Studying Chinese like a mutha
So after losing my job a few months ago, I have been listening to Cpod lessons (dialogues on repeat) for approx. 6-10 hours a day, without exception, no matter what I am doing I have lessons on repeat on my ipod non-stop...
when there are grammar patterns/sentences I want to install into my brain, I input them in anki and have spent about an hour every day on anki.
the results have been amazing...when I bump into Chinese people the Chinese just flows compared to before...also, going from elementary to intermediate was a challenge, but then halfway through intermediate it just started getting easier (Actually I think the lessons got easier about halfway through)
but now I can get through an upper intermediate lesson much more quickly...the first day is a challenge, so I just listen to it over and over, for like 20-30 min per new lesson, then the next few days spend like 10 min each day reviewing it, then listen to it once or twice every couple of days afterwards...I find some lessons I just have more trouble with than others, but for the most part the key seems to be the spaced repetition....which is basically the concept of anki...some days I don't study new lessons and just review for a day or two in a row...
I just wanted to share this with everyone, because if you go balls to the wall it is really amazing how much you can achieve...when I lived in China I never made such quick progress because I never utilized the mp3 ipod listening element...living in China I still wasn't listening to Chinese constantly for 10 hours a day...
so just wanted to share this with everyone, maybe someone crazier than I will listen to cpod for 12 hours a day?
TalSeptember 10, 2009, 02:35 AM
Sorry to hear of your unemployment mainman, but I enjoyed reading your post, and the point you make about just how much time one spends learning is an excellent one.
In learning any skill, time is the crucial factor. Many people will just think a particular skill is too hard for them, or decide that it's not suitable for them, but I firmly believe that most people can acquire a high level of proficiency in any skill if they actually devote a lot of time to learning it!
(For example consider the information contained in this excellent article I posted here recently.)
Of course most of us (as adults anyway) spend most of our time on work and/or family. To get to the magic figure of 10,000 hours takes a while!
Sounds to me like you'll soon be in a position to seek employment in China!
themainmanSeptember 10, 2009, 03:22 AM
I studied full time in China for 14-15 months out in the boondocks...I can read a newspaper and get over 90% of the words..funny thing is that a newspaper is 10 times easier than a novel or comic book or magazine etc...I have a solid base already in Chinese, but my speaking had just really hit a plateau...then I have been working in another country for quite awhile so after a couple of years of not having much contact with Chinese it has withered quite a bit. So I just went through all of the elementary dialogues which I could do relatively quickly but they are short and I did listen to them all day....and then I have spent 1.5 months on intermediate and have gotten through about 85-90 lessons (not that I have them perfectly mastered or anything, but I am definitely sick of them!) now I have just started upper intermediate and advanced...and instead of going in order I am focusing on the business oriented lessons...perhaps more dull than all the other cool lessons but more geared towards my profession...so basically halfway through the intermediates they started becoming much less challenging so I just jumped up the upper intermediate...I figure from here on out I can just pick and choose the lessons that I find interesting...I have also composed a massive flashcard deck on anki, which in conjunction with the massive listening repetition has really allowed a lot of these new words to STICK in my brain...the key is to keep up the consistency and go back and review review review the old lessons...since I already had a good base the elementary lessons were very easy for me, but I found there were still plenty of expressions I wasn't saying correctly so they were a massive help regardless...I think as a student of a foreign language, much more important than learning crazy vocab is just mastering the basics (as tough as it is)...speaking simple sentences that do not have grammatic flaws with good pronunciation leads people to think your ability is MUCH greater than it really is hahaha
pretzellogicSeptember 10, 2009, 10:12 AM
1.5 months and got through 85-90 INTERMEDIATE lessons.... did you do that listening only? Sounds like your previous mandarin training get dusted off by all those lessons?
Great input. good to quantify time spent in the activity.
themainmanSeptember 10, 2009, 01:20 PM
all the basics, and approx 85-90 intermediates...
but they weren't exactly difficult lessons for me...there were lots of little things that were rusty, and the last 2 months or so has really helped me get rid of the rust and improve so much more than I ever have...if I had been studying this hard for the 1 year + I lived in China my chinese would be super good...
