So it has been more than two years..

August 18, 2013, 09:29 PM posted in General Discussion

Its been more than two years since my last failed attempt at giving Chinese a shot. I feel that I've let down on one of my life goals, and I want to change that. Even though my vocabulary memory bank probably can remember 10-20 words, my pronounciation is pretty good, even without any practice for a long time. I just, I just don't know where to begin. My past troubles have been that I'm always really good at memorizing things with pinyin, but never with the hanzi. It puts me off. Any suggestions? Where should I begin? I got a premium subscription...I hope to be around for a while.

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August 18, 2013, 11:11 PM

Hi Kevin,

Welcome back to Chinese, and best of luck!

I took over a year off from Chinese after college and it was really hard to get back into it, but I decided to give ChinesePod a shot. I combined the premium subscription with meeting with a native Chinese language partner twice a week during my lunch hour (I also helped her with English). That really helped in terms of getting my brain to think in Chinese again.

After about a year of that, I realized that I wasn't making progress as quickly as I wanted to. Part of the reason is that I'm really bad at motivating myself when I'm not paying for something, or getting tested/graded (or both). I know that's kind of crazy, but it's just my personality. So I decided to upgrade to ChinesePod classes, which I really like because they're so easy to fit into my life, and I'm more motivated to study because it's not cheap, so I can't allow myself NOT to study, otherwise I let myself down. I like the fact that there aren't any tests, though - that would be too much pressure for me at this point in my life. That said, the classes are very pricey, so they're definitely not for everyone (actually, they're cheaper than many standard college courses, but the ability to get financial aid/loans in college obscured the pricing for me so it's hard for me to think of it that way). I dream of working for a company that is actually willing to pay for my lessons... :)

Hanzi has always been my biggest struggle, too. I took 2 1/2 years of "formal" Chinese classes in college, which involved a LOT of me writing characters, over and over, to memorize them. It probably helped me learn a core 400-ish characters, plus radicals which are very important to being able to learn other words more easily. Now, I no longer write Chinese on paper, but I force myself to type in Hanzi in preparation for my lessons (using pinyin keyboard entry). This helps reinforce the Hanzi without forcing me to actually write it. I also make myself read each dialogue in Hanzi while listening to the recording several times, before letting myself click "translate" or mouse over the translations. While I doubt that my Hanzi has improved as much as if I were still practicing writing on paper, it HAS improved in terms of reading/recognition. It's unlikely, in my life, that I'll ever need to write anything complicated in Chinese on paper, anyway.

So that's my two cents. How far along were you in Chinese before your two year break?

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Thanks for taking the time to reply. I totally identify with the not having motivation when you're not being graded for it, yea! I think that's what I've been lacking, motivation, because its been so long, I've felt I'm not capable of getting back and better to where I was.

When I stopped, I was at that point where I was getting to learning new vocab easily, but the hanzi was just a constant struggle. That's what really put me off..

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I think the best motivation (personally grading isn't that motivating for me because you can get good grades but still not be that great, something I learnt when I did Spanish at high school) is having something to look forward to. Not everyone has the luxury of planning a trip to China, but that would be one of the best ones. That way you think that you need to get good before you go, you want to talk to cab drivers and order food on your own etc. If that's not an option, do the same where ever you live but at a local Chinese restaurant or something similar. We are quite lucky that there are so many Chinese people around the world, so there is always an opportunity to use it. Make that your goal and work towards it.

In terms of hanzi, what I did was I didn't start straight off with writing, I learnt to read first and got a feel for the characters. That made it so much easier for when I actually started to learn how to write. People will most likely disagree with this, but I don't find writing characters THAT important unless you feel like you are going to need it for a test or a job.

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August 19, 2013, 02:35 AM

Welcome back!

My suggestions:

1: download a few newbie lesson mp3s on a topic of interest. The lesson dialogue mp3s should be good for a start.  

2: load those lesson dialogue mp3s into your ipod/iphone/samsung etc... mobile device.

3: play an mp3 lesson dialogue daily.  Recite the dialogue out loud, so that you continue the good pronunciation you already have. 

