The Importance of Reading and How to Do More of It
Jan28

The Importance of Reading and How to Do More of It

I’ve been spending an hour or so every day the last few days reminiscing about my childhood and playing the Chinese version of Pokémon! Why is reading in Chinese so damn important? Reading, when learning any language, is a useful method of acquiring new vocabulary, grammar patterns, and of seeing how words are used, and in what context they are used. In Chinese, however, reading has an extra level of importance due to its system of writing. Unlike a language that uses an alphabet in its written form, reading in Chinese allows you to constantly review the characters you’ve learned. If you’ve ever tried to learn characters, then you’ll be familiar with the constant struggle of memorising them, only to forget them moments later. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re making lots of progress, only to realise that although you’re learning 10 new characters a day, you’re forgetting 20. The fact is, without a regular and sustained routine of review and practice, basically any given character you learn, no matter how easy it may seem, will eventually slip from your memory over a long enough period. The power of reading is that the constant recall of every character will help ingrain it into your brain. I haven’t done a huge amount of reading into how memory works, but my understanding is that new information passes first from your short-term memory to your long-term memory (‘learning’) but that the information remains vulnerable and likely to be forgotten unless it is recalled or reviewed a number of times over an extended period. Eventually, though, after enough reviews, the paths in your brain should theoretically be strong enough that the information basically won’t be forgotten. Being in China, I’ve been thinking a lot about how such a large amount of people are able to learn the thousands upon thousands of Chinese characters necessary to become functionally literate. The secret I believe is due to the fact that the characters are everywhere, unlike in my own country where my only exposure to them is when I open my textbook. In China, you can’t escape characters; they’re on every corner, on every shop, every sign, and every subway station. Even when surfing the Internet or messaging their friends, Chinese people are practicing their characters. How they are able to retain a working knowledge of so many characters, when taking this into account, suddenly becomes clear. My theory is that recreating this character environment, at least until they are so ingrained that they will not easily be forgotten, is necessary to learn and retain enough characters to be literate in the first place. How do I...

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My Personal Method for Learning Chinese
Dec05

My Personal Method for Learning Chinese

Hi guys! Hope you’re all well. I’m just now crawling from under my Law school exam-time rock and reacquainting myself with the real world – my apologies for the low number of posts in the last month or two. I hope you enjoyed the recent guest post on how another fellow Australian learnt Chinese to a near-native level in one year. The good news is that I have lots of ideas for articles and a lot more free time to write them! As you may know, I’m also leaving my hometown of Melbourne to spend around 7 months travelling and studying in China – I’ll be posting regularly about language and culture, and also doing weekly video updates (in Chinese! But with subtitles) to show my progression and to add a bit of extra pressure/accountability from my end. So look forward to that! I leave on January 7th.  ________________________________________________________________________________ MY CHINESE METHOD  MY TOOLS Chinese content to mine words from (podcasts, TV etc) Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app for iPhone/iPad, and probably Android) Microsoft Excel TextEdit (or equivalent) Anki The ChinesePod Glossary (optional) A good old fashioned pen and paper As a brief introduction to my method, I have developed it after learning about the way my own brain works. As such, it may need to be modified slightly depending on the type of learner you are, or hey, it might work great for you too. I find it to be very time efficient, and through it I am able to learn 20-30 words (often comprising of more than one character) per day in under an hour of study and with a retention rate of about 90-95%. That’s pretty good, I think. However, for it to work the best it can, you really need to do it every day or the process will be disturbed. The way it works is essentially by creating a maximum number of ‘exposures’ to the new vocabulary, spaced out over time, allowing the words to naturally move from  short-term memory into  long-term one by convincing the brain that the information is valuable, rather than passing stimuli to be discarded. I believe that this repetition, coupled with the relatively stress-free context (in that I’m not forcing the words into my memory but relaxing and letting them enter naturally) is the key to its success. Phase 1: Let’s go word mining. Although one can learn vocabulary from word lists or frequency lists, I greatly prefer finding my own words in the material I’m studying firstly because: a) word lists are boring and I’m not a robot, and b) finding words in context is a great aid...

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How To: Get Audio Flashcards For Anki Using ChinesePod
Sep20

How To: Get Audio Flashcards For Anki Using ChinesePod

Audio flashcards are an incredible resource for learning languages. They turn listening and reading activities (which are passive) into active ones. Unsurprisingly, you need passive activities to improve your passive language ability (for example, your listening comprehension), and your need active ones to improve your active language ability (producing the language). The size of your your passive vocabulary can be very different from the size of your active vocabulary. I’m planning on doing a couple of posts in the next few weeks about how I use flashcards, and why. The first premise of my flashcard theory is that audio flashcards are the go. I’ll explain later. Don’t question it, just do. Here’s how to get them using ChinesePod (on Google Chrome) . Even if you don’t listen to many of their podcasts (which I don’t recommend – if you have a subscription, their podcasts and the ability to listen to dialogue only versions are extremely good) it may be worth paying for a subscription to have access to their glossary. Step 1: Go to the ChinesePod glossary page. Step 2: Put in your search (I recommend writing the characters, rather than the Pinyin). Step 3: Click the play button, then right click on the button and select ‘Inspect Element’ Step 4: This little box thing will come up. Click the ‘network’ tab. Step 5: Press the sentence’s play button again. You will see something like this come up in the box. Step 6: Click on the ‘rec’ one (not the other one). You should see a ‘Request URL’ that starts with http://s3. Select and copy this address. Step 7: Add a new card to Anki. Simply paste the URL into either (or both) card fields. Step 8: Copy the sentence from ChinesePod. Step 9: Paste the sentence into the deck. That’s it! Rinse and...

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