Monday, February 19

Language Debate

Last week I was reading about Steve Kaufmann, a gentleman who has learned 9 languages over the years. His approach focuses on massive amounts of input in the target language. From what I've read he does not promote pressuring a new learning to use the language until the person has heard enough to produce the language naturally. I suppose this is like taking in so much that at a certain point you just have to let it out.

I haven't read enough to have more details that that. There was quite a post going on over at the CPod blog about him though the day after I started reading about Steve. Wow, what timing! I guess the one thing I've taken away from all of it is the desire to hear more and more Mandarin. I suppose there's some note of progress from listening to all those classes, CPod podcasts, and Mainland Chinese films (Zhang Yimou- the man!). Jenn and I were watching "Infernal Affairs 3". Part of the plot involves a Hong Kong triad leader linking up with a corrupt arms dealer from Mainland China. I was shocked to discover I could tell the difference between the Cantonese dialogue and the little bits of 普通话 (putonghua) dialogue.

Ken Carroll has mentioned total physical response (TPR) in language learning but I am having a hard time finding any material at my beginner level. There have been a couple of CPod podcasts that involve listening to the lesson and following the directions on a map. I'm interested in finding some good children's DVDs. I came across "Muzzy" which sounds promising but terribly expensive. The one justification I could have for that is when we have our own child we will already have something for her to watch. The most intriguing aspect of the videos is, from what I can tell, they are completely in the target language. I also found some children's DVD's at a store in Chinatown in Atlanta, Ga. 6 DVD set for $13.95. Even if they are terrible it may be worth it at that price.

But the reason we went there in the first place was to find some children's books with no English and limited 汉字 (Hanzi). Believe it or not I couldn't find anything that was exactly what I wanted. I might have to make my own.

In the mean time I am listening the Newbie lessons from ChinesePod and digging into the premium content (especially the expansion sentences). I'm also taking some of the pressure off internally, just not worrying so much and enjoying the ride. Having started learning 汉字 has added a new dimension that keeps the experience fresh and exciting.

Tuesday, February 13


I quit the FSI course. I might come back to it later. I did learn quite well about asking where someone is from and what their name is.

I'm back to CPod again. Having used bittorrent to download all the lessons and getting then organized into levels (so I don't have to right click, save as, etc on each lesson) makes it much easier to choose the lessons and put them on this.

After spending more time with the podcasts and especially the Premium features I have finally put my finger on why I don't like the other materials I've come across. There is simply too much there.

I have a short attention span. I need information, of nearly any kind, in small chunks. I go to class for 2 hours a week but I know going in that I will only retain a portion of what I heard. That's why I take as many notes as I can and record the class on this. I can always go back and dig in later without worrying about what I might have missed. With ChinesePod I know I'm getting portions appropriate to my learning ability and level of proficiency. The podcasts are interesting. I actually enjoy them. I cannot say that much about the discs that came with either of our text books. They are not overwhelming. Though we are spending 2-3 weeks on a chapter with 40-50 new words, it seems like too much. If they gave you 10 new words here, then a few pages over another 10-15 words, etc, I would enjoy it more.

I'm almost disgusted with myself, I sound like an advertisement but I swear I'm receiving nothing (other than what any other Premium subscriber gets) from CPod.

I'm going back to early lessons and the premium features are somewhat lacking. I'm looking forward to getting to the lessons which included additional sentences that you can click on for expansion. You can click to your hearts desire. I've noticed I will repeat sentences after the reader, working out the tones and repeating them back. It's helped a lot. I liken it to acting, imitating what someone else is saying.

Ultimately I've found that the material I've worked with and enjoyed from ChinesePod has stuck with me the best. Even the non-language stuff like Jenny talking about dressing her mother in leopard print from this lesson.

Just some observations to note at this point. More on characters another time.

Monday, February 5


So little time lately. Very frustrating. 我 很 忙 with work this last month. I've been so focused on it that my study time has suffered. I feel like I'm falling WAY behind (mentally anyway).
The toughest part will be over this Thursday after I've given my presentation to management. I'll be able to breath a bit easier.

In the mean time, I've gone through the first FSI module on introductions and places. The repetition has helped a lot though the material seems a bit dated. When I asked Kai if they still use 同志 (tong2zhi4) = comrade he said only for officials and official documents. If it ever comes into vogue I'll be ahead of the curve!

I spent about 30 minutes going through lesson 9 last night in our textbook and was having a hard time with it. Maybe I'm spoiled with ChinesePod. Somehow the lessons along with Ken and Jenny's comments bring it alive for me and I retain much better. I've got the discs that come with the text and they help a little. And I mean a little. It's so frustrating wondering if I would be learning more in a different context but there's no way to know. Sorry to be venting!

On a final note I think the community of non native Chinese learners should put together a list of movies that are good for beginners. That there are words and phrases that a beginner is able to understand. "Not One Less" comes to mind. I watched "Riding Alone for 1000's of Miles" for the second time this weekend and loved it. It is interesting from a linguistic point of view because of the inability of the main character who is Japanese to understand all those around him who are speaking 中文。 The dialogue was a bit too fast for me to understand much though. I saw a preview for "Saving Face" and understood a little of the dialogue.


Sunday, February 4

星期六 二月三号


We have officially started Chinese 201. Classes are for 10 weeks, 2 hours a week. Myself and a handful of others have continued through 101-103 and chosen to stick with it. I don't know enough about the stats for the school but it seems that many people lose interest before they get to the point we are at. I've enjoyed getting to know fellow travelers who are on the same quest.

This week we were joined by two gentlemen who are interested in the class. It's interesting to see what new people will add to the experience. Last semester we had a Korean 小姐 who was very bold and was not afraid to speak up in class. It was great! It certainly helped me speak up. She now teaches a Korean class at the same time so she is not able to join us any longer.

We reviewed the first half of Lesson 九 and added a few vocab to the previously assigned list:

东西 dong1xi = things, objects
要 yao4 = to want to, to have a desire for
钱 qian2 = money
多少 duo1shao = how much, how many
百 bai3 = 100

We discussed the differences between 想 xiang3 = (to like, a personal wish, also meaning to miss someone) and 喜欢 xi3huan1 = (to like), and 要 yao4 = (to want) and 需要 xu1yao4 = (want, in the sense of needing something).

I noted that 想 was somewhere between 要 and 喜欢.

Earlier in the week I asked Kai to bring in his brush and ink to write some characters on a thank you cards we are sending to the adoption agency we are working with. Once he was done with the cards he asked if I would like my name written out, which of course I did. As always I was amazed at the beauty of the characters and mesmerized watching him write. Here is a scan of my name: