Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

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mairzydoats
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Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby mairzydoats » Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:00 am

I have ZERO history with Mandarin. I'm starting from absolute beginner here. I've been trying to pull together a study plan, but pulling together a study plan in just another method of procrastination. So is collecting all kinds of study materials. It's time to get serious. I will be touching down in Beijing in 40 weeks and 5 days. I set a start date for myself at exactly the 40 week mark.

However, something has come up.....doesn't it always? I will be leaving on Friday, two days from now, driving 8ish hours, taking care of my grandmother, which isn't involved at all. She has a nurse, so I'm just there to...I don't know what, but I'm not imagining it will be much. Then on Sunday mid morning I'll be driving back home so another 8ish more hours in the car. That's a lot of time in the car, and a lot of time doing nothing. So...with so much time, what would you do, how would you start?

I'm starting from zero here (except for a few videos on YouTube) and have a short amount of time to pull it together. I'd given myself the deadline of coming up with a plan so I could start on day 1 of 40 weeks to go. But now with travel and grandma sitting, I don't want those 16 hours of car time - plus all that other sitting around time to go to waste.

I'm currently at work, 1/4 of the way through a 16 hour shift. So I have PLENTY of time to pull this together. I wanted to throw this question out into the either and let it roll around for a bit. I'll be back to list my current collection of materials as soon as I finish some work tasks.

TIA!
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby mairzydoats » Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:42 am

Here's my collection...

FSI Mandarin
Pimsleur I-IV
Teach Yourself Mandarin
Get Started in Mandarin Chinese (the updated Tech Yourself Course)
Boya Chinese
Heisig: Remembering Traditional Hanzi 1 &2 & Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1 & 2
Assimil Chinese with Ease
Start Mandarin Chinese (I believe this is the Michel Thomas Method for Mandarin)
Mastering Chinese: The complete course for beginners

Other stuff I'd like to further investigate:
Yoyo Chinese (YouTube)
Hello Chinese (App)
Learn in your Car (Spotify)
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby leosmith » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:03 am

mairzydoats wrote:I will be leaving on Friday, two days from now, driving 8ish hours, taking care of my grandmother, which isn't involved at all. She has a nurse, so I'm just there to...I don't know what, but I'm not imagining it will be much. Then on Sunday mid morning I'll be driving back home so another 8ish more hours in the car.

Sorry to hear about your grandmother - hope she gets well soon.

Imo, in the very beginning you should learn pinyin/pronunciation and start listening. The car is perfect for listening, so try to start learning pinyin before you leave, by working with a pinyin table that has audio. I recommend learning pinyin before doing audio programs that have you produce speech, but if you can't fit that in then you're stuck. Just make sure that learning pinyin is your highest priority when you're not in the car in that case.

In the car I recommend Pimsleur, Michel Thomas and beginner podcasts like Chinesepod. 16 hours is a lot of time, so it's a good idea to have some variety.

Out of the car, other than pinyin/pronunciation, you can start doing listening activities like watching TV shows that you know very but in Chinese. Listening to more podcasts is another option.
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby mairzydoats » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:47 am

leosmith wrote:
mairzydoats wrote:Imo, in the very beginning you should learn pinyin/pronunciation and start listening. The car is perfect for listening, so try to start learning pinyin before you leave, by working with a pinyin table that has audio. I recommend learning pinyin before doing audio programs that have you produce speech, but if you can't fit that in then you're stuck. Just make sure that learning pinyin is your highest priority when you're not in the car in that case.

In the car I recommend Pimsleur, Michel Thomas and beginner podcasts like Chinesepod. 16 hours is a lot of time, so it's a good idea to have some variety.

Out of the car, other than pinyin/pronunciation, you can start doing listening activities like watching TV shows that you know very but in Chinese. Listening to more podcasts is another option.


