This is my expression while I study Chinese.
So far I’m a month into my “Learn Chinese fast” routine. I had given up studying Chinese more than a year ago, however I kept living in China and it seems I got a kind of “subconscious knowledge” that allows me to progress quite fast (keep in mind I’m only devoting one hour per day on Chinese learning).
Here what I’ve been doing during last month (you find my original plan on my previous entry Learn Chinese fast):
Level of commitment
To commit on this blog + buy a Chinese course is working. I’ve a busy scheduling and most of the days I find time to study Chinese only after 10pm, that is when I’m really tired. Also, I’ve been traveling for a whole week this month. Nevertheless, I’ve studied Chinese at least one hour per day.
What I did
- I’ve been studying the lessons of the Chinese course I bought (Rocket Chinese). I’m not totally satisfied with the course but the fault is mine: I chose the beginner course, which resulted too easy for me. I should have gone for the intermediate course. What I like about this course is a function that allows me to record myself while I repeat some specific sentences and then to listen my “performance” superposed to the one of a native speaker. So far this is the only way I found to check my pronunciation (having a 100% visual memory I’m really bad with tones and Chinese pronunciation in general!).
- I’ve been listening Chinese music 50% of the time on my iPod and watched a movie per week where there were either Chinese audio, Chinese subtitles or both. I decided I’m going to stick with Chinese audio and mix between Chinese and English subtitles for Month 2.
- I’ve been talking much more Chinese than before. I don’t think I put conscious effort on that, it’s more the result of the confidence I’ve gained with Chinese by learning a lot of new words I want to “practice”.
- I’ve been studying about 50 new cards of my Anki‘s deck every day so I was able to finish the first deck of the set I’m using (which is composed by 10 decks of about 1400 cards each). The problem is that the revision + the 50 new daily cards are now keeping me busy for the whole daily hour I put to Chinese learning: I’ve starting to be overwhelmed by the cards : – P p.s. If you don’t know what the hell Anki is, you may discovered it on this post: Anki: a shortcut for learning Chinese.
- In order to learn Chinese vocabulary and grammar at the same time, I developed the following routine: when Anki shows me a sentence I don’t understand (for instance 我把钥匙交给了房东) I:
- Check on Nciku (my favorite online Chinese dictionary) the words I never heard before, in this case 钥匙 (yàoshi) = “key” and 交给 (jiāogěi) = “to hand in”.
- If this is enough for me to understand, I memorize the new words and move on to the next sentence.
- If I still do not get it, as in this case, it usually means I’m dealing with a new grammar structure. Since 我 (wǒ) means “I” and 房东 (fángdōng) means “landlord”, I get
I + 把 + key gave to the landlord, that is “把” must be a grammar particle that allows me to construct the sentence “I gave the key to the landlord” in Chinese. However, it is still not clear how it work (to me).
- Thus, I go to Chinese Grammar Wiki and discover that the particle 把 (bǎ) works as it follows: Subject + 把 + Object + Verb Phrase which is exactly the structure I got (notice that fully master the 把 requires much more info, here I’m just reporting the basic stuff we need to understand).
- I move on to next sentence and hope the next time I see a similar sentence I will remember it. Usually it works.
I don’t know if I will be able to understand a talk show within a year if I keep on this scheduling, however I do see a great improvement when it comes to understand random sentences on the street (panels, advertisements, newspapers titles) or have a short conversation (I’m still at the level that even the everyday small talks at the supermarket challenge me, especially when it comes to understand).
I think I’m progressing quite fast because, as I already pointed out, even if I had given up with Chinese study more than a year ago, it seems I got a sort of “subconscious knowledge”. Hence, when I learn a “new” word, it’s usually easy for me to retain it because I already saw that word one thousand times and there will be at least an input (it may be the meaning, the character, the pronunciation or the general context) that will make me remember that word quite easily.
Things to improve
- I need to do more “listening”. I’m definitely too slow on picking up things. Since I have no time to watch more movies, I plan to look for some dialogs I can listen on my iPod.
- I need to talk more in Chinese.
- I suspect that my Anki’s deck is becoming too big too soon and I will soon become “slave” of my deck. Also, I just read Revisiting SRS and Flashcards from Confused Laowai. On the comments to the post, several experienced SRS users agree on the same point (which I already suspected to be true): it is much better to create your own deck. I already found the same concept on AllJapaneseAllTheTime, and after a month of every day SRS I start to see the point. Hence it’s time to (drastically) reduce the new daily words of the decks I downloaded and start to create my own deck!
Do you think I will be able to read a Chinese newspaper, understand a talk show and have a “normal speed” conversation with any Chinese person within the end of February 2013 if I keep this pace?