CP for travelling - which level is most beneficial?
Just a quick question regarding using CP for preparing for a trip to China. Please chime in with your views and experiences.
The situation: I've only recently started using CP again after a 3-year absence. During that time, I didn't manage to study Chinese effectively, but I did some reading and skimmed a couple of grammar books. I used to be at Upper Intermediate level, but could follow the Advanced lessons without getting too uncomfortable. While I was in China in 2009, I realised I knew lots of advanced vocab, but couldn't keep up a relevant conversation because I wasn't . So this time, I started at Intermediate hoping that this level convers most everyday situations. Now that I am pressed for time (and have worked through the relevant Int. lessons at a pace of 10-20 per day), should I
a) consolidate by going through them again
b) review with flashcards
c) pick a few relevant Upper Int. lessons (since the Int. vocab will appear in them as well)
I won't have to take part in any specialised discussions, at least not for about 2 months, I just want to get by (travelling, grocery shopping, socialising with locals) with relatively fluent (=without stops and fumbling for words or syntax) Chinese. Mistakes are ok, but what I am hoping to reach is that kind of what I call the "immigrant" level - for example, my mother-in-law certainly is "fluent" in German, but her sentences regularly contain incorrect grammar oder intonation, yet she sounds much better at it than I seem to be when speaking Chinese - because she can keep the conversation flowing.
markAugust 18, 2012, 01:53 AM
There was a fairly long period in which when I was in a situation where spontaniously speaking Chinese was called for, I would get thrown by a way of speaking that I didn't expect, a word I didn't know, or the person I was talking to did not understand what I said. we would fall silent, or the conversation would switch to English at that point. It took me a while to have enough confidence and enough scope to what I could say, before I could come up with a plan B or C or D, if my initial conversational gambit fell flat. In the kinds of interactions you will have while travelling, the language level required is relatively low, CPod Intermediate maybe, but no matter what your level, there will always be things that don't go smoothly. This is only natural when you think about it. People say things in English, that I don't catch, or they don't understand what I said, but I can always ask for clarification, or say it another way, and I get past these situations.
I think live speaking practice is best, but failing that try to work through scenarios in your head where you put forth your best Chinese, and it doesn't go the way you hoped. Then think of what sort of things you will say to recover.
pretzellogicAugust 18, 2012, 01:59 AM
Yes to a) and b) above. In my practice, there weren't that many upper intermediates that were that type of non-specialized situation that you'd need. And if you're traveling and grocery shopping, then the newbies and eles around travel and shopping are perfect. Search on all the taxi lessons with the exception of the upper intermediate "when the taxi takes the long way". Learn them by heart and you'll be fine.
This of course assumes that you already have a non-native Chinese speaking spouse. If you do, forget this advice. You'll default to leaning on your spouse and learn 10 words of Chinese in 10 years like all the other foreigners with Chinese spouses.
oakleysteveAugust 18, 2012, 11:00 AM
My advice would be to practice listening. I've spent the last 5 weeks in Shijiazhuang and had no problem with people understanding my admittedly not that great Chinese and I rarely had to repeat myself. My biggest problem is understanding what the locals are saying. My teacher talks a mile a minute and I understand 98% of what she says, no problem. But the minute I'm out on the street on my own, asking even relatively simple questions their answers are mostly unintelligible. I found I hadn't spent nearly enough time on listening without a transcript, without subtitles without any other help than my ears. I would suggest that you relisten to those lessons with audio only. I got the tune-in radio app for my ipad, iphone and laptop so I can listen to Chinese radio stations. I used to just use it as background, but now I don the headphones and really pay attention. Good luck, it's a lot of fun over here even if you don't understand everything.
oakleysteveAugust 18, 2012, 11:12 AM
Sorry, in my previous post I did everything but answer your question. I would recommend intermediate, since you should be able to easily understand most of that, and it would reinforce what you already know. Repetition really pays off, use it or lose it - I often relisten to easy lessons just to make sure I don't forget. That said, I would also listen to some of the Upper Intermediate and Advanced lessons to accustom yourself to not understanding everything said, which is really more like real life in China.