

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markhavemann
17 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

but I do think there is a special case for reading well below the 98% (or whatever the guys recommend) optimal comprehension  level, especially if interesting material is in scare supply.

I tend to agree with that. Although reading at a really high level of comprehension is the easiest and most fun, I think you can get different things out of reading at higher difficulties (but it can be frustrating). The real problem being that there isn't much stuff to bridge the gap from textbooks to novels that I found interesting on any level.  

 

What I do to mitigate the problems of reading more difficult stuff than I probably should is I go onto https://www.ximalaya.com/ or http://m.ting56.com and get the audio to go along with whatever I want to read. It makes it way easier because it takes the guess work out of unknown character pronunciations and the reader's chunking/grouping of words makes things easier to understand which lets me focus a little more on understanding and less on just figuring things out.

 

1 hour ago, imron said:

So yes, it is possible to read things above your level, and it is possible to learn things from it and gain some benefit, the question is whether it is the most efficient thing to do in terms of long-term learning outcomes, and I don't think it is.

Efficiency is really important and I spend a lot of effort trying to get more out of each study hour, but motivation is really important too I think. If diving into something difficult gets someone to spend a few hundred hours on Chinese, there is value in that. Even if you can learn the same amount reading really boring and easy stuff for half that time, if you can't actually motivate yourself to do that consistently because the stories you read when you were ten years old are more interesting, then that's not particularly efficient either. 

 

But I think that good sense is important and there is a difference between just doing and actually being productive. Missing out on a few of the more subtle points of a plot, or the clever little jokes can be frustrating without detracting from learning (and later on can actually be really rewarding when you do finally get it), but if you can't follow the basic flow of what's going on then it's definitely time to find something easier. 

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imron
22 minutes ago, markhavemann said:

but motivation is really important too I think

I agree.  I also found it was far more motivating to be reading things I could understand and feel like I was reading Chinese than it was to be struggling through things I wanted to read but couldn't get much enjoyment from it due to the constant need to look up words and missing out on half of what was going on.

 

'Easy' and 'boring' don't necessarily go hand in hand.  If someone can persevere with 三体 there is enough 'easier but not boring' content they could be reading.

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markhavemann
6 hours ago, imron said:

I also found it was far more motivating to be reading things I could understand and feel like I was reading Chinese than it was to be struggling through things I wanted to read but couldn't get much enjoyment from it due to the constant need to look up words and missing out on half of what was going on.

Good point. I guess once you get past a certain level there isn't all that much reason to be struggling when you can just enjoy reading. I'm not sure I'm quite there yet so I imagine I'll be struggling along for a while longer. I'll take a crack at 活着 though because 4800 unique words is very reasonable!

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Dawei3

Unfortunately, poor language teaching continues in the US too.  My son is a sophomore in college and he "liked" German.

 

However, his most recent class was almost totally literature based as are all of the junior/senior level courses.  I asked him if he could read without translating (i.e., thinking in German) and he said he often can't understand even with a dictionary.  A whole paragraph in the literature will be just 1 sentence.  I showed it to a German colleague and she said "You'd need to draw a diagram to understand its meaning!!!"  She was shocked.  She thought it was terrible.  And somehow the professor thinks this is useful for college students - who aren't even German majors.  

 

I thought language approaches would have changed since I was in college, but it seems like not by much.  As Daveyjones noted above about China, the faculty at my son's school, University of Delaware, are teaching the way they learned decades ago.  To be clear, he gets "A" in German, he just can't have a conversation in it  - which I think is a terrible  and near useless outcome.   Very demotivating.... And he plans to stop learning because it is too time intensive.    (and we wonder why more Americans can't speak a second language.....)   It's a very good university but it's German language faculty is many decades behind the time.  

 

(I can't imagine teaching a language course that emphasizes literature and has almost no focus on conversation. ...... maybe for senior level classes UDel faculty can find literature where the entire page is 1 sentence or maybe an entire book.... sure that's good idea.... ).  

 

 

 

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agewisdom

Podcast no. 4 is out and is very interesting as well. Highly recommended! 🤩

https://youcanlearnchinese.mandarincompanion.com/episodes/4-chinese-language-power-struggles-4da8e49c

 

***

Summary

When you want to speak Chinese but the other person wants to speak English, Chinese accents (really interesting), and why some schools miss out on the learners perspective. Special interview Kerric Knowles and his struggles and triumphs studying Chinese at university

Episode Notes

In this episode, John introduces the concept of language power struggles which is when you want to practice your Chinese with a Chinese person, but they will only talk to you in English. We also talk about the reverse when you are speaking English and the other person is speaking Chinese and you both understand each other, kind of like Han Solo and Chewbacca.

We delve into the different accents in Chinese along with the myriad of different "dialects" in Chinese and how in reality many of these are entirely different languages along with why many schools and universities seem to miss out on the learners perspective.

 

The guest interview is with Kerric Knowles and about his challenges and triumphs with studying Chinese at university, and how if you don't use it, you lose it. Kerrick has an excellent face for radio, but unfortunately we don't have the pictures to prove it.

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Wurstmann
On 2019/2/15 at 10:40 PM, Dawei3 said:

To be clear, he gets "A" in German, he just can't have a conversation in it  - which I think is a terrible  and near useless outcome.   Very demotivating.... And he plans to stop learning because it is too time intensive.    (and we wonder why more Americans can't speak a second language.....)   It's a very good university but it's German language faculty is many decades behind the time.

Tell him to watch Youtube and Netflix in German every day. That should fix the problem in a year or so. It's how a lot of foreigners get good at English. They have a foundation in grammar from school and then simply listen to tons of stuff.

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DavyJonesLocker

listened to the podcast, I think you chaps (Jared and John) are too nice. I never really had this problem of the language battle as I actively avoid speaking to Chinese who speak English to me. I think its better to cut if off before it starts otherwise it gets awkward later. In work however I only speak English as its the professional thing to do and in any case I am being paid to do so

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