4: do not use the pinyin as your pronunciation guide.  Do not use the pdf/hanzi as a pronunciation guide, but rather as the translation tool so that you understand what Chinese you're being taught in the lesson dialogue. 

5: after listening and memorizing about 10 or so newbie dialogues, I suspect/hope your motivation will continue/increase as you realize how easy and fast it was to memorize the lesson dialogues. 

6: repeat downloading until you get to 100 lesson dialogues, then look at a pdf as a hanzi learning tool. 

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August 19, 2013, 04:53 AM

Keep it up!  

Don't stress about Hanzi, you won't need it for a while.  When you notice you have a lot of questions like "is this the same word as that other word?", then start with the reading of Hanzi.

Use your favorite method to access the content, and definitely do "shadow" the content.  You can do it during lesson, using dialog, or review files, it probably doesn't matter how, but do shadow.

Lastly motivation is the biggest issue remaining, CPod guys definitely recognize it, that's why we have the chatting option here.  Other motivation tools are tests, exercises, and, if you have the monay, classes.

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September 01, 2013, 04:42 PM

Sorry for the delay guys. Was without internet for two weeks almost. 

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September 01, 2013, 06:27 PM

Yeah welcome back mate.

Saturate yourself mate with the material. I have made mandarin my addiction. 

I sleep listeing to it and have done for quite some time now. 

I wake up and its there. 

Crazy i know. But i didnt realise how big this mountain was until i started climbing.

But we can do it. You can do it. 


The other day i was talking to a chinese girl. Then i asked her her name. She was wearing a name badge but it was Hanzi. She automatically thought i had already glansed at it and knew her name. She seemed offended that i didnt know her name becuase she assumed i could read hanzi since we were communicatiing. Then she said how come you can speak chinese but cant read. 

I said firstly i must be able to communicate with people. 

This is very important to me. 

But of course i will learn the characters and already know many. But for now for me oral communication is paramount. 

And of course its about communication. So find a chinese person or people somewhere and start speaking. Get used to making many mistakes. Many many mistakes. Juggle the mistakes. Speak anyway. Dont worry there will be many people who will correct you. I have by no means arrived anywhere and i have a long way to go. Trying to be glad with where im at. Where i am, if i miss a day or two without practice i feel my level dropping. Doh. 

Lucky i have a chinese girlfrined who annoyingly wants to speak english. Now when she speaks to me in enlgish i say to her 我不明白你的英文。

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Hey, good for you! O(∩_∩)O~good luck(*^__^*) …

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Yeah that's a good one, every time I'm in a tourist type place and they shout at me in English, I just say 我听不懂, which usually gets them cursing at me in Chinese.

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Re: " i have a chinese girlfrined who annoyingly wants to speak english." hee hee, sounds like your girlfriend has an annoying boyfriend who only wants to speak Chinese. Well, I'm sure many poddies can attest that having a Mandarin speaking significant other is NOT the easy road to fluency.

But I was more interested in your story about the girl with the hanzi name tag who was "offended" when you asked her name. Often Chinese people to whom I speak (in Chinese) will ask "and can you also read Chinese?" So I think the person you met is an exception. I don't think my spoken Chinese is all that bad, but people assume (probably reasonably) that one can become quite proficient in spoken Mandarin and remain illiterate.

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yep, my wife is Chinese and her English is so good that we almost always use that to communicate.. bit annoying really!!

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Well, if you are as annoying as I am and persist with trying to speak to the wife in Mandarin you will probably get :

You: "how do I say this in Mandarin"

Her: " say it any way your want.:


You: "If I say "xxxx," is that the best way to express it?

Her: "Whatever"

Probably best to put the relationship first and pay a teacher to teach you Mandarin.

By the way, if we don't have it already we need a CPod lesson on how to ask about how to say things like "is this the best way to say it?" or "is this word colloquial or formal?" or "is this appropriate in this circumstance>" I often want to ask about subtle nuances in the language but don't know how to form the question. Any poddies seen such a lesson?

