Archive for May, 2011

Let’s say you have a piggy bank to store your savings or pocket money. Once you fill half of the piggy bank, you will be considered well-off. Once you submerge the piggy bank, you’ll be considered rich.

This same concept can be applied to the study of languages. Each ‘study period’ you are inadvertently filling in the piggy-bank with coins, and over time, through the accumulation of many small study periods, you’ll eventually fill up the piggy bank.

What I’m saying here is that every single minute you devote into your Chinese learning will pan out results, no matter how infinitesimal they are. Actually, let me make a correction. Each second of learning will produce results. Each time you study a Hanzi, you are filling a penny in your piggy bank. Each time you get the grasp of a sentence, you are filling a dime into your piggy bank.

This means, don’t worry about the ‘length’ of your studies as each study session has its hidden value. Instead, focus on getting the ‘frequency’ of your study up, to increase the number of pennies that are flowing into the bank. Take spare-moments to fill up that bank. When you’re waiting in line for a bus, you can stare at the model in the billboard. However, you’re wasting your time. Instead, take out your SRS and start doing reps. Or pull out your ipod and start the listening. Use these moments, these moments that are invaluable and would otherwise be squandered to fill up your piggy-bank.One Hanzi done whilst waiting for the bus? Wow, you’ll get 365 done in a year without any ‘specified study times’.

One day, one day, you’ll eventually hit the day where you’re piggy bank becomes full. And that is the day when you become fluent. The day of recogning. Before then, just remember:

Every second, every piece of effort devoted will eventually accumulate into something big.


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Memorizing 2000 unique characters is a daunting task. The characters have to written specifically, to avoid changes in meaning. To master the 2000 characters, it’ll take a decade.

But then by then you’ll be senile. This post will present to you a method you can implement to memorize the characters in a fraction of that time. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But something similar. Something that will pan out efficient + effective results.

I think I may have touched upon this method in a previous post. But this is the first time that I formally elaborate on this method. The secret is:

Whilst each Chinese character may seem like a separate entity, many are actually just a combination of a group of more simpler Chinese characters. For example:

日. This character means ‘day’. 月 This character means ‘Month’ or ‘Moon’.

AND 明. Which means ‘tomorrow’, or ‘next’.

If you know the first character and the second character, you’ll have an extra free character! That’s literally, buy one get one free. And that’s not it

Many Chinese words follow the same pattern as above. The only thing you need to do is actually acknowledge these connections. And then start connecting. After you start connecting, you’ll start memorizing. And before no time, you’ll realize there’s actually only a finite number of characters and that they are heck easy to memorize. And before long, you’ll be ready to do step 2.

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So, step 1 is remembering the characters. What’s step two? Remembering compound words? No.

But then….


But then you can’t speak the language without knowing any proper vocabulary!

Yes. That is true. But I never said you weren’t going to acquire a large vocabulary, but that the method in which you acquire the vocabulary should be different to that of idly sitting there reading a list. That method is primitive, antiquated, archaic, anything that draws the same definition as out-of-date. Oh wait, there’s a Latin saying for that, its called, ‘Self Inflicted Torture’.

Reading off a list will eventually demotivate you. Maybe not all of you, but enough people for me to point that out. It’s depressing, simply reading out of a vocabulary list. And its close to useless. An individual word is like a single component of a car. You can’t drive a car with only an engine..

What you need is the entire picture. Sentences. This wasn’t my idea. It was this guys idea, and here is a link to his site where he provides a detailed explanation about sentences: http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/10000-sentences-where.

I used sentences intensively in my Chinese studies. Now, I read articles, books. This fantastic guy will let you know everything about sentences, as I feel it is inappropriate for a novice talking about the innovation of a pundit.

Secondly, enjoy yourself! Any textbook my parents bought for me, I very happily discarded. I got bored, depressed and the jokes inside were not even funny. But my father bought some DVD about the Sino-Japanese War, which enthralled me. I watched the entire 21 episode of 40 minute discs in 2 days! Then I started with a new episode. This allowed to catch up with most of the slang, adages that existed in the language. Movies are excellent ways to expose yourself to real, genuine material. These movies were designed for native speakers, so the directors don’t worry about the level of difficulty. However, textbooks for foreigners do. That’s the major difference. Here is the rule

Chinese TV, Music, Drama: Genuine Knowledge

Textbooks: Artificial

aka. You don’t need a textbook.

However, watching Tv was just what I enjoyed. You can find other ways to enjoy yourself. Do anything you enjoy, as long as its in your target language….Read Wikipedia, Read the News, Listen to Music, Play Chinese Games, ANYTHING, as long as its in your target language. Period.

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Speaking is an important aspect of language. Fact. Arguably, it is one of the most important reasons as in why someone undertakes a foreign language without any sort of obligation. To able to converse freely with native speakers is the ultimate goal for most of us.

Most of us complain that there is a dearth of opportunities to actually engage with Native Speakers of Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Italian, whatever language you’re learning. I am here to debunk this excuse, and this applies EXCLUSIVELY to Chinese.

