Mack's log: Mandarin, damn the torpedoes!

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Mack's log: Mandarin, damn the torpedoes!

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Thu Oct 15, 2020 7:55 pm

你好!

Welcome to my journal! This is admittedly going to be an insular endeavor. I do not often contribute to forums, so if I do not reply promptly please do not take offense. That said, I will of course welcome any followers or posters who would like to join me!

Important Posts
Introduction
[15 Oct 2020] Study plan - HC maincourse
[15 Nov 2020] One month
[30 Nov 2020] Study plan update - TCB and HC immersions
[14 Dec 2020] Two month
[14 Jan 2021] Three month
[21 Jan 2021] Study plan update - learning characters
[12 Feb 2021] Four month
[14 Mar 2021] Five month
[25 Mar 2021] Study plan update - spoonfed anki and immersion
[13 Apr 2021] Six month
[4 May 2021] Study plan update - graded readers

Many of what I consider my most important posts are scattered throughout the blog. These are introspective in nature, observations of a L2 language learner and breakthroughs tackling the Chinese language. My early posts are somewhat frequent and naive. Some time after the second month I develop a posting rythym and my outlook matures.
Last edited by Dr Mack Rettosy on Tue May 04, 2021 8:04 pm, edited 19 times in total.
7 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:42 pm

Background

I suppose a brief introduction is in order. I need to first say, this will be my first serious attempt at a second language. I am self-conscious of my monolingualism, and to be honest, it is intimidating to be in the presence of so many impressive multilinguists. Surely it will only help being in your presence!

I took four years of German language in high school. Thinking back, I was mostly interested in German culture and history and less the language. I did OK, but suffered from poor study skills and lack of maturity. While the language never captivated me, I was always able to muster enthusiasm for tasting traditional German foods.. This was my only formal experience learning a language, but its been so long I do not remember much about the experience. I have retained some German listening and reading ability, enough to give me a head start if I ever revisit the language.. perhaps some day?

In college I got serious about my studies and excelled in the natural sciences. I then went to graduate school and joined a laboratory of predominately Chinese internationals. The laboratory director (who was also Chinese) discouraged people from speaking Chinese as a way to improve their own English. But I was still exposed to a lot of the language and culture and this planted a seed.

I am by no means a world traveler, but I have done some international travel that required me to communicate outside my native English comfort zone. One trip in particular stands out. I was finishing a work conference in Northern Spain near the Pyreness. I spent the week timidly speaking Spanish here and there. On the last night of the conference, I met some Spanish scientists and we traveled the town eating tapas and getting drunk on Rioja wine. The next morning, I missed my train to Madrid had to plane-train-automobile my way back to the airport. By the time I found my airplane seat to the USA I was out of my shell and had no problem speaking my broken Spanish!

So why do I want to learn Chinese? Why do I want to learn a language at all?

Here are my current two strongest motivators:
• Love of learning, and even more so meta-learning. I want to know what it is like to think, read, write, and converse in another language. I think experiencing these milestones will be key to keeping motivation high. I also hope to eventually get to an advanced stage where I can continue learning the language with native materials, particularly history and literature. Two birds, one stone! 一箭双雕!
• Learning Chinese will help me in my career. Much of my current colleagues speak Chinese and I want to develop authentic relationships with them. Also, having a second language, particularly Mandarin, will keep employment opportunities open.
Last edited by Dr Mack Rettosy on Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
16 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Xenops
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Xenops » Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:20 pm

Welcome to the forum! I think it’s fair to say—most of us started monolingual. ;) You are learning a challenging language, and you will feel frustrated, but keep going! :)

We also have Mandarin speakers/learners if you need help. ;)
3 x
Check out my comic at: https://atannan.com/

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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby eido » Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:00 am

What resources do you plan on using / are you using?

Welcome to the forum! Your contributions to our little corner of the Internet will be much appreciated, I'm sure :) Don't worry about not navigating technology like a teen: slick, often, and smooth... You are you.

I'm in my 20s, a "digital native" as they call it, and can't operate most apps on my first shot. That's why Google is our friend. All hail DARPA!
3 x

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Fri Oct 16, 2020 5:55 pm

Xenops wrote:Welcome to the forum! I think it’s fair to say—most of us started monolingual. ;) You are learning a challenging language, and you will feel frustrated, but keep going! :)

We also have Mandarin speakers/learners if you need help. ;)


Thank you for your greetings! Yes, I have just learned that Mandarin, along with Arabic and Japanese, rank as highly challenging L2's for English speakers. My first reaction is a rush of extra motivation, but realistically I know there will be tough times ahead. I'm hoping to plan a diverse set of learning strategies that I can fall back to when progress slows.

I searched language log titles with query terms "Mandarin" and "Chinese". Although there are many abandoned logs (hopefully not a bad omen for my own), I have found some excellent active logs, including u/an onyme, u/alaart, and u/rdearman's old log. Any others that you reccomend?

eido wrote:What resources do you plan on using / are you using?

