Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan

My Mandarin Plateau

2 Comments

I’ve reached a plateau in my chinese learning which has made me very disheartened.    At the beginning it was easy to see improvements because each new word learnt increased my knowledge two-fold.  Now i’ve reached a point when i don’t feel very confidant in having conversations despite knowing quite a lot of words.  At the beginning I was using Rosette Stone which is a tedious programme but does give you the very basics of the language quite well. Other learning resources included reading language blogs, listening to ChinesePod podcasts, and using the flashcard software Anki recently.

The past few weeks i’ve been going through learning word lists provided by the Chinese government for the chinese proficiency exam, the HSK.  There are 6 levels, the first level is 150 words, HSK2 is 300, and HSK3 is 600.  HSK 6 is something ridiculous like 5000 words. Anyway, i’ve learnt the words from HSK1 and 2 (not the characters) and am most of my way through HSK3, but i’ve reached the point of knowing many words but not knowing how to use them in a sentence, and getting frustrated when i forgot this endless amount of similar sounding words (there are only 400 different phonemes in chinese!). Even if a person knew lots of pages from an english dictionary, they would be  no better at trying to speak the language.

Now i’ve reverted back to listening to Chinese Pod and have begun memorising the dialogues so that I remember sentences rather than words. This is my goal for the next few weeks.  Sadly, the role of an english teacher is to speak English, so learning on the job isn’t great.  I can happily introduce myself in mandarin, and get through most situations providing i have my dictionary app for unknown nouns, but as soon as someone asks me something at high speed, i’m often dumbstruck and have to apologies, despite probably knowing how to answer the question if only I understood what the question was.

Added to this annoyance of not being a fluent god by now is that fact that the polyglot blogger Benny from www.fluentin3months.com (check it out) has made it his most recent mission to learn mandarin in just 3 months like his 8 other languages.  His updates on quickly becoming fluent are very interesting, but i can’t help feel quite annoyed by his progress and annoyed at my lack of.  However, I must rationalise this and realise that it is his job to learn and write about languages, and spends around 12 hours a day doing so,thus, i shouldn’t beat myself up too much.  I know everything about how to learn chinese,  but am failing to put that knowledge into practical results.   Hopefully my new goal of learning sentences, and grammar will be more fruitful.  I must also remember than before I came, i knew absolutely nothing, and had initially made an impressive start.  Now i just need to find a way of overcoming by current stagnation.  I know I should just throw myself out there and talk to ask many people as possible but this is something easier said than done.

Bye.

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Author: G.J

Neuroscience graduate from the University of Edinburgh. I have a passion for learning Chinese and finding resources to maximise efficiency.

2 thoughts on “My Mandarin Plateau

  1. I am sure you are doing well enough and I’m equally sure that Laurie can tell you why, after a certain point in learning a language, one reaches a plateau. I don’t believe it only happens with, in your case, Mandarin. But whatever the case don’t lose enthusiasm. I’m sure you won’t.

  2. If people are speaking too fast ask them to repeat what they said, slower. Very useful phrase to know in any language. Even English. Some people just babble! it shows your commitment to their language and they wil happily repeat what they said. Or they will find a different way of saying it so that you can understand. In French: Plus lentement s’il vous plait. Dunno what it is in Mandarin.
    Also start playing some games in mandarin. Simon Says, Eye Spy, Granny Went to Market and more so that you get used to using the language in a relaxed yet repetitive way. Hywel is right when he says you do just reach a plateau. I did French GCSE, RSA Business French and A Level French. First we started with learning a bazillion words and then how to construct sentences using more complex grammar. Thats when it gets a bit boring….so do some games with it and involve Laurie.

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