Firstly, this is the 21st century. The Medieval Times are over. We no longer rely on primitive morose codes to transmit messages! Wake up. This is the digital age, the age where echnology really starts to prosper and impact on our lives. We have Skype, MSN, and as long as you have a web-cam and a microphone, you can literally speak with anyone, anywhere. Go online to any pen-friend website such as Lang-8, and find Native Speakers of that language. You can teach them your native language for an exchange for their skills. An eye for an eye, a language for a language. You don’t have to travel 6000km just to speak the language. Those days are over. Instant communication ftw!

Now, why does the speaking thing apply exclusively to chinese? Well, that is because we Chinese people are everywhere. There isn’t one country that is Chinese ethnicity free. America has around 4 million Chinese immigrants, with significant populations in major cities such as New York, Washington. If your a University Student, you’re likely to see a lot of Chinese students, that where their most concentrated. On the plus side, most can speak Chinese, as most first generation parents want to ensure that the Chinese culture is passed on.

Take this to your advantage. Stop speaking with your Chinese friends in your native language. Tell them you want to learn Chinese, and you want them to help you. If there you’re true friend, they won’t object. And if you can accomplish this, and be persistent about speaking Chinese with chinese friends, you have a very auspicious future mate. 😀

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Step 1 is what the title says. Remember the Chinese Characters. How many? As many as you can. Ok, not really. Well, according to an article I read, there are more than 100,000 Chinese Characters. It would be madness trying to memorize all that. It would also be irrelevant. If your aim is to be a Chinese Literature Major, then maybe 100,000 is a goal you should be aiming for. But for fluency, i’d say 2000-4000 is sufficient to allow you to access majority of the newspaper content and to understand most of the Chinese dramas.

However, 2000-4000 Chinese characters is still not a small figure! Two thousand has three zeroes, three more than that of two. It would take 1000 times the effort to memorize 2 chinese characters !

So, you need a method. Its that simple. A method that will allow you to memorize 2000 characters, a.s.a.p. If you already have a method which works for you, that’s fabulous. But if you’re out of ideas, then this post will outline a method in which I find extremely useful for long-term knowledge retention.

What I was thinking of is a technological innovation called a SRS (Space Repetition System).

What a SRS does? For a much more detailed explanation, check this website: http://ankisrs.net/

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about from here, be sure to go to the website above.

What I was thinking is to insert the 2000 Chinese terms in a SRS, and work from there. If you’re too lazy to do it yourself, there are some pre-made decks which you can use, such as Remembering the Hanzi, which exists somewhere out there 😀 Sorry!

Do 20 a day, or however many your brain can comprehend. Quantity isn’t paramount. Its the quality and frequency of your study. Just keep on going and eventually, you’ll hit a point where you get a feel of the language, and character building will be a breeze. That is quite true. Now, whenever I see a unfamiliar word, due to the countless chinese characters engraved in my mind, I form connections with existing Chinese words I know which rapidly drills the character into my brain. In Chinese, that’s called 联想。 Don’t stop. Just keep on going. Even if you only have the time to do 2 characters a day, do it. Anything is better than Nothing. Eventually, you’ll get the feel of the characters, I promise you.

Also, display the English character on the front side and try to write it out in Chinese. If you manage to do so, then just click the review in ‘1 day’ or however many you think is appropriate. You’ll be reviewing it again tomorrow, so any more revision on the word that day will be redundant as you will just forget it, hence dissipating your time.

Lastly, learn how to read the Chinese words, with the correct tone. I repeat, with the correct tone. Reading a Chinese character with the wrong tone can sometimes distort the entire message you are trying to convey. So, the correct tone please, I don’t know how much I have to emphasize on this point.  Luckily, in Chinese, most characters only have one meaning, so the  reading’s will be quite consistent, unlike Japanese,  with a few exceptions which are normally just minor differences in tone.

Set a goal for the finishing line of 2000 characters. Manage your time wisely, to make the most out of your studies. Once you hit the first finishing line of 2000 characters, your ready to start the next race. Here is  where stuff starts to become more dynamic and more interesting. Before then, 加油努力!

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A brief, laconic introduction to this blog. As the name suggests, this blog is for anyone who wants to become fluent in Chinese. That includes giving you key tips and tricks to help you with this ‘journey’. And believe me, its not going to be easy. Awww…why so negative? I’m not being negative, ok, maybe I am, but i’m tryong to be realistic here. Optimism won’t help you learn Chinese fluently. Ahhh…let me study 5 minutes a day and I’ll be fluent in 10 days. No chance. The ingredients to a successful linguist learner is to enjoy the language. That’s one tip to successful Chinese learning. This blog will reveal many more.

However, this is not a course. I might occasionally post some interesting educational material, but just adhering to this blog alone will not make you fluent. No chance. This blog is just for motivation, for strategies, and for a chance to meet interesting Chinese Linguist learners.

Quite terse right? :p

For more advice on learning languages in general, check out this