Your questions and problems
Hi (nǐ hǎo),
Let's share our questions and learning issues in this group. Also, let's share other helpful resources for learning Mandarin.
I am a completely new Mandarin learner with no previous experience in non-western languages. I live in Florida, USA, and am a retired college math teacher. The only language I speak fluently is English, but I do know a bit of French, less Spanish, and have forgotten a lot of Latin.
hs14aJune 02, 2010, 08:10 AM
XanaField, Ni Hao
Renshi ni hen gaoxing!
I wonder how many teachers or ex-teachers there are amongst poddies? I too am retired from the same profession and have been lucky enough to enjoy being so for 10 years now :)
I am now pretty comfortable with elementary lessons and can usually cope reasonably well with lower intermediate. Chinese Pod is easily the best method I have found to tackle learning systematically although of course nothing can quite compare with the experience of being in China itself. Another valuable resource you might like to check out is www.yellowbridge.com which has a wonderful online dictionary amongst many other things (eg videos which go with lessons in some of the better known language textbooks such as New Practical Chinese Reader)
I see you have some experience of French, Spanish and Latin. You will find that the Chinese grammar is simpler than that of European languages but I struggle with other aspects - sentence structure for example. I had problems at the start getting accustomed to the same pinyin word meaning many different things even when enunciated with the same tone! (the character will be different ..... usually!!)
Of course you speak the universal language of Mathematics so hopefully that will be useful to you.
I hope you enjoy your lessons here. The teachers are excellent and their enthusiasm is infectious as is their sense of humour :)
Look forward to hearing how you progress
Ni hao hs14a,
Glad to see there is at least one other senior attempting this language. How long did it take you to get to lower intermediate? How many hours per week do you devote to study, on average?
At first, I too wondered about the 'same' pinyin words having different characters and meanings. Then I realized the English analogy would be words like sew and so, two, to, and too, etc., i.e. homonyms.
A visit to China is on my list of goals. But I want to learn more about the language and culture first.
Thanks for the yellowbridge recommendation. I will check it out.
Please feel free to share your wisdom with us newbies even though you are way past this level.
zhuang1lei3June 02, 2010, 07:51 PM
I just turned 55. Am I aloud in? I'm not retired or a teacher ;-)
I just got this great book by Allison & Laurence Matthews, "Learning Chinese Characters." It helps you learn/memorize the first 800 characters you need to get through HSK level A. It uses mnemonic stories to help you remember the characters. I'm through three chapters, about 40 characters, I am doing better remembering than I thought possible. It is published by Tuttle and cost $20 from Amazon.
I wish I had it a year ago.
Here is another great dictionary, http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php
Ni hao zhuang1lei3,
Yep, you are allowed in. You certainly don't have to be a retired teacher or even retired. I just think it would be nice to share with others who are no longer kids. I wasn't sure where to set the age line. I was afraid if I set it too high, I wouldn't find anyone else.
Thanks for the info on the learning characters book. I've got ren2, yi1, and er4, and a few others down, but I need to practice writing them, not just looking at them. One reason for the delay is that I'm not sure how important the calligraphy is - i.e. how simplified can one make the characters? I know there are different kinds of dots, for example.
I began studying French in my 50s and then, after a year of college level work, spent a month in Paris. Most of the time I managed without English though I did a lot of gesturing. The French understood me much better than I understood them.
zhuang1lei3June 08, 2010, 12:32 AM
Glad I'm in.
Learning the characters is much less for the writing than the reading. And if you have ever watched a waiter take your order in a Chinese restaurant their handwriting is as far from calligraphy as our is.
Ken Carrol tells a joke about knowing how to write, he can write 1,2,3.
xanafieldJune 08, 2010, 03:59 AM
The biggest problem I am having as a new learner is the Pinyin sounds for letters that differ from the English sounds. I know if I associate those Pinyin letters with English sounds, I will have dreadful Chinese pronunciation. I wish Chinese Pod had a series of lessons on words using the sounds for each letter (or combination), e.g. a lot of words beginning with zh.
