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Learning to speak Mandarin Chinese log...


Murray58
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I'm currently at a beginner level, i can speak maybe 200 words, and now i'm going to aim to be more conversational which means I'll need a lot more words and all non-basic grammar. I started learning a while ago while working in cosmetics (8 years ago?) i met many native Chinese people who did not speak any English so i was able to learn quite a bit so i could sell cosmetics and help customers but only worked on any Chinese maybe a couple months here and there since then.

My boyfriend lives in Chinatown and speaks some Chinese so i'm going to practice around the area, which is always fun b/c people are in shock even if you just ask for coffee in Chinese, the response is always very encouraging and motivating.

I even took a 2 week course in China for a few hours a day last year (China was awesome) but almost all that knowledge is gone, i need to be more consistent. I've set my goal at 10 words a week, i know it's less than what others can do, but i'll be lucky if i do 5 a week if i'm gonna be honest with myself. lol. But even if i do 5 words, i'm also going to work on sentences with them and by the end of the year i hope to be a lot better than just saying "i like coffee" "i like to go to the movies". Goodness help me. But i know i can do it, i like learning how to speak Mandarin a lot.

Will be using a mix of paid and free resources:

  • Quizlet Plus as my SRS app (paid $12) Using SmartCards+ for my SRS app.
  • Youtube videos have always helped me so i'm going to continue that (free) Eh, over it
  • Integrated Chinese Part 1, level 2 textbook for my vocab because there is a free class using this book that starts in the fall, so i'm going to be ready. ($25)
  • Making up my own sentences and talking to people in shops (free)
  • iTalki for 30 minute talking and question sessions. ($40/month)
  • Mandarin Class starting Sept/October (Free)


Today:
Added my first 25 new words to Quizlet
Signed up for a meetup group of people learning Mandarin. Plan on going 1-2x a month. Not a lot but i don't know enough to have a conversation so a conversation meetup can get tricky.

That's all for now.

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What exactly are your goals for Chinese?  

 

I highly recommend using Anki, or some other form of spaced repetition software (SRS), as it will make the process of learning vocabulary much smoother for you.

 

The reason why I asked about your goals in Chinese is because, if you want to consume any form of media in Chinese, you are going to need a vocabulary in the tens of thousands -- I have a vocabulary of nearly 13,000 words and still cannot read children's chapter books (e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia) without relying extensively on a dictionary. If you continue learning at a rate of only 10 words per week, that's 520 words per year, meaning it will take you 25 years just to reach the level I am at. I don't say this to discourage you, but to help you set realistic expectations that you can use to plan your studies accordingly.

 

If you really feel worried about your ability to memorize vocabulary, I would start with an acquisition rate of 5 words per day. If you maintain constant studies at that rate, you could attain my vocabulary in a bit more than 7 years, which is much more achievable. You need to worry about how long it will take you to reach your goal for obvious reasons, but also less obvious ones -- the most important one, in my opinion, which might not be immediately apparent to you is that you are likely to get discouraged and stop if years have passed and feel like you have made almost no progress.

 

You should know, as well, that the ability to memorize large amounts of information quickly and efficiently is a skill. It is a skill which can be exercised and which gets stronger over time the more you use it. If you start with e.g. 5 words per day, it might feel difficult at first, but will eventually feel as easy as breathing if you keep up with it. Again, SRS is your friend here -- (a) because it helps you keep track of the words you are learning, when you might otherwise forget to review certain vocabulary, and (b) because it is designed to maximize memorizing efficiency, and it really, really shows. Eventually, as your ability to memorize things gets stronger and stronger, and with SRS at your side, you might be able to achieve something similar to me -- I learn 30 new words every day. But you get there in little steps. Start at 5 words per day with SRS and then see how you feel about that in a few weeks.

 

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On 9/9/2021 at 7:23 PM, 黄有光 said:

if you want to consume any form of media in Chinese, you are going to need a vocabulary in the tens of thousands

 

Well, not any form. There are plenty of graded readers, and then there's The Chairman's Bao that grades/converts native content according to your level.

 

For vocab/flashcards I would strongly recommend finding something that uses audio recordings of native speakers (and not just text-to-speech).  I've used StickyStudy so far but I'm sure there are Anki decks that have native speaker audio too. One of the reasons for this is that you need to internalise the tones when learning pronunciations. 

