One Month Challenge: How To Change Your Chinese Learning Habits in 30 Days
May31

One Month Challenge: How To Change Your Chinese Learning Habits in 30 Days

Lacking motivation? Keep putting off that Chinese study? Haven’t learnt a new character since you bought that World of Warcraft expansion pack? One month challenges are for you. I first heard about them online a couple of months ago, I think in a psychology journal (I can’t remember which, sorry!). Anyway, I read that habits are formed in around 30 days (less in some people), and that by setting yourself a goal of doing a specific task every day for a month, we are likely to assimilate it into our life as one of our everyday activities. So, armed with this newfound knowledge, I set out precisely one month ago on my first One Month Challenge: to get 1 hour of Chinese input a day. Studying seriously becomes so much easier when it becomes a habit. Lemme explain. What is a habit? And why do we have them? People like to believe that they have absolute free will over their actions and behaviours. That they are the one master of their destiny. In reality, most of our behaviour is hardwired into our subconscious – we don’t notice, of course, but a lot of what we do is governed, and explicable by reference to these unconscious processes of the brain. An example of this is psychological addictions, such as addiction to drugs such as marijuana that, chemically, have no physically addictive qualities. Specific behaviours develop and strengthen over time. In order to use it to its full potential, we must recognise that the brain is a muscle that must be trained, just like the muscles needed to physically carry out the brain’s messages. The reason you cannot immediately play a guitar the first time you pick it up is not only because your fingers can’t physically perform the required movements, but also because your brain doesn’t have the capacity to do so yet. Over time, your fingers develop ‘muscle memory’ that allows them to quickly snap from chord to chord. Your brain simultaneously develops the neural connections associated with playing the guitar, without which you would not be able to play. We can extend this to the question of why people procrastinate. Why do they seem unable to stop themselves? In case you don’t see where I’m going with this, I’ll spell it out for you: they have gotten into the habit of procrastinating and cannot just simply, well, stop. They need to train their subconscious to ignore the temptation, and their conscious mind will follow. How does this apply to learning Chinese? We are creatures of habit. If you can commit to doing a bit of Chinese every day...

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Launched my YouTube Channel – and decided to do a video in French (with subtitles)

So, I started up a YouTube channel that will primarily be used to talk about learning Chinese. However, I decided to do a little introduction video in French, as it is the language I know the best (apart from English). Don’t worry, though, there are subtitles – so you can all understand! Also, now you guys have some proof my advice works, or at least that it did for...

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On the use of ‘dead time’
May14

On the use of ‘dead time’

If you are like 99% of the population, and aren’t some sort of mutant-cyboid-productivity-machine-monster, you probably waste a fair amount of your life. I’m not talking about time spent watching TV, or on Facebook. Activities like these, although they may be classified as procrastination, do serve some purpose – relaxation, entertainment, being social, blah blah. I bet you take the bus. Or the train. Or, if you too live in Melbourne, a tram. You ride a bike. Wash your clothes. Hang up your clothes to dry. Go for walks. Eat lunch. You get the idea. This is ‘dead time’ – time that serves no purpose whatsoever and is essentially sucked into the black hole of time, never to be seen again. Imagine if you harnessed the power of that time? All those forgotten minutes, maybe a half hour here and then, amount to an intense amount of time. That’s right, intense. *drools* I would say most people have at least an hour a day in dead time they could use, but it could be as much as two or three depending on the person. Why not listen to some Chinese dialogs? Use of such dead time ALONE is enough to get fluent in a language, assuming at some stage you stop washing the dishes and talk to people who speak Chinese or whatever to consolidate what you’ve learnt through all that input time. Or you could just, you know, keep scrubbin’ those dishes until your hands are raw and burnt from the hot water and stinging from all the soap and you can understand Chinese like it’s no one’s business. Just as an aside, on the value of input, I managed to get reasonably fluent in Spanish (granted, I was already fluent in French) by doing nothing other than watching every episode of the O.C. (don’t judge me), Walking Dead, and Lost, dubbed in Spanish. I couldn’t understand shit at the start, but believe me; you start to. Even though my Spanish speaking ability is lacking at present due to lack of practice/I’ve stopped watching my shows, I can still understand practically everything. What’s better is that due to my lack of grammar study, I feel the language like I do English – I know the grammar rules, I just don’t know why they are the...

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