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Moshen

Chinese Zero to Hero Path to Fluency course review

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Wurstmann

I agree, that course doesn't seem good.

 

If you need recommendations for books and TV shows there are threads about that on this forum. Also take a look at https://book.douban.com and https://movie.douban.com.

At your level it should be possible to navigate Chinese websites. You can use a pop-up dictionary like "Zhongwen" for words you don't understand.

 

21 minutes ago, Moshen said:

Apparently he assumes that at my level, I am regularly having conversations on WeChat or whatever with Chinese people in Chinese.  I would like to be able to do that, but I can't, yet.  I need strategies for getting there from being able to do well with carefully curated and graded materials.

In theory you were able to do that since day one. “你好!-你好。再见!” 😉

 

24 minutes ago, Moshen said:

For example, in the section on reading books, he assumes that if you have a print book in Chinese where you don't know a particular word, you do know how to pronounce the characters.  He tells you to just type the word you don't know into an online dictionary as if that's obvious and easy for everyone at this level.  It isn't.

If you don't know the pronunciation you can input the character by drawing it.

 

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imron
4 hours ago, Moshen said:

In the HSK progression, I'm now at level 5,

Does this mean you've passed HSK 5, or you are preparing for taking HSK 5?  I wonder if the difference between these accounts for the differences in expectations?

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mungouk

Thanks as always @Moshen for taking the time to review the course!

 

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Dawei3
On 5/27/2019 at 5:09 PM, Moshen said:

Apparently he assumes that at my level, I am regularly having conversations on WeChat or whatever with Chinese people in Chinese. 

I find talking with friends via wechat is a wonderful way to build fluency.  More people want to be language partners than I have time.  It's a two-way street,  互相学习, i.e., my partners want to practice their English too.  In all cases, it's a fascinating enjoyable exchange.    

 

Those who live in China joke that their colleagues need to pay to talk to someone from the Philippines, whereas they can talk with me for free (but I'm getting a free lesson too).  It's really important to find people with whom your personality connects (你们的个性很合).  Some Chinese friends are just friends because we're not good at teaching each other.    

 

My friends and I have lots of gaps in our language skills, so we often have to repeat/restate/clarify, but this is actually good.  If I'm talking with a friend with very strong English skills, it's too easy to resort to English for clarification.  I want the clarifications in Chinese.  We both make mistakes and one friend laughs at me because i often forget the words we've discussed (i.e, we don't have perfect conversations).  However, these conversations prime my mind so when I learn/hear the word elsewhere, I'm much more likely to remember it.  A great strength of wechat is that you can text back & forth during the call to clarify and teach each other. 

 

One of the big differences between talking with a friend and a teacher is that conversations with friends are stress-free & fun.  As a result, I don't have to push myself to do it; I always look forward to the calls.  One friend in Beijing noted the calls are her favorite part of the weekend.  For adults, motivation is one of the top factors in making progress with a language and for me, these calls are one of the biggest aspects of this.  

 

Thank you for your in-depth, insightful review.    

 

 

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Moshen

>>I find talking with friends via wechat is a wonderful way to build fluency. <<

Are these people you already knew or people you met on WeChat? If the latter, how did you make that happen?

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Moshen

>>If you need recommendations for books and TV shows there are threads about that on this forum. <<

Correct. In fact, this forum has been much more helpful to me in understanding how to move forward with my self-directed language study than the course in question.

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Dawei3
2 hours ago, Moshen said:

Are these people you already knew or people you met on WeChat? If the latter, how did you make that happen

These are people I've met in person in various places.  Some in the US and some in China.  Of those in China, many are involved in Toastmasters speaking clubs in Beijing.  I'm a member of a club in the US.  When I go to China, I attend a bilingual Toastmasters club and thru it, I've met people from multiple clubs in Beijing.  Many of the clubs in China are English or bilingual clubs and as a result most of the participants want to improve their English.  As a result, they jump at a chance to have someone to practice with.  It's also cool to meet people who do the same activity from across the globe.  

 

You can find Toastmasters clubs by clicking on "Find a club" at www.toastmasters.org   Toastmasters is an international non-profit company.  All clubs are run by volunteers.  

 

I've also found that many Chinese living in the US welcome the chance to help someone learn Chinese and I help them with their English, even when they have strong English skills.  I'm not a formal English teacher, but I can help them with common problems.  