I don't know about Quizlet, but when I used it with a student (for teaching English) I found it a bit too over-simplified... depends on the deck I suppose.

 

Welcome to the forums @Murray58 — you're embarking on a long journey but it needn't seem too daunting; there are plenty of people and learning resources who can help you.

 

 

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That is a wonderful attitude to have and I am glad this can be a safe space for beginners. I've ventured on r/LearnJapanese and the people there can be quite judgemental and cliquey.

 

I do think it is important to help beginners have realistic expectations, however. @murray58 This is why I asked you what your goals are -- you certainly don't need to know 10.000+ words for Chinese to be useful to you, or to feel enriched by having learned it. And you can certainly converse with people in Chinese with much less than 10.000 words. It's just media (books, movies, cartoons, music) that you will need such a large vocabulary for, because the language that is used in environments directed at native speakers is unconstrained.

 

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OK that's good,  I don't know about  r/LearnJapanese but Reddit for Chinese has a pretty bad reputation from what I've heard, and from what I've seen in the the few times I've ventured there. 

 

[ @roddy's signature has a 1-line manifesto in it: This is the most comfortable forum you have ever run into. You will feel like writing in it all the time. I certainly agree with this from my limited involvement. ]

Yes, it's important to have realistic expectations and I'm sure that's why you asked the OP what their expectations are.  This is exactly what a teacher would ask in the first lesson as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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r/Chinese is pretty okay in my experience, but I only rarely post because it is constantly flooded with low-quality "I'm a total beginner" posts. Which is fine here, because this is a forum and everything is neatly categorized, but on Reddit it just kind of drowns out everything else. 

 

But also, intermediate and advanced learners seem to just not post there very often. It's a shame. Anyway, that's why I come here 😋

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Counting words is one way to measure progress but I think it is often overemphasized. The OP’s list of resources looked good for a beginning and given that the goal is to reach some sort of fluency (in speaking I take it), having sessions with tutors and seeking out people to talk to is what’s essential.also consider reading as much as possible as that’s what really teaches you vocabulary. Not just definitions but how to use the words as well. 

 

Just find what you like to do and keep doing it every day, and you’ll get there! Consistency and perseverance are the road to success and for that manageable goals are most important. If you try to do too much of something like flashcards, you’ll just burn out and give up.

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Also a tip with tutors! Make them only talk Chinese to you even if you need to speak english to them! If you don’t understand them, ask them to paraphrase in Chinese or show you pictures until you understand and only use English as a last resort. It can be awkward in the beginning but that’s real interaction in Chinese and that gives your brain a signal that this is something it has to learn.

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On 9/9/2021 at 4:10 PM, alantin said:

Also a tip with tutors! Make them only talk Chinese to you even if you need to speak english to them! If you don’t understand them, ask them to paraphrase in Chinese or show you pictures until you understand and only use English as a last resort. It can be awkward in the beginning but that’s real interaction in Chinese and that gives your brain a signal that this is something it has to learn.

I agree with this. A lot of Chinese teachers like to use English in beginner elementary classes sometimes even up to low intermediate but when I learned English my teachers did not speak my mother tongue so they had to speak English to me and I think it really helped. 

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On 9/9/2021 at 5:03 PM, alantin said:

Consistency and perseverance are the road to success

I absolutely agree with this. Consistency is much more important than factors like "motivation". Not that motivation isn't important -- it certainly is. But it isn't motivation that made me get off the couch and make 60 flashcards just now. It was force of habit, and the knowledge of what would happen if I broke that habit.

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Hi there Murray,

 

I think you have an awesome plan and I am very impressed with the amount of speaking you will be doing! 

 

One resource that helped me A LOT when I was at your level and even a bit below was graded readers. There's a huge thread here about them, https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44336-graded-readers-by-the-numbers-characterswords-page-count/page/4/?tab=comments#comment-438883 but so you don't get overwhelmed I highly recommend the mandarin companion graded readers https://mandarincompanion.com/, with the breakthrough levels only having 150 unique characters! A whole book only with 150 characters is awesome, and the stories are engaging. Reading three of these at the 150 character level was a huge boost to my chinese early on. 

 

I have never read https://squidforbrains.com/collections/compelling-chinese-readers-beginners-can-read these books, but I have heard good things about them. They are also very beginner friendly! 

 

Good luck on your language learning journey.

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