Newbie looking for change

April 25, 2011, 06:33 PM posted in General Discussion

Nǐ men hǎo. 

Wǒ shì měi guó rén, currently live in Houston, TX and have been studying Chinese since last September through a classroom setting nearby.  Lately I have found it very difficult to retain what I learn week to week since the class is for 2 hours on Saturday mornings.  I also find it difficult to study throughout the week, perhaps from a lack of structure, leaving me entirely unprepared for the next class.

This is how I found Chinesepod.  I'm still just a guest, without a proper subscription yet.  The thing I like so much about it is that I can see a rough outline as to how long it should be before I will see some results, i.e. the progression from elementary, intermediate on up to advanced.

My question for you all is what you find to be the right amount of studying for some reasonable progress?  New lesson every day? New lesson every week?

Also I'd be happy to hear whether you've used the Chinesepod courses, or which subscription you use etc.  Basically I'd like to understand what has worked best for you.

xiè xiè,


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April 26, 2011, 04:25 AM

To answer your questions:

I found about 1.5 hours per day, 5 days a week, was a helpful minimum. It was easy for me to do this before the Chinesepod subscription when I was listening to Pimsleur during my 1 hour commute to work. If I skipped a day here and there, it was ok, but there were some lessons that were so interesting, it didn't matter that I skipped a day or two of listening, because then I would recite the lessons in my head. Other lessons were boring, or unmotivating, and skipping a day was fatal to picking up anything out of the lesson.

(bit of background: I did an 8-week Chinese course, then all three Pimsleur Mandarin courses, then a bit of Living Language Ultimate Mandarin prior to coming to Chinesepod).

My motivation was a strong factor as well. The first 9 months of Chinese learning, I knew I was going to go to China to use the Chinese I was learning. I was thinking that those first lessons would get me well prepared for the trip, but it turns out they were just using a garden hose to fill up Lake Michigan.

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That's a lot actually. I, as a Chinese teacher at University of Cambridge, normally encourage my students to learn at least twice a week, hopefully Monday and Wednesday. Each time, it would be around 30 minutes. I think the best way to learn is to learn 30 minutes a day but I guess that's pretty difficult for most people.

Then, setting up a plan like 1 - 2 new lessons a week and in 2 weeks time, review the lesson together with the new lesson would be worth while.

One of my students make up his own progress chart, which indicates the number of new words he learnt and reviewed. He obviously enjoys the sense of achievement. I guess each one can find his/her own way to encourage himself/herself to keep on learning.

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delston asked a good question, but the bad thing is that there's not a lot of data to address delston's question. A number of the peer-reviewed studies addressed in an New York Times article showed people were learning and retaining information in as little as a few minutes. Yet I've only seen a few people admit to using those techniques in that article.

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April 28, 2011, 06:05 AM

I'm a bit of a data freak myself, so I have good stats on how it's worked for me.  In the first 2 years of my Chinese studies, I spent about 10 hours per week of studying.  Lately it's dropped off to about 6-8 hours per week.

Most of my studying is done in the form of review (chartacters and words).  My study time normally breaks down as follows for a given week:

3-4 hours of studying on Anki.  I learn 5 new words per day through this along with a few grammar structures each week and a few new characters.  Most of my time is spent on Anki reviewing what I've already studied as I've already studied 2,700+ characters and 2,000+ additional words.  For me, once getting to that level of characters and words, in order to retain them review through an SRS program like Anki is key.

1.5 hours per week in a Chinese Textbook.  This textbook is based on the HSK exams and introduces grammar, vocab, and excercises for practice.

1 hour per week of reading Chinese text. This I need to start doing more of.

1.5 hours per week of ChinesePod Upper Intermediate and Intermediate lessons.

The key is to figure out what works best for you by experimenting in different ways.

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Wow, mastering 2700+ Characters are really impressive!

From what you presented, I guess you're a really organized person who can make and stick to the plan! I think your way may not be the best for every one but has to be one that fits yourself very well!

I agree that SRS program like Anki is a very good way for a lot of learners!

Wonder how you improve your speaking skill?

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For the speaking portion, I live in China and I'd say over 60-70% of my conversations throughout the day are spent conversing in Chinese. So I practice that daily... not stats for it like the others.