I'm sure learners from other countries would also appreciate such sound drills.
hs14aJune 08, 2010, 07:41 PM
Hi Xanafield Great news ... your wish has come true :). Take a look at the Channels tab then under extra channels you will find a series of lessons on Pinyin and pronunciation. Hope that's what you are looking for. Regarding your earlier message I fear I am the last person to be able to offer sage advice! It really depends how interested you are and how much time you can afford. In my case the rate of progress has been sporadic to say the least. However I do think it is useful to find other people to learn alongside - even if it is just one other person with whom you agree to meet regularly to compare progress. That way you support each other and at times when your interest might be flagging it is a stimulus to know that you are meeting up in a couple of days. This or something like it is maybe possible through some of the more expensive Cpod subscriptions which I haven't tried but for me nothing beats meeting up with another person. Then again, I live in a small but cosmopolitan city and it is not hard for me to find native Mandarin speakers who want to practice English - so that's another possibility. However motivation is the most important thing and I found it focused my mind greatly knowing I would be going to China and that impetus was maintained for some time after returning on each occasion. I guess what I am saying is it was useful to me to have a goal in mind. I agree with Zhuang Lei that learning characters is much more about reading and comprehension than it is about writing. I doubt if I could write more than a dozen including 1,2 and 3 :) That's where computers are great as far as am concerned and I assume you know how to do that. Not everyone's opinion no doubt but it is enough for me to be able to read (and I've a long way to go!) Finally I know I said motivation is the most important thing but part of that must be that you are enjoying it. If I didn't enjoy it I'd give up. This is where Cpod excels in my view. The lessons have a built in entertainment aspect as a result of the relationships between the tutors. I feel as if I am meeting up with old friends even if they don't know me from a bag of tatties (I'm Scottish .. look it up :)) All the best hs14a
I found the pinyin lessons shortly after I wrote that note, and they are the best I've seen so far. I am taking this slowly in hopes of remembering a higher percentage of what I go over for more than a day or two. My short term memory is quite good, but if I don't use the info for several days, a lot is lost.
I live in an 'active adult' community of almost 80,000 adults, not all of whom are all that active. It could not be described as cosmopolitan. I may advertise in our recreation guide for other learners, but I doubt I will find many - if any. My female internist is Chinese, but I hope to not be seeing her very often. :-) But you are quite right; I would be more strongly motivated if I had at least one other person to work with.
And the carrot of a possible trip to China that I could experience as more than a mere hop-from-one-attraction-to-the-next tourist is also motivating.
And you are right about Cpod. There is an entertaining, non-professorial aspect that is very appealing about the podcasts.
I had to look up 'tatties.' Similar to 'taters - wonder if the etymology is the same.
I've been using computers for over 40 years but I don't know how to write Chinese characters yet. How do you do it? I realize I could go to one of the online dictionaries and copy each character, but that seems tedious. Is there an easier way?
Thanks again for your tips,
hs14aJune 26, 2010, 11:54 PM
Sorry about delay in replying. I have been away for a bit.
I use Windows 7 and one way to find out about changing the input language is to press "Start" then "Help and Support" then enter "Typing in Chinese" in the search field. Follow the instructions and you will eventually find that "Chinese (Simplified PRC)" is added to the tray at the bottom right of the screen where it probably displays "EN" at the moment. If you then click on the "EN" a choice of language inputs is presented. Click on Chinese and thereafter when you type Pinyin using the keyboard a choice of Chinese characters appears. Pick the one you want and it should appear in your document. Remember to switch back to English when you are finished. Sorry I can't remember what to do for earlier versions of Windows but it wasn't a whole lot different so above may still be relevant (I hope)! Right now I am having more of a problem typing in English as the font sizes seem to have a mind of their own :) Hope you manage to decipher what I have written. All the best hs14a
xanafieldJuly 05, 2010, 03:14 AM
Thanks, hs14a. I will see if I can figure out what to do in Vista and/or XP. I, too, just returned from a trip - took the book zhuang1lei3 recommended and have learned a number of characters - have studied the first 4 chapters, but haven't got all the characters from them learned yet. And with no exposure to verbal Mandarin in 2 weeks, have fallen behind on that.