Welcome to the forum! Your contributions to our little corner of the Internet will be much appreciated, I'm sure :) Don't worry about not navigating technology like a teen: slick, often, and smooth... You are you.

I'm in my 20s, a "digital native" as they call it, and can't operate most apps on my first shot. That's why Google is our friend. All hail DARPA!


I'm surveying the field of language learning resources and writing up a plan! This process has been loads of fun, so I'm taking time before committing to a concrete plan. But currently writing up a tentative plan and will dedicate a separate post to explain.

Thanks for the warm welcome! In regards to technology, my iPhone homescreen fits every app with space to spare, lol! But I can hold my own when it comes to technology so hope that won't be a limitation.
2 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Study plan 15 Oct 2020

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Fri Oct 16, 2020 7:03 pm

Wǒ xǐhuan hē píjiǔ 8-)
=====
It warms my heart that the 41st Mandarin word I learned was for beer, píjiǔ! Hēpíjiǔ translates porter; brown ale; stout, all types I am quite fond of, but can assure you are all quite different from one another. Do further nuances exist? Also, jiǔ translates to liquor, which also has words ahead for variation (e.g. bēijiǔ, cup of wine).

An addendum to yesterday's Pinyin section: hé used as 'and' can only be used to separate lists of nouns or pronouns, not extend the sentence like in English. Also, encountered my first tonal distinction: he2 as 'and'; he1 as 'drink'. Picking up on patterns!
=====
Learning Plan (as of October 16, 2020)
These approaches are listed in sequential order.
Bold = current practice
  • Start with the HelloChinese app [pinyin]. One week of experience, and so far, I’m finding it engaging and intuitive. Time devoted 1.5-2 hrs/day. The premium+ subscription is not cheap, but I wanted access to the immersion lessons. Hoping to finish with the app in 3-4 months’ time.
  • Meta-learning (both language and Mandarin specific). Reading Iverson's guide to language learning and relevant wikis. Also found some good Mandarin specific blogs like Sinosplice and chinesethehardway. I am currently spending ~2 hrs/day meta-learning due to being excited about the language learning process. I expect this to be steady for awhile while transition to Mandarin-specific meta, then slowly taper but maintain as I get into direct language work.
  • Writing a journal [pinyin], with this forum of course! Aiming to write something, anything at least once a day.
  • Start speaking with coworkers. We are on friendly terms, but I don’t want to tell them I’m studying Chinese until I have a few months of serious study completed. Some dreams are delicate when new and must grow them stronger in secret before we let others know.
  • Reading [pinyin]. Preferably classical texts, history, literature, and children rhymes. Current plan is to start with either A New China by Chih-p'ing Chou and Twenty Lectures on Chinese History by Parker Po-Fei Huang. Not too keen on reading text written specifically for learning (e.g. "We went to see the movie. I want to buy popcorn please." Yawn.) If I do go the textbook route, I will likely use the Integrated series. Open to suggestions here.
  • HSK test for fun.
  • Written conversations [pinyin]. Start to converse online, either in forums or chat groups.
  • Start listening to media. Podcasts, movies, TV shows, music, etc. A fun goal would be to watch the new Mulan live action in Chinese (and maybe the old animated Mulan in case this is a let down).
  • Begin language exchange or paid tutor. Bi-weekly?
  • Re-run HelloChinese with characters [hànzì]
  • Character drills [hànzì]. Will experiment with different forms of media (flash cards, Anki, etc)
  • Reading [hànzì]
  • Writing [hànzì]
  • Language Immersion of 3-12 months? It is quite feasible to spend a prolonged period in Mainland China for work. This is a fun possibility filling my day dreams.
Last edited by Dr Mack Rettosy on Mon Nov 30, 2020 4:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
6 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby tangleweeds » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:01 pm