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道艺黄帝
On 5/28/2019 at 5:09 AM, Moshen said:

calligraphy-style headings

This kills me man. When someone gives me handwritten Chinese, or they use some stylized fonts on buildings/billboards, I'm lost LOL!

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道艺黄帝
10 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

bilingual Toastmasters

Great recommendation. 

 

For me, I've found it real easy to make friends with the younger generation. Ordering 饿了么, riding the subway, seeing regulars at local Mom&Pop restaurants...A lot of them consume western media, so one mention of it will get them excited to talk to me, especially in Chinese. A follow-up question from them is almost always, "I'll teach you Chinese if you teach me English!" These are people with really low level skills, so the benefit for me heavily outweighs theirs.

 

I saw a guy reading about League of Legends on his phone, so I tapped his shoulder, asked him a bout it, and his face lit up...Not the first time I struck conversation with strangers, and I find once the ice is broken, they are eager to chat with me - even when I screw up my pronunciation/grammar/etc.

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mkmyers45
On 5/28/2019 at 5:09 AM, Moshen said:

  For example, in the section on reading books, he assumes that if you have a print book in Chinese where you don't know a particular word, you do know how to pronounce the characters.  He tells you to just type the word you don't know into an online dictionary as if that's obvious and easy for everyone at this level.  It isn't.

 

You could use Chinese handwriting input apps to get the characters pinyin and pronunciation 

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mungouk
8 hours ago, mkmyers45 said:

use Chinese handwriting input apps

 

If you have Pleco you can just change the input method to be drawing — or at least you can on iOS (scribble icon) — and then write it.  It seems to be pretty forgiving in terms of stroke order. 

 

Plus there's the OCR option to take a live photo or choose one from your photo library. I use this all the time. I think this is a paid add-on, but even the demo of the plugin is usable. 

 

 

 

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Dawei3
On 5/30/2019 at 10:03 AM, 道艺黄帝 said:

or me, I've found it real easy to make friends with the younger generation. Ordering 饿了么, riding the subway,

To me, this is the magic of Chinese. I constantly find people wanting to speak, even old people. My oldest was a very old very nervous woman waiting in front of me in the security line in the Beijing airport. As soon as I started talking with her, she calmed down. 

 

She spoke no English and we had nothing else to do but wait in line, so we had to figure out what we could talk about.  It was remarkably fun (she probably was I her 70s or 80s).  While she didn’t become a language partner, it was a very motivational moment for me. 

 

Talking with people like her, in unplanned moments, is a great way to build speaking skills and can help motivate you to learn more. 

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Jon Long

Yeah, I need to revise the course big time. Originally I wanted to release a series of YouTube videos one after another, get some feed back, then create a course from those. But it was taking too long so I just made all the videos in one go and put them into a course.

 

When I created Path to Fluency, I was using my Korean as a testing ground (I improved it from B1 to B2/C1). Now I'm working on my Russian (A1/A2). Working on a language that's harder/newer to me made me see that a lot of the techniques I proposed in the course could be refined/replaced.

 

Now I need to gather as much feedback as I can and revise/improve/expand the course to accommodate. I think I should get more active on this forum since there are a lot of experienced learners here who can provide valuable feedback.

 

Based on your suggestions, I've compiled a to-do list of improvements:

 

Address issues with using technology:

  • Include more PC/Android resources
  • Make sure to mention hand-writing input in the video “3.2.4.2 Physical books”

 

Simplify content and provide better structure:

  • Remove section intro videos, which are perceived as too short, repetitive and pointless 
  • Simplify and consolidate slow-moving parts of the course

 

Provide better psychological scaffolding to make the course more inclusive:

  • Address students who live in cities where Chinese people are hard to find
  • Encourage and reassure students who might be fearful of authentic Chinese material. Provide “strategies for overcoming the psychological and practical obstacles”
  • Mention graded readers earlier by moving the video “3.1.9 Using learner-oriented resources” to 3.1.1
  • Address the perception that “books for Chinese people are not books for me”
  • Create a new video to encourage those who are apprehensive of live Chinese conversations.
  • Improve “3.1.9 Using learner-oriented resources” and explore the possibility of creating a curated list of graded readers or easy children’s reads.

 

If you haven't finished the course yet, I suggest that you do, because a lot of the missing points you mentioned are covered later in the course. The course has only less than 5 hours of video, it won't take long to finish all of them.

 

Thanks a lot for buying our courses, and keep in touch!

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Beelzebro
On 5/29/2019 at 9:01 PM, Dawei3 said:

It's really important to find people with whom your personality connects (你们的个性很合)

 

Off-topic, but worth pointing out that here it should be 性格 not 个性. The latter is, in my experience, only really used in the combination 有个性, meaning "has personality/individual character". Eg. 你堆的雪人很有个性啊 could be translated as something like "the snowman you made is really unique". 性格 is the personality of a person, so fits your sentence better. This distinction is apparent when you look at the meanings of the individual characters that make up the words. 个 means individual, 性 at the end of a word can be translated as "-ness", so 个性 is "individualness". 性 also carries the meaning "nature/character" and 格 is "pattern/style". So 性格 is something like "character pattern", i.e. personality.

 

@OP - if you're at HSK5 level, but you aren't having conversations on wechat or in real life etc, then I really think you should stop focusing on studying textbooks/learning resources and switch to simply using the language more. The kind of skills you need to have a fluent wechat conversation are not ones you will pick up between HSK5-6. They are covered in the lower levels but can only be properly grasped through actually applying them again and again in real conversations. If there really aren't any Chinese or Taiwanese people in your city then you can try using apps like Hellotalk or Tandem.

 

Regarding technical issues, please forgive me if I'm being patronising, but if you just google search "how do I..." you'll always find the help you need. 

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Moshen
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Provide better psychological scaffolding to make the course more inclusive:

 

Jon,

 

Thanks for being open to feedback!  I think the above would make the biggest improvement in the course.

 

For what it's worth, I also want to mention that the other day I was in the largest public library I have easy access to, and while they have two rows of books in foreign languages, there was not a single one in Chinese.  They were mostly Spanish, with some Italian and French.  So your living in Vancouver has given you a skewed picture of the resources available offline in most of North America, not to mention in other countries.  (In the course, Jon suggests getting Chinese books from the public library.)

 

Please come back and let us know when you've redone the course.  I will happily take another look.

 

Moshen

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Moshen
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if you're at HSK5 level, but you aren't having conversations on wechat or in real life etc, then I really think you should stop focusing on studying textbooks/learning resources and switch to simply using the language more. The kind of skills you need to have a fluent wechat conversation are not ones you will pick up between HSK5-6. They are covered in the lower levels but can only be properly grasped through actually applying them again and again in real conversations.

 

That's something for me to think about.  In English, I don't chitchat with anyone, whether in texts or on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else.  So it's not going to feel pleasurable for me to do that in Chinese.  I do enjoy long conversations about interesting topics in real life, so I think that's where I will put my energy, probably to find a tutor who has a lot of life experience and shares some of my interests.

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Jon Long
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For what it's worth, I also want to mention that the other day I was in the largest public library I have easy access to, and while they have two rows of books in foreign languages, there was not a single one in Chinese. 

 

When I created the course, I did some research on the number of books offered at public libraries in some cities in Canada and the US. I found:

 

image.thumb.png.8008ea72db0357f46b9fb41887ce2403.png

 

Just curious, which city do you live in?

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Moshen
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Just curious, which city do you live in?

 

Most Americans do not live in big cities like Boston or New York City.  Ditto for Canadians too, I suspect.

 

I live 100 miles from Boston - far enough that I go there only once every other year.  My nearest largest public library is in a city of 30,000 people, and I go there a lot.  It's possible I missed a special section of Chinese books tucked away somewhere else in the library, but I don't believe so.

 

I just did a search in our regional library system, and a few Chinese books came up, all of them children's books.

 

 

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Jon Long

You're right. According to the 2018 census:

  • 15.2% of Americans live in the 50 cities with a population of over 380,000;
  • 7.91% of Americans live in a city with a population of over 1 million;
  • 2.61% of Americans live in one city—New York City, NY.

 

However, Canada seems much more urbanized than America:

  • 49.7% of Canadians live in the 11 cities with a population of over 380,000;
  • 38.5% of Canadians live in a city with a population of over 1 million;
  • 15.4% of Canadians live in Toronto, ON, and 10.0% live in Montreal, QC, and 6.44% live in Vancouver, BC.

 

In any case, I guess I'll have to mention this stat in my next update, and emphasize more on how to get reading material online rather than from a physical library.

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