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Advice About Learning Chinese

English Tutour (123 posts) • 0

Perhaps you have a similar problem with learning to speak Chinese but have conquered it - I still can't make good sentences although I have a large vocabulary. My previous teacher was amazing and taught me the way I learn. He was kind, praised me well (not critical), and didn't believe that rote memorization would be helpful for me. Joining a school/class doesn't work for me. In the past I haven't had enough time in my schedule to study myself but I do now. Do you have some suggestions that might be helpful for me?

vicar (818 posts) • 0

It sounds like you just need to get your head around the grammar which is actually much easier than English. Some struggle with it because of the order of words seem the wrong way round! Once you've cracked it away you go. A lot of practice is needed to get the tones and grammar right. Just do it is my advice, you'll get plenty of help along the way. China's a good place to learn chinese

tigertiger - moderator (5084 posts) • 0

Rote memorization is really important for some subjects, learning language included. It has a bad rap, but is a valid learning skill, often neglected. If you go out and talk to most of the population, anywhere in the world, you won't hear 'good sentences' all of the time.
The real success is being able to communicate with others. Find yourself some local friends who don't speak English. Chat to old people in your neighbourhood. Shop at the local wet market, and ask about the produce when you do so. Not just 'how much?', but what is it called, where is it from, how to cook it (even if you know) etc.

petemarks (18 posts) • 0

I found listening to chinesepod.com an invaluable tool for improving my Chinese. I focused on one or two lessons and just worked on learning and memorizing dialogues for two weeks (reading the dialogue, listening to it over and over again). It helps you to internalize language structure, phrases and pronunciation so it comes out naturally. They have all kinds of topics and you can use your smartphone (if you have one) or dl shows, dialogues and vocab review onto an mp3 player so you can study anywhere. You have to pay for a subscription (either monthly, every three months or yearly)- $30/ month. It's worth giving it a try for a month and see what you think. Hope that helps.

FifiYang (2 posts) • 0

nothing beats learning a language face to face with a tutor ...

people, place, town and the learning experience with Hanbridge Mandarin school was fun and a delight

zhudan (204 posts) • 0

@englishtutor I think I have a similar problem. I have a large vocabulary and can construct useful phrases in certain situations, usually around a transaction of some type, or asking directions or giving simple instructions in a classroom, that type of thing. In other words, phrases built around what I have learned from books, MP3 or app lessons. Memorizing by rote actually. I listen for words I expect to be hearing in response. If I need to buy something from a tool store for example I can teach myself the vocabulary quickly and then do the transaction, but will forget most of the new words later, though retaining the basic phrase parts. I bet you can do this. What you may be saying here is that you cannot carry on spontaneous dialogs or keep conversations going. You may be able, like me, to say phrases that are conversation starters but cannot go no further when the Chinese person begins talking back. Not sure. I am guessing. Chinese people are often the same. They ask you where you are from in English then that is it,they start speaking Chinese.

I think for a lot of people this becomes a place where they get stuck, at a sort of functional survival level, but not at a level that opens doors to social interactions. For me there were several barriers I was never able to overcome. Even though I still self study I doubt I well ever be at a fluent conversational level. I have to accept that now and just improve my survival language skills is all.

For me some issues were: 1) I started learning the language too old. The older the average person gets the harder it becomes to acquire a new language, and Chinese is not an easy language to start off with as your first 2nd language. 2) my listening skills are really poor and this is a common obstacle as well. Chinese people tend to not to like to repeat what they say, speak slowly or use simple words. It is sink or swim in most cases. Add to that the fact the MP3s I listen to ( chinesepod for one) are in Mandarin/Putonghua. And spoken in a slow teacher style. People here in KM speak who knows what, to the point my Chinese wife who speaks Putonghua often does not understand everything she hears so how can I or you. 3) I am too sensitive. This is really important. You have to be tough emotionally to learn Chinese I feel. I hate being laughed at, or over corrected, or told " your Chinese is so bad". I hate people to roll up their eyes or look bewildered when I am speaking some simple phrase like " Qing gei wo cai dan." I keep my cool but often I feel dejected and incompetent or resentful to the listener, and to some degree the listener can be at fault too. But the laughing or harsh criticism is something my type of pesonality will try to avoid, and so I tend to not speak much Chinese though I seem to know more than I think. I taught myself over two hundred characters for example. I can read much of a menu on my own then point rather than try to talk. And lastly 4) and this I think is very important for some people. I am not a super social person. I am not anti-social or a misanthrope but I tend to not be a person dying to talk to people. Add to that I do not know that I would want to talk on an intimate level to all that many Chinese people in a social way. Most of time the questions I am asked in Chinese are like this: where are you from? what is your job in China? How much money do you make? Are you married? Is your wife American or Chinese? Oh, Chinese. Do you have a baby? No baby! Why no baby? Mixed blood is so lovely.

The few near friendships I made with some Chinese guys went south real fast when after one or two meetings they wanted big favors or loans from me and my wife. I almost feel my poor Chinese insulates me from that crap.

Of course I wish I could speak good Chinese. I tried but failed on one level, but on another I taught myself ( I found schools to be rip offs myself, with teachers laughing or rolling up eyes, and doing nothing but tone drills over and over) the Chinese I do know ( believe me, my wife is not my language teacher or translator) and get around ok. I can build on that level, but to get to that high level I hear in other laowai may require of me dedication and effort I simply may not posses.

vicar (818 posts) • 0

I don't know if this is just me, but whenever I've had a good few drinks, I seem to have long fluent conversations on a wide variety of topics, apparently, including the local accent. I find asking for guidance during these conversations whenever I get stuck for a word always helps and I always end up with at least one new phrase or word

English Tutour (123 posts) • 0

Zhudan Everything you said applies to me, my learning style, my not being able to accept criticism except that I am very social and like to talk to people. So I will continue to try harder to speak, and go back to Chinese Pod someone else mentioned. I like it! And to Vicar, that

petemarks (18 posts) • 0

@English tutor @Zhudan Also, finding language exchange opportunities where you can speak in a more free atmosphere may help too. I've used language exchange websites to find people to meet and then I would meet with them once a week. Each time we would meet for two hours (one hour all in english and one hour all in Chinese). Meeting with the same person regularly will help you to expand the topics you talk about and feel more relaxed to engage in conversation. I would suggest preparing something you want to talk about in Chinese each time (like a certain topic, or some questions). hackingchinese.com has a lot of good suggestions for learning Chinese as well.

Alien (3819 posts) • 0

If you're into learning Chinese, whatever formal method you adopt (for me it is classes with homework, and doing the homework - yeah, it's a lot of work, mostly the characters), try to hang out with Chinese people and speak Chinese with them as much as possible. It takes awhile. Spend less time with people who speak your native tongue, or another language that you may know well.
That sounds simple, and it is, but it's necessary and effective.

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