Finally on the pronunciation track + Combining Goals

In the last post I talked about starting over and some more resources. This is an update since then and I am happy to share with you that I am almost done with the first CD, and the confidence in my pronunciation if not the pronunciation has really grown. I love those moments when my voice corresponds to the tones and I KNOW i’ve hit the target.

It is really important to remember that you should try and maintain your normal tone of voice. Singers or singers in training and vocal coaches will recognise this. You do not have to sound LIKE the chinese person you are listening although for the first 2 days you will have no other choice but imitation. But later on you will start experiencing an unnatural vocal stress, avoid it, consciously use your normal voice just make sure that the tones are right.

Check out http://www.sinosplice.com/  for more help on tones. Also for great iPad app reccomendations.

The second thing is that it can be discouraging to listen to boring content over and over again. Discouraging because its inane and you will feel like there’s no way you can get to more complicated stuff if even this takes a lot of time. Nope. Tonal languages are effing hard for those not born into them so get used to it. So what did I do? I combined it with something else i’m working on right now : losing weight. That one’s a real nightmare. So I just plug in my iPod and keep walking and listening to the Mandarin to focus away from the physical effort and so far its worked. What amazing is how you can finish CD1 (of teach Yourself Mandarin Conversation) in under an hour.

So thats about it for my audio update, I realize I need to play catchup with my Hanzi but I love how its balancing out. The priority this time is to figure out a way to really keep track of my learning and proper goal setting since the last one didn’t work out at all.

Thankfully italki and QQ are really helping out with finding language partners.

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Starting again – Guilt and Gumption, Contests won and moar resources!!

The star of this entire post has to be Fluent Flix. I’m going to not write about it because it is just that awesome. On to the story..

So it has been almost 1.5 months of study break but not quite. I have spent the time looking at other methods of learning, occasionally revising the Hanzi i’ve learnt. Work, illness and general blues and procrastination have kept me off a routine but in the past couple of weeks i’ve started to make it up.

First by listening to a lot of : Teach Yourself Mandarin Chinese Conversation 

I was avoiding these conversations because they sounded cheesy and lame and after learning 2 languages you think you’ve seen it all but repetition works. Make sure you are doing some chores or walking on the treadmill while listening and loudly repeating these phrases, once you’re in the groove, it’s hard to get out.

Second, a huge shout out to Moses McCormick who announced a contest where you had to put up videos in your native language for a chance to get to study with him for a year, 6 months and 3 months respectively. Unfortunately, I didn’t win but Moses gave away 2 levels of an FLR course of your choosing and also 1 hour of conversation with him to all the participants. How generous is that! My one hour was spent mostly talking about how to learn and practice tones, racism, language difficulties, latin languages, why Moses does what he does. I didn’t even realize how the hour passed and he was so nice about the whole thing. Hey, I got the FLR levels 1 and 2 for Mandarin (yay!) and I highly recommend it although its not fitting into my schedule right now.

In more good news, I won a Livemocha contest giving me a gold key access to every language course for a whole year! Best thing ever! That contest has passed but they’ve started a new one, you must go check it out and best of luck! Livemocha is where I started my language learning journey and I found some really good friends there that I found to this day and a lot of opportunity to practice, I highly recommend that website.

Sign up for their facebook/twitter page or feed their blog link into your reader to stay updated. The blog carries a lot of great language learning advice as well usually.

Moses suggested a 3 hours/day learning schedule. 1 hour learning, 1 hour speaking to a native, and I forget what the other hour was for. But I ran into my “how do I find a native to practice with? problem” Moses said he’d help me out, but I went ahead and found some on my own.

Sign up to Italki first. And/Or Lang8. Then get QQ messenger. Bam! More natives (and such nice people!) to talk to than you can handle. Funnily enough, after getting serious enthusiastic commitments from some for daily practice I immediately proceeded to lose my voice which was a real bummer, but hey there are a lot of them. The best thing is that QQ is full of bored teenagers always online and ready to practice their english and explore new cultures.