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I haven't seen a lesson on that as such, but you quite often hear John ask in Upper-Intermediate lessons asking things like this. But yeah it would be a good lesson.

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I can totally relate to this. I've finally resigned myself to the fact that in order to have a harmonious life my conversations with the wife will forever more be English:English or Chinese:English (with me speaking the Chinese). And not to expect any corrections of grammatical mistakes - as long as my meaning is understood. The unfortunate downside is that my spoken Chinese is now miles ahead of my listening ability, albeit probably littered with mistakes! I guess at the end of the day, the most important thing is that people can understand your meaning, even if you haven't expressed it in the best and/or grammatically perfect way. I must admit I do the same with her English - as long as I can understand, I don't bother correcting. As bad as each other really, no wonder we get on so well.

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Yeah i totally identify. Also in the beginning i was so concerned with being able to speak that i was not aware of the listening aspect. Lately I'm spending more time listening. I remember John saying once don't worry guys this will begin to sound natural. I didn't think it would or it could for me but he is right. I have a long way to go but its starting to feel natural. I wonder how i ever survived here not being able to communicate.

I love also how sooooo many people just expect foreigners here to not be able to under stand. Like today i was out shopping with the girlfriend. There were two 服务员 standing there. One knew me and that i can understand some Chinese. The other one started talking about me and she tried to hush her because she knew i could understand and the lady just says very confidently like its not possible for me to understand 他听不懂。Not long later her jaw was on the floor.

Before i wanted everyone to know i could communicate in mandarin but these days it feels i have less to prove. But i still have to keep up the practice. Like any skill i feel i have to keep working it.

Also i think its important for the idea to be reinforced that mandarin will start to feel normal. Because i didn't believe it till it started happening.

I think its also easy to think that its all me and not chinese pod. But without cp it would take sooooooo much longer. Thanks guys.

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i did find the condescending (unintentionally) attitude local chinese had toward foreigners speaking Chinese one of the more frustrating things while living in China. It's like every time you talk to someone you have to prove yourself that you are a competent speaker to them. It put more pressure on me at times as well to not make mistakes.

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嗯嗯 :)

I agree. But I should say that I'm Australian. Australians attitude toward

Asians but lets say Chinese here, learning English is terrible at best.

I am treated much better in China than Chinese are in Australia.

A lot of Chinese people are happy if you can speak a little Chinese.

Where as Australians don't care what your English is like.

Not all of course but most people I've seen and met. This is their attitude.

Maybe because seriously learning a second language at school

is not compulsory therefore ignorance about how difficult learning another language is, is not understood by most Australians.

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I'm an American and I think the typical American's view towards non-native English speakers is probably worse. There's is def little to no tolerance towards those with foreign accents and have difficulties with speaking English among a lot of Americans. I think it has to do with US' long history of racism and nativism towards immigrants. Asians in the US themselves are subject to ridicule because of their difficulties with English like their "l"s sounding like "r"s. The most obvious example of this is on the TV show South Park.

So yea, its def not that bad in China but it was def a frustrating experience at times nonetheless.

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Yeah I hear ya man. I didn't want to make a typical Aussies sound bad

but they don't seem to be very welcoming.

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September 07, 2013, 04:06 AM

I would say focus on the dialogues and trying to learn them deeply and memorize them by listening and repeating over and over again.

Maybe you can pick 1 dialogue to focus on for a week or two until you have it mastered and then move on to the next one. It's slow but in the long run you learn it more deeply and won't forget most of the words so easily.

also, to help you learn characters, I would start by making flashcards of the most common ones ( I used this site before . Instead of writing them (which is really not that necessary to learning them though it can help) I would print out the individual characters and paste them onto index cards.

Reading through the chinesepod dialogues, trying to recognize characters and then periodically looking at the pinyin helps also. Repetition is really important for becoming familiar with characters. At first it's so slow and painful but it really does get better through regular effort.

learning characters really opens up the chinese language and helps you understand and learn words better. After a while chinese characters become like mnemonic devices for remembering words.