Welcome! Here's some positive feedback and encouragement on things that have been useful in my East Asial Language (Japanese) studies.
Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:Hēpíjiǔ translates porter; brown ale; stout, all types I am quite fond of, but can assure you are all quite different from one another.
Agreed! I'm a porter fan myself, brown ale is a tad boring, and stout too thick and sweet!
Start with the HelloChinese app [pinyin]. One week of experience, and so far, I’m finding it engaging and intuitive. Time devoted 1.5-2 hrs/day. <snipo> Re-run HelloChinese with characters [hànzì]
That app looks pretty slick--I've often wished they made one for Japanse too. Apps are an excellent way to get started on languages, though, no matter what they advertise, they won't make you fluent. Another highly recommended app for East Asian languages is Lingodeer (my fave, as it isn't overly gamified and thus doesn't talk down to me).
Meta-learning (both language and Mandarin specific). Reading Iverson's guide to language learning and relevant wikis.
Another meta-learning strategy you might want to look at are intensive/extensive out-of-country immersion approaches like AJATT/MAI (Japanese focused, but they translate well to Chinese). Even if you don't implement them (gotta say I don't buy into them myself), they have interesting ideas to borrow.
Writing a journal [pinyin], with this forum of course! Aiming to write something, anything at least once a day.
Very brave, go for it!!
Reading
Don't overlook the potential of apps (LWT), tools (Kindle dictionaries, DeepL Plugin) and websites (LingQ, ReadLang) that enable single-click translation to get you started reading real grown-up texts early on.
Start listening to media. Podcasts, movies, TV shows, music, etc. A fun goal would be to watch the new Mulan live action in Chinese (and maybe the old animated Mulan in case this is a let down).
This is a great one to start early and often, even if you need subtitles the first time round. I tend to watch with subtitles first so I'm not distracted by story questions when I watch it a few more times, more slowly, to catch what I can understand.
Flash Cards
Memrise offers quite a few high quality pre-made decks, plus they develop basic courses, for something to use before you get around to figuring out how to work Anki.

eido wrote:I'm in my 20s, a "digital native" as they call it, and can't operate most apps on my first shot. That's why Google is our friend. All hail DARPA!
I'm of the "we built the web" generation, yet I too mostly fail to operate most apps effectively first time round (and please, developer, don't tell me it's so intuitive I don't need a manual, or make me watch your tedious video explaining how it works!!).

But I confess that both my phone and iPad have page after page of apps, though I mostly only use the first 3 pages or so. I myself really learn well from apps (once I figure out how they work!).
4 x
Ho-hum, waiting for the latest neurological relapse to pass.
Study tips for (mental) invalids welcome!

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Mon Oct 19, 2020 4:41 pm

jīntiān shì xīngqīyī, wǒ jìxù xué hànyǔ.

Today is Monday, and I continue learning Chinese.

=====

Indeed, it must be a good sign that my motivation remains high after one week. Maybe, just maybe, this isn't a fad.

I updated my signature to include my short and long-term goals:
  • Two short-term goals: 1) complete the HelloChinese app main course in Pinyin. 2) Reach 150 total passive words which is the HSK1 testing standard. These are all the words I've been exposed to, but not necessarily committed to memory. Exposure is very easy to track with the HelloChinese app, memory not so easy. At 150 words exposed, I'll increase this goal to 300 total words (HSK2), 600 words (HSK3), etc.
  • Three long-term goals are: 1) Study 5,000 hours, a figure that should get me around HSK6, +/- a few hundred hours. "Mastering" Mandarin, as the journal title states, will likely take even longer. This is a sobering figure. At the 2hr/day I currently study, this goal will be reached in just under seven years :shock: but, will keep my eye on the short term goals. One step at a time. The other two long term goal are somewhat arbitrary and will only begin after many other short term goals are completed, 2) read 10 books and 3) have 25 conversations in language exchange.

By the way, shout to the admin: the progress bars are a neat feature!

Will be picking up several Chinese texts from the library this evening. I'm excited to see and hold hànzì on paper, even though it will be a few months before I crack into them.
4 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Mon Oct 19, 2020 5:21 pm

tangleweeds wrote:Welcome!


Hi there, thank you for all your feedback! Many of the resources you've shared are new to me. I'll add them to my list!
1 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Dr. Mack Rettosy's Journal: Mastering Mandarin

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:03 pm

Hànyǔ fēicháng piàoliang.

汉语 非常 漂亮.

Chinese is very beautiful.

=====

Alright, I'm observing some subtle improvements in both my listening comprehension and speaking of tones. Phonemes and tones are becoming somewhat clearer, and my attention is shifting to overall cadence and how words are "grouped" together to form sentences (please, anyone with the proper linguistics background, feel free to chime in).

For example: tā de jiā yǒu sān kǒu rén (there are three people in her family). This is a 7 syllable sentence, and if spoken in one breath leaves you choking without air. But it is spoken in a way that breaks the sentence in two: tā-de-jiā (3 syllables; her family) *short pause* yǒu-sān-kǒu-rén (4 syllable; has three persons). If I'm thinking about this right, the natural breaks in speaking are somewhat modular and are a useful cue for remembering other phrases, for example tā-méiyǒu ... tā-bù-shì ... (she does not have, she is not) etc. In addition to being helpful for learning, I find this aspect of cadence control to be aesthetically pleasing. There's a sense of balance to the syllables in each sentence, and in fact, there are some grammatical rules that ensure this balance by omitting or including certain adverbs (the detailed examples are fuzzy at the moment, but the general rule has stuck with me).
5 x
Mandarin goals:
Rainbow Bridge Graded Readers: 5 / 20 / 20 starter books
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 565 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 615 / 5000 / 5000 hours


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