I'm noticing things about my own learning...for example, upper intermediate lessons that I listened to a few times ago 6 months and have re-listened to lately are soooooo much easier to pick up than a completely fresh lesson...I pounded those first 80 or so intermediate lessons into my head pretty good...today I had some interview crap and unemployment collecting to do so I was running around on the train and had to listen to some crap unemployment lecture in japanese so I just said fck it and put my chinese and while I was on the train, and since I basically can't be bothered to give a crap about what japanese people think I actually talk aloud with the recording of the chinese dialogues while I walk around. it is pretty funny. oh yeah, I've given up on trying to fit in hahaha
so I also put anything that I was slightly less than totally comfortable with into anki...a flashcard program thingy...
now, instead of trying to memorize massive phrases which I have done via anki style with the elementary and intermediate lessons, I want to get more wide ranged so to speak and listen to a crapload more lessons and instead of trying to really instill each lesson, I want to get comfortable with the lesson and be able to understand, but not so comfortable that I can bust out saying the dialogue right along with it...you know what I mean?
so basically, I want to get through all the upper intermediate, and advanced (Ive pretty much listened to all the intermediates except for the last 30-40 lessons, but they get dramatically easier than the earlier intermediate lessons)
so basically after I go through all the lessons I will then go back and start regoing through them at a much slower pace and instilling them...because my whole hypothesis here is that it isn't so much how many times I hear it but more a matter of hom many times I hear it over a spaced amount of time...
so to memorize a dialogue instead of listening to it 100 times in one go on one day, it is better to listen to it 10 times each day for a week, and you will probably have a better chance at memorizing it...I have found I seem to work this way...so I am interested in testing it out, and see how the learning flows...
and then I need to actually listen to the lessons instead of just the dialogues...then do the expansion stuff and make my own mp3s of them...Im finding listening training to be BY FAR THE BEST study method ever though...so basically I want to go about systematically mastering chinesepod's entire archive...a daunting task, but I have already made a massive dent in the thing...
of course the key is consistency..主要是靠坚持。哈哈哈 I actually heard that little sound bite play in my head from the intermediate lesson where that chick goes to the gym to try yoga...and she asks him if he has yizhizhuzhong jianshen? haha how about Lily and Zhanglian...goddam dont get me started...how about a lesson where zhang lian gets strung out on drugs and then goes whoring for a week and then goes and offs liu xiang and gets thrown in the slammer so we will get to study life in prison in chinese...I think that would be great... I would love to see zhangliang get some revenge and grow a pair...oh well...
so anyways, once I get fully employed again I wont have the time, but just keeping at it and over the course of a couple of year then I should be able to dramatically increase my chinese level...remember rome wasnt built in a day...but seriously, the only way to get Dashan level good at this is to go on a full out attack.
I spent a few years studying Japanese kanji and my reading and writing ability at my height was so good, but I put in the time for real on that one, and it has since gone down because it was basically good enough to do my job, and I have no interest in it any more, but the point is that if you go crazy and devote an immense amount of time to somthing you will do really well...but before I was focusing on the written aspect, now I am more interested in speaking and listening, and I have found over the last 2 months of this 8 hours a day stuff that my skills have improved dramatically...Im not saying Im walking around and that I am the king of chinese (although I secretly want to be) all Im saying is that I have personally made a shitload of progress, but I can pretty much guarantee that Pete could kick my white ass all over the place with his chinese cunning linguinism hahaha
2 months is only 2 months, and after 2-3 years of very limited chinese... it isnt like Im gonna be dashan all of a sudden...
ok well Im gonna go buy another beer now and regret posting this tomorrow
ps I only got about 6 hours of chinese in today!
pretzellogicSeptember 11, 2009, 03:31 AM
themainmain, all I can say is that you seem to be putting the time in necessary to be really good in Chinese. Your unemployment situation is probably what is helping here. The Americans learning Chinese that I know are the ones who don't have a job, and are going to university full time to study mandarin in Beijing.
I follow the guideline from the DLI regarding the time it takes for an American to acquire Chinese to some level of fluency: 1400 hours or so, 65 weeks. you're further along than me down that path.
pearltowerpeteSeptember 11, 2009, 04:56 AM
Hats off to you for making the best of a lousy economic climate. There is a proverb 逆来顺受 （bearing up under adversity, grin and bear it） but it carries a tone of resignation to one's fate that you obviously have avoided.
