Study Plan for someone who already know chinese.

January 03, 2012, 12:23 AM posted in General Discussion

Hi everyone,

I was researching in the group and couldn't find anything on this topic.  So I am curious as to what would be your suggestions on a study plan for someone like me. Before doing into my background, I would like to know how should I best study Chinese?  Should I start with pinyin in my case or should I just skip newbie lessons and go straight to elementary/intermediate levels?

So here's my background:  I grew up in a mandarin speaking home.  You are probably at this point wondering why I need to learn Chinese, well because my Chinese is the marriage of Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukinese, some Idonesian native tongue, and of course English.  Which means, my parents mishmash all the languages above all the time in one sentence.  You think Chinglish is bad, wait till you visit my home.  As a result, I know that the pronunciation of my Chinese words is often times incorrect and sometimes very confusing.  On top of that, I left Hong Kong when I was 9 years old, so I can read about 40%-50% of the words but I can't write and sometimes can get the words confused.  I've taken the placement test, which placed me at elementary/intermediate, but when I tried a few of the newbie lessons, I noticed that I am not that fluent.  I understood what's spoken (100%), even the upper intermediate level conversations, but I am not fluent in the words and pinyin.  Given my circumstance, would you recommend that I start with pinyin and just jump into elementary?  So far I've been focusing on the intonations in newbie lessons because I know my pronunciation is often wrong and I've gone through those lessons multiple times and still can't get it right.  I still can't figure out the difference.  It's like I'm toned-deaf or something.

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January 03, 2012, 01:26 AM

I could make some suggestions, but i'm unclear what you mean when you say, "I understood what's spoken (100%), even the upper intermediate level conversations".  Are you able to understand the SPOKEN intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced Chinesepod lessons already?  So all you want to really do is learn to read?

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Yes, I understand spoken intermediate and upper intermediate. As for advance, when "qing yu" is used I don't always understand. I should say, conversationally, I am fluent. But not professionally. I can't read or write and I don't know the sophisticated Chinese terms.

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In regard to studying written Chinese, I found that interacting with Chinese via email and IM helped my written communication a lot.

Studying the Cpod lesson transcripts was also very useful.

Finally, I write a short essay every week and get a native speaker to correct it. I need to know pinyin to enter characters on the computer, but for reading I rely on 汉字。 Pinyin is more difficult for me to read, and more difficult for Chinese speakers, if I send it to them.

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January 03, 2012, 01:31 AM

Wow, you certainly have a great background and an interesting problem.

I think it might be hard to find someone here who has had a similar experience and knows exactly what you need. Therefore I would try a bit of any suggestion you get to see what works and what does not.

I think if you can already understand a lot of the harder lessons then half the battle is already won. It sounds like you just need someone to sit down with for speaking practice.

I am interested to know if you feel your pronunciation is right and the tones are wrong or both?

Learning PINYIN will help, but in my opinion it is better to help reading rather than speaking. In my relatively short time (2 years now) learning, I have heard so many different accents and ways of pronouncing things that I beleive context is more important than "sounding" correct. That's not to say disregard the sound but just don't let it get you down too much or hold you back.


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Thanks. It is an interesting problem. It's actually pretty common among Chinese Americans, especially those who are really into the Chinese culture but have background in spoken Chinese. In my case, both my pronunciation and intonations are wrong at times. And I don't often know the Mandarin equivalent to words that I've learned in other dialects. I started listening to ChinesePod because (1) the lessons were really interesting and (2) I was hoping that by listening to biao zhun Chinese spoken it will rub off on me since both my mom and dad don't speak biao zhun Chinese.

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Hello everyone!

I'm a Chinese French and I've got exactly the same problem! (I know that french guys are reputed to be a ... in english. So, sorry for my bad english...) Sometimes I confused other dialects too (particularly with teochew and cantonese).

Next month I decided to go to Shanghai University to practice intensively. Hope that it would fix the major part of the problem

Have you find any issue? Let's help us each other if we found anything!

Thank you

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Hi;I am able to subscribe to cable television with delayed broadcasts from china.I find listening to the shows while reading the script at the bottom of the screen helpful.It develops reading speed.If I see repeated words ,I write them down.As well,the accents are varied so I am able to understand different mandarin accents.

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January 03, 2012, 01:46 AM

One more thing. Are you able to practice with someone who's fluent in Mandarin, or are you going to practice Mandarin without anyone's external feedback? Or rather, without the fluent, mandarin only feedback that it sounds like you don't get in your home speaking environment?  If that's the case, I would recommend avoiding pinyin.  Reason being that pinyin in a vacuum invites mispronunciation. If you're listening to the lessons, shadowing the lesson for speaking feedback is the way to go. 

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Um... I do speak Chinese at home except it's not biao zhun Chinese. So the difficulty for me is, my spoken Chinese is probably at High School level where as my written Chinese is at beginning Elementary level.

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January 03, 2012, 04:07 AM

For a good overview on pronunciation go to John Pasden's site:

For more detailed info on how to pronounce specific initials or finals, use this site:

Note, it is recommended to use the "step by step description" of the pronunications at the above site (rather than the the introductions which are a simplification (and misleading in some cases)).

Chinesepod's pinyin program is also very good for explaining both pronunciation and pinyin generally:

For tones:

Lots and lots and lots of listening to dialogues with standard usage of tones - is a real key.

Tone listening drills are ok, but not a real substitute for lots of listening to natural conversation/dialogues.

Also, listening to cpod and trying to guess the tones of words you don't know without looking at any transcripts is all good practice.

Note that, in full flow, most native Chinese don't get tones 100% correct. John P had a great post on this :

An excellent tool for practicing pronunciation and tones (and getting automatically corrected) is aichinese.

If you don't live in China, is indispensible for the purpose of practicing pronunication and tones when speaking, imo.

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Thanks for giving such detailed info. I'll look into it.