In other news , I really love the way online learning trends are going especially for adults (like me). I’ve been wanting to catch up on my formal education for a while now and I highly recommend :

Udacity
Coursera

Aw heck, just go to Class Central. Enjoy!

Also, try Ribbonfarm for some serious miscellaneous reading.

PS : I just integrated Evernote and Dropbox and this blog is going to get better now as I’m planning to invest in some technology so I can stay connected to my resources and write anywhere.

15 day break update

So as detailed in one of the previous posts, I had to take a break from studying from RTH and revise what I had learnt. This turned out to be a difficult thing to do because once you take a break, it is hard to be productive,especially once you have settled into a routine. Many times I thought about whether I was doing the right thing, and maybe it would have been better to maintain that perfect pace of 15 Hanzi per day. I kept on doing anki for a few days but even that petered out in a few days and the studies came to a grinding halt apart from the occasional exposure to the audio. That added to more pressure at the job and international travel made things more hectic.

But the truth is, the change of atmosphere has done me good, now I can relax and start again stress free. Reading what is written at the start of Lesson 11 makes you realize that it was the right thing to do. You are not in a race. This is something you do because you enjoy it. And this is very important to me as this is one of the few things in my life that I will do to my satisfaction, from start to finish, in a thoughtful and consistent manner.

Remember, Chinese is your friend.

So, having found a nice place to study and a few more days in hand of my mini vacation, tomorrow I begin revising the 222 Hanzi and with 4 more days in hand, let’s see how it goes!

Checking your tones, Chinese audio resources and other laments

So my audio and reading skills haven’t really taken off yet. Chalking it up to bad time and energy management. But this is my first experiment trying to learn at my not-so-trying job at the office. It only gets trying because I get bored and people walking around my desk all the time is a distraction. 

Anyway so here’s some more learning resources :

http://www.mandarinclickbyclick.com/    – Really good website, well presented. 

http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php  – THE Chinese – English dictionary to have

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/chinese-content-bonanza – Great guest post on Ajatt from someone who has been learning Chinese for 8 years now. Full of audio links

And finally, test yer tones, test yer tones right herrrrree : http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/games/

I scored a 60% which is pretty dismal but OK I guess considering I have no practice. I can’t find the BBC free podcasts in Chinese yet though, they’re supposed to be really good. 

 

Happy Learning!

222 Hanzi, Lesson 10 and Heisig’s message about forgetting..part 2, and a little more

So, here’s what Heisig basically says at the start of Lesson 11 :

Typical problems students are facing till now :
1) Remembering the key word when you see charachter, but not the other way around

2) Needing to go back to a charachter once you have written it to make corrections and additions

For these 2, Heisig then goes on to a beautiful 6 point explanation about how to really approach studying each character and making sure that they are truly registered. And then doing it for all 222. The point is, when the missing is to learn at least 3000, you better lay a good foundation and I believe the man.

3) Forgetting the relative position of elements in the character

4) Confusing one character for another

Great explanations are given for these problems. The summary of the solution seems to be focussing on the story and your imagination. And I have honestly faced all of them. Which is why i’m stopping and going back.

Heisig also says ” The most important thing in this review is not really to see whether you are remembering the characters, but to learn how to locate problems and deal with them

Also,

” The more you pay attention to how you imagine things, the more likely you are to find out what works best for you – and more importantly -why”

An interesting piece of advice is also about distrusting your ability to remember characters just as they are without doing any work on them. That has started happening to me and I thought it was a good thing, but I think i’m beginning to see his point. In a later post maybe I can elaborate it better.

This is also going to give me time (hopefully) to make this blog look prettier. I’m looking for ideas on “presentability”, accessibility and the clarity of my writing. Though that wasn’t the purpose of this blog when it started, I believe in doing things well. But then again, maybe this task will take more time than learning new Hanzi where I was gaining in speed. I was feeling confident enough to tackle 20 Hanzi/day starting next week and increasing my rep session total time.

On a separate note, I firmly distrust multi-tasking. Listening to music while doing math never worked out for me. But funnily enough, Nightbrook by Ludovico Einauldi is really really making learning comfortable, giving a background to the story somehow. I wonder why.

Anyway, he’s one of my favorite composers. Enjoy!

222 Hanzi, Lesson 10 and Heisig’s message about forgetting..part 1

Hanzig is what I almost wrote in the title there. So i’ve reached the end of Lesson 10 and by my 15 Hanzi per day rule I should be at 225. But, i’m at 222 (end of lesson 10) I stopped because  :

1) I’ve been looking for some time to go through the stories again. Because even though I’ve been doing at least 10 mins worth of SRS reps everyday, I find myself forgetting the stories and relying on visual memory. Heisig says thats a crutch I should avoid and its true, it does tax you more. It is a matter of practicality, effort expended per Hanzi is less with stories than trying to construct an image in your head. I am not gifted that way, if you are, great!

2) I’ve also been looking for a chance to practice my stroke order. You might think stroke order is not important, but, combined with the stories and if you do it right, it just FITS better. I can’t explain it, but its just better to write using the correct stroke order. And I’ll admit it, sometimes I just enjoy it. The feeling of those characters flowing out of my fingers, feels great. I’m sure i’ll get bored of it sometime but in the meanwhile, I’m enjoying it. That’s majorly the reason why I write each Hanzi 5 times when i’m studying it first. Once IS truly enough if you focus right. I was afraid it wasn’t but in the past week, I was really surprised. Point : Focus on the story.

I’ve also changed up my studying technique by just reading the stories of 15 characters, sometimes upto a couple of hours before I practice with pen and paper to get a feel of things. Takes 20 mins and really helps. Splits my study session into two connected parts. Less effort, better retention.

3) I began Lesson 11 and there’s a note about stopping and reviewing the earlier charachters for many reasons(more later). I think they are logical and so have decided to take a break from learning new Hanzi just to fine tune my methods and be confident about the 222 characters. Also,this allows me to end at Lesson 10, which bodes well for my Anki deck order. Because its annoying when because you’re doing 15, you stop in the middle of the lesson but the deck allows you to choose the whole lesson so you end up seeing new Hanzi. i’m sure you can manipulate that, but i’m slowly learning using Anki better.

4) Also, currently my Anki cards have meaning and pinyin on one side (thats a bonus, because even if 1 out of 15 Hanzi pinyins stick, thats 14 pinyin learnt without effort! just exposure). On the other side there’s the charachter but also the simplified version, the meaning again, sometimes a random story and different references. Although that’s really great, I need to change them to have only the charachter only on the other side so I can test myself going from charachter to meaning and also add a story/keyword of my own. I also need to add keywords to the deck.

Anki SRS Day 1 – God bless the internet!

See the attached photo for my stats for the day. I revised each charachter at least twice. I have trouble with some words like true and eminent, have to go back and revise the stories properly. The problem is in realising where the “head” keyword goes, and where the eye has “animal legs” and where it doesn’t. That confusion must be avoided.

The numbers for day 1 are pretty encouraging. I saw 439 cards (numbers are duplicated for the same card) in a total of  57.01 minutes. Thats 7.7 minutes per card. My sessions are limited to 10 minutes each, which seems to be optimum. Maybe in another post we’ll have a look at some per session statistics.

The final goal for 3000-4000 charachters would be 5 seconds per card, and maybe in 10 hours or so I can go through the so called “4000 charachters for modern average chinese literacy”. But that’s a lot of hand waving. By the time I reached that stage I will be looking at combinations of symbols , skip a lot of the simple ones (1-10, ordinary, rice field etc.) and probably will be focussing on where each symbol goes.

Audio update : I’ve sorted out the various audio I have into playlists. Till now, my favorites are  disc 3 of Teach Yourself Chinese Conversation and the dialogue audio from ChinesePod (freely available), newbie and beginner files. The PDF’s are pretty helpful too especially for reading simple sentences and sentence construction. I like how they have included some sentences that are slightly more complicated too, like “Do you know that guy?” and “How am I supposed to address that guy?” and “How do I address you?”