Mastering a foreign language requires a great deal of time, as everyone here agrees. The other factor you have is a can-do attitude, especially toward a language with a reputation for being very difficult. Too many people just don't have enough self confidence or stick-to-it-iveness (that's from my days in the Civil Air Patrol). They don't realize that anyone can learn this language if they put in the time and approach it methodically.
Good luck with your future studies and career.
pretzellogicSeptember 10, 2009, 02:47 AM
themainman, I suspect that's what it really takes to learn mandarin: just putting serious time in day after day. 6 hours per day for 3 months at 5 days per week is minimum 360 hours. You're maybe about 1/3 of the way toward being "fluent". Good for you, and thanks for your thoughts.
I'm curious about how many lessons you went through in this period, and if you went through the lessons as a specific set of lessons, or if you went through them as they were numbered. I suspect that going through the lessons as a set would speed up your fluency because you're going over the same words over and over again faster, but that's just a theory.
FWIW, your experience is what i've seen it takes to get fluent. Here in Beijing, I run into plenty of expats who have been here years, yet their mandarin is still nonexistent. The expats who are really good mandarin speakers studied at university FULL TIME for a year or so, and therefore put in time the way you are doing to get good. Good on you for using your time off in a productive way.
bababardwanSeptember 13, 2009, 12:58 PM
This sounds great mate,but what I've been confused about is your original post on August 3rd:
"Just signed up for my free account...cpod really looks like a lot of fun!"
..which to me made it sound like you were completely new to CPod,then you seem to mention Intermediates you were listening to 6 months ago.I'm probably just misreading this[and maybe you're saying it was mostly over the last 2 months],but regardless,even if it was 6 months it doesn't detract from the fact that it's sounding very impressive.[In short I can only conclude that you're being modest and you have achieved this mammoth undertaking in roughly only 1 month!! Astounding !!!]Thanks for sharing.
themainmanSeptember 13, 2009, 01:24 PM
dude, I'm no stranger to cpod. I had a guided account before that expired a couple of months or so ago. I setup another account under a new name, basically because I was traveling in africa and needed access to chinese lessons while on safari...my credit card wasn'T with me so I couldn't extend my subscription. so I signed up a new account to get access and downloaded a bunch of audio files and then a couple of weeks later when I got ahold of my credit card I just bought the premium service again...so I know I sound a bit like lao wang but desperate times call for desperate measures.
the point is, in the last two months I've started going balls out about systematically learning all the lessons.
dude, a couple of months of 8 hours a day listening and muttering along to the lesson dialogues and your chinese will improve I guarantee. I'm not comparing myself to anyone and I'm definitely not saying I'm the best or anything..but I am saying that my personal ability of chinese has improved tremendously...
now stop being so nosy :)
bababardwanSeptember 13, 2009, 01:37 PM
ok,sorry mate.Can't help it when I'm confused about something.I like your idea of listening for 8 hours and muttering along.A virtual immersion.Sounds like a good idea.Don't think I can find the time to do it for that long but I should do it for as long as I can and try more of the muttering.It's encouraging reading others success stories.Keep it up.
themainmanSeptember 13, 2009, 01:52 PM
well, it looks like I have a new job lined up soon so I too won't have all day available to study, however hopefully I can still get in a good chunk of time every week...just doing stuff around the house, keep the dialogues playing on repeat dude, that shit is key I feel
well best of luck to all of our continued success!!!
themainmanSeptember 11, 2009, 02:54 PM
yea I interviewed today in Chinese for just 5 min. went very well...speaking mandarin chinese is a big claim, so they brought in a dude from zhejiang and I busted it out....pretty much just mixed up bits and pieces of soundbites from the intermediate lessons of which I relistened to the first 189 lessons over yesterday and today! I busted out the xiwang you jihui wei nin xiaoli and the end...oh yea...I started with the shouxian feichang ganxie ni gei wo zheci mianshi jihui...hahahaha I actually heard the dude and then the chicks voices from the lesson playing in my head while I said it...hahahha I love this shit!!! I ripped it up! I think I got the job too hahahahaha hong kong here I come!!! (hopefully...never count your chickens!) god I am a dork