Thank you for your words about my grandmother, unfortunately, at this time in her life it is simply palliative care. She is 94 and lost her memory quite a few years ago. The grandmother I had growing up is gone, her body remains and until it's time, we will take care of the shell she inhabited. My sister in law provides her with 24 hour care, and nurses come 3x a day, but my poor sister in law needs a break. Grammy just needs someone to sit by, feed her, make sure shes comfortable and let the nurses in to provide the heavy duty care. My sister in law has a great group of friends, and they surprised her with a girls weekend...but it wasn't until a few days ago one of them thought....oh hey, the whole reason we're doing this is to give her a break from the 24 hour care giving, but if she's not going to do it, who is?? So I got the call. It means a lot to me all my sister in law does for my grandmother, so when I was asked, I said if I could clear it with work, I would. I did, so I am. :D

The YouTube videos I have been watching have been pronunciation and pinyin. And I did bookmark a link from Yoyo Chinese with an interactive Pinyin chart. I have all the hours (10 hours actually) left in my shift to get started. A mid morning nap after physical therapy then I can get back to it. I'm planning on leaving really early on Friday morning. So after packing, which will be quick, I have most of the day Thursday to work with it. I'm glad I've been watching the videos I have. Time to get serious with them.

I would LOVE to find the Big Bang Theory in Mandarin. But I can't seem to locate it. I can see it on YouKu, but I can't get it to play, and I cant read the dang page to see what it's telling me anyway. I know at least the first 5 seasons by heart in English. So this would be great. I don't know where else I could find it.
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby rdearman » Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:37 am

There are a lot of resources here: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 19&t=2940/

A lot of them are audio. If you want to have a work book which I assume you can read on occasion while with your grandmother you can find textbooks here for overseas Chinese children.

http://www.hwjyw.com/textbooks/downloads/zhongwen/

This is the first one and introduces some simple words and has character writing practice.
http://www.hwjyw.com/fj/jcxz/zhongwen/1/all.pdf

You can also use apps such as HelloChinese which I recommend.
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby mairzydoats » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:35 pm

rdearman wrote:There are a lot of resources here: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 19&t=2940/

A lot of them are audio. If you want to have a work book which I assume you can read on occasion while with your grandmother you can find textbooks here for overseas Chinese children.

http://www.hwjyw.com/textbooks/downloads/zhongwen/

This is the first one and introduces some simple words and has character writing practice.
http://www.hwjyw.com/fj/jcxz/zhongwen/1/all.pdf

You can also use apps such as HelloChinese which I recommend.


I've seen that resource list before...and it is...overwhelming...that sounds bad, I don't mean it like that. It is very thorough, and overwhelmed ME. And it didn't help when I've been having so much trouble determining where to start.

That workbook link, now that I'm going to have to dig into. On a cursory glance it appears to be what I was looking for.

I wasn't as prepped for my drive as I planned on being. I was planning on using the Listen in Your Car stuff on spotify, but it seems the files are incomplete. I should've checked before I left, but I didn't. So on the fly I switched to the audio on the Teach Yourself App. That lasted all of 10 minutes. Then I remembered the car (it's my husbands, I don't drive it often, but it is a Prius, so the natural choice for a road trip) has a CD player. I had the Michael Thomas CD and popped it in. Whoa boy. It's good for a start. However I could see how someone could really be offended by part of it.

I listened to the CD about 3 times. Then switched to podcasts. Which again not something I was prepared for. I stumbled onto some stuff produced by Emory University and started going through their pinyin and pronunciation. That got me up here. Now I'm working on what to do for the way back.
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby Ani » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:20 pm

It'll be hard to productively use that many hours of audio as a complete beginner. I'd keep going with MT while you have the mental energy and then switch for something that will not put you to sleep or overly exhaust you. Long drives aren't the time for really intense study.

How about the LingoDeer app while you're sitting around?
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby zKing » Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:55 pm

The good news: I believe that if you do anything with a target language (TL) where you are either hearing/reading the TL or trying to output it and a) you (mostly) understand the meaning and b) the language is (mostly) correctly formed ... you will be learning the language. There is certainly a question of the volume of TL per unit time and exposure to new-to-you parts of the TL, but other than that, the method is really mostly a matter of personal taste. So you just need to find a method you like.

The bad news: You have to do this for like a bazillion hours to get to a point that most of us would call 'fluent'.

More bad news: Mandarin means 4x a bazillion hours (compared to say, French). You have not just chosen to run a marathon, but a 100 mile ultra marathon. (https://www.effectivelanguagelearning.c ... difficulty)

I'm learning Cantonese, so I can sympathize.

My recommendations:
a) Try to focus on pronunciation first thing. This will pay big dividends in your listening and ensures you won't waste time having to relearn how to say things that you burn into your brain the wrong way. Ignore anyone who tells you to ignore the tones at the beginning. That will only cause you suffering. Read/watch/listen to a few different sources that describe pronunciation to be sure you don't use a single 'good enough' beginner explanation that isn't really right. I do recommend these pronunciation trainers (I used one for Italian):
https://fluent-forever.com/product/flue ... n-trainer/

b) Make a decision about the written language. How far do you expect to take your Chinese... do you have a strong desire to become literate in Chinese? Understand that a very large portion of those extra hours needed for this language is because of the written language. I don't consider it to be "hard"... it is just a LOT of extra knowledge/skill that needs to be assimilated. You likely can learn to speak Mandarin to some decent level without learning the written language as the same time, but I wouldn't recommend it if you plan on taking your Chinese skills above a mediocre level. (For Cantonese, I would assert that one really MUST learn to read to get beyond the beginner stages, but that is another topic.) Knowing the written language will give you access to considerably more materials and methods when you become intermediate. If you are going to learn the written language, get started with those Heisig books. I only did the first one, it took me quite far and I've been able to grow my reading skills to a reasonable level from there. Note that learning to write by hand is a side skill that you may not need.

c) Pick a couple courses, say Pimsleur and Teach Yourself, and try them out for a while. I don't recommend trying to do more than 2 or maybe 3 simultaneously as it can be too scatter-brained (at least for me it is), but also don't be afraid to try one for a while and toss it if you aren't getting along with it. The problem with the majority of learning courses is that they all are really just for the same beginner stage. Having a bunch of them is like having a bunch of different editions of the first book of a ten book series... there may be one that you like more, but reading several of them still only gets you to step 1 out of 10; you'll just know step 1 really well. :) At some point VERY soon, you will need to graduate to native materials and real conversations to get anywhere.

d) As soon as you have the slightest ability to speak, find someone to talk to. I highly recommend iTalki, if you have the means. I regret not doing this FAR sooner than I did. A lot of conversation is routine and you need to get it to (mostly) automatically fall out of your mouth. This will be fantastically painful at first. And you will feel like a complete idiot. And you will feel like the tutor is suffering and believes you are a total moron. This is all normal and it gets better... very slowly. But nothing will drive home vocabulary and phrases that *YOU* personally really *NEED* as much as attempting to have some kind of real(-ish) conversation in the language.

e) Listen as much as you can stand it. Yes, it is WAY better if it is something you can understand, but anything in the TL is better than nothing. You need to train your brain to process the sounds of the language and particularly for a distant language this takes a while. If you don't understand the words, at least try to play "listen like a bloodhound" (Iversen's term) where you try to pick out the sounds of individual words as they go by. For a tonal language, it will be very hard to get the tones, this is normal.

f) Most important of all: Don't quit. The only sure way to fail is to quit. If you need to cut back, take breaks, change your routine, delete all your flashcard decks, only watch adult movies in the TL, whatever... keep morphing your routine so that you don't quit. This is a REALLY long journey and you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but thankfully there are a million different paths that lead to the top of the mountain.

That's my $0.02 anyhow. :D
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby Yaya100000 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:20 pm

How far will the Assimil with Ease course take someone, compared to the FSI course? If they both reach the A2 level or beyond, maybe you don't need to do both.
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Re: Mandarin - need help with a plan of attack

Postby Glossy » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:33 pm

For Cantonese, I would assert that one really MUST learn to read to get beyond the beginner stages, but that is another topic.)


I’m curious, why do you think that reading characters is more important for learning Cantonese than for learning Mandarin?
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