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The first thing to go when forgetting Chinese


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Appreciate the helpful comments. I've been spoiled by having China travel as a stimulus to learning. Eventually, living there full time provided even more impetus. Your comments make sense, @杰克 and @realmayo. I will regroup and find ways to keep up at least core language skills. 

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Having now been back in the UK since late 2018, I've noticed the exact same, it is tones that go first - I said 乖 when I meant 怪 earlier today, a mistake I remember I used to make early on in my Chinese journey, was gutted to hear it crop up for the first time in a long time today! As the others have said, though, speaking comes back quickly with exposure - even after many years.

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I agree that there is a tendency for the tones to get rusty.

 

I'm not sure if this is specific to native speakers of toneless languages or is a more general phenomenon. I have also learned tones and rigorously applied them since I started learning Chinese, but as I have been outside of a Chinese learning environment for several years, I find tonal accuracy has deteriorated, especially for the less frequently used words.

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I last visited mainland China in November 2019, and I'm no longer around Mandarin speakers at all. I haven't felt a deterioration in my language skills yet. I listen to podcasts, Youtubers, audiobooks etc almost daily. My reading has got slower though, the lack of spacing between characters in particular trips me up more than it used to.

 

Since you asked, I believe most musical practice is mental. One thing I learned is that as long as you can imagine yourself playing in your head, you can practice anywhere. In my case the first thing to go for me is kinesthetic / spatial awareness, ie I can't find the keys, which isn't good if you're sight reading, but the aural memory lasts longer.

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Lots of excellent techniques and tools here. I've learned some new approaches, ways to slow down the forgetting process. Thanks to all who have responded. What a great forum this is! 

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On 11/10/2021 at 9:37 AM, abcdefg said:

...my Chinese has been distressingly fast in disappearing. Now after nearly two years, it is ragged and rusty. In another year it will mostly be gone

 

ABC,

 

Like I always tell my students, you have to do three things: practice, practice, and practice! Find one or more fluent (native) Chinese speakers who speak English at a high level. Set up a ‘language exchange’ for once a day, 20 minutes of English only, then 20 minutes of Chinese only. (You will be surprised how much this will help you with your Chinese.)

 

Ideally, you could do this in person. Or you can do it online. Even if you have to park your car outside McDonald’s at 3 AM, use the free McDonald’s wifi, and use Skype over your iPhone to talk to someone in China, it will be worth it.

 

Get some conversations started. I have a list of about 40 topics:

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58423-what-is-fluency-listening-vs-speaking/

 

(My list is in the sixth post from the bottom.) Make sure you pick topics that both you and your partner are interested in. (There is nothing worse than discussing a topic you are not interested in.)

 

Let me know if this works for you. If you need more ideas on how to structure time in a language exchange, please do not hesitate to ask.

 

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Thanks, @NinjaTurtle -- Another excellent suggestion. I know you are right. I will work on implementing this advice. Must confess that I have been lazy about it for a variety of reasons, none of which are compelling. They have just been excuses. This thread has helped me kick myself in the rear and get re-energized. Appreciate all the good help.  

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On 11/13/2021 at 4:18 PM, alantin said:

You’ll need really good excuses not to attend something you’ve paid in advance.

 

Good suggestion! You're right about a cash investment being a stimulus for follow-through. I'll first try a DIY approach combined with scouting around for one or two local live native speakers. 

 

Today I watched a couple of excellent YouTube videos suggested in another thread by @StChris. They are brief (under 15 minutes) and give a "day in the life of" portrait of people with interesting occupations. Watched the one about the Blind Masseuse in Wuhan and the couple that operates a busy Beijing breakfast stall. Excellent material. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Plk7_W-XKFU

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6J88fJoeYw 

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On 11/13/2021 at 8:23 AM, abcdefg said:

Another excellent suggestion.

 

Hey ABC, I forgot to mention one more thing. Set up language exchanges with several different people. I have found that most people only want to do a language exchange once a week (twice a week if you are lucky). This means potentially setting setting up language exchanges with seven different people, a different person for each day of the week. You can do it!

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I have never been in this position, but if I was I think I would do a few things. Like others have said, find some native speakers in the area to socialize and do activities with. I would probably watch tons of chinese movies, tv and videos, even if it was just on in the background while I was 打扫ing the房间. As for the language exchange thing, I personally couldn't be bothered to do the English side of it. If money wasn't an object, I would go on italki and book a 30 min to 1 hour lesson with a different teacher every day of the week. I would just randomly pick $5-6/hr (or less) community tutors. I'd have some questions about a topic ready, or an article/text/podcast/video to discuss. I might use a different topic everyday or use the same one with a few different people and be better and better at the topic each time plus get different people's viewpoints. I'd choose male, female, older, younger, southern, northern, mainland, Taiwan, Malaysia, Chinese students living in the Uk... I think this approach would be great for someone at a stage where they where more focused on maintaining than learning new.

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Like those that posted before, i tend to forget tones more quickly than the phonetics of the word. 
 

I’ve found Chinese speaking toastmasters clubs have helped me tremendously. The Beijing club I used to visit in-person during visits there went online last year, so I joined it. Thru the club, I get great practice and more people want to be language partners than I time. Toastmasters meetings include an ah-counter 哼哈官 and 语法官, so you get feedback on your speaking. In addition, if you give a prepared speech, another member gives you feedback on the talk.

Also, even though I miss much of what is said, I’ve found my comprehension has increased significantly. I suddenly started to realize “I’m understanding them!”  My club is bilingual; we meet every week and alternate languages. I prefer bilingual clubs because the members understand my challenges in learning Chinese and they know I understand theirs. 
 

Clubs welcome guests. If anyone is interested, they can message me. My club meets Sunday morning from 10-12北京时间.  China has over 600 Toastmasters clubs. Toastmasters is an international non-profit focused on helping members with presentation and leadership skills.  Internationally, many also help members learn language (it’s a club’s decision on which language to use)

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On 11/23/2021 at 11:39 AM, Dawei3 said:

I’ve found Chinese speaking toastmasters clubs have helped me tremendously...Toastmasters meetings include an ah-counter 哼哈官 and 语法官, so you get feedback on your speaking.   

 

That is really interesting! I never gave that sort of activity any thought. What a good idea. Congratulations on following through with that, even on-line.

 

My last year in Kunming, I agreed to give a series of talks to medical audiences in a network of secondary and tertiary hospitals in smaller Yunnan cities and towns. I was part of a four-physician team. The others were native Chinese. It was part of an "outreach" educational project; sort of a good-will gesture from a large teaching hospital in the capital (provincial capital) to help their "little brothers." 

 

I was awful. The talks were very difficult. I couldn't relax, and I made a million stupid mistakes. Embarrassed myself over and over. Teammates and audiences were kind. None-the-less I would hesitate before ever agreeing to do something like that again. (And I'm reasonably accustomed to public speaking back home, using English.)

 

It was an eye opener, as well as being a bit of a disappointment. Had thought it would be easier. To keep going, I had to mentally put it in the category of "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." 

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