Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan

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Lang-8 and FluentFlix, Mandarin Progress Report Aug 2012


I’ve recently  come back to my mandarin studies after a bit of a lackadaisical hiatus which didn’t have much focus.

I’m now treating the language like a Venn diagram of interconnectedness.  Previously, reading and writing were less important, with vocabulary acquisition and speaking (attempting to) being more of a central focus.

However, a holistic understanding of many small quanta is better at reinforcing things you’ve learnt. New vocab soon gets forgotten unless it’s strengthened by seeing it used elsewhere.

Recently I’ve been using Lang-8 to improve my reading and writing, and well as boost my syntax skills. This multi- language website is a place to write a short paragraph in your target language and have natives comment and correct your work.  You then give back to the community and correct other people’s work.  I’ve found that if you make friends and happily correct a small bunch of people with good feedback, they are very willing and quick to help you with yours.  This website is very good because it encourages you to think in that language and use words in sentences, and grammar structures which were previously just a series of rules.

When I say writing, I don’t mean picking up a brush, scrapping some ink on a rock and diluting it with water to make some lovely characters. I am a firm believer that the written language is less important for a 老外 and has very few practical uses in this age of technology. Perhaps somewhere along the road I will learn stoke order etc, but for now, to be able to recognise characters is so much more important.

For instance, I don’t know how to write thank you in chinese, but as soon as I see the characters written down I know instantly. Likewise, if I want to use pinyin to input it into the computer I just type xie xie. To actually hand write these characters would take a decade for me. 謝謝

I’m also lucky enough to be using the FluentFlix beta. This new website shows YouTube videos in Chinese, but underneath has a scrolling flashcards of whats being said in Chinese (simplified so far),Pinyin, and English. Hover over a word and it gives you examples and lets you add them to your flash card database.  This is quite a relaxing way to study because it requires little effort to listen to native speakers talk about a huge variety of topics and have easy access to translations, flashcards, example sentences etc.

I’ve completely neglected my vocabulary learning software Anki, and need to go back over previously learnt HSK decks to check they’re not all lost in the ether of my brain.

I am in two minds of whether or not to just devote a year of my life in the mountains as a monk, learning chinese 14 hours a day and become truly proficient in a small amount of  intensive study, compared to a long drawn out amount of itty bitty studying. I could prepare tea, sweep leaves, meditate, and learn kung fu at the same time.

P.s  I Just watched the Taiwanese movie, you are the apple of my eye,  那些年,我們一起追的女孩 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, 8/10 drumsticks.  Other Taiwanese Movies to watch include Monga, Cape No. 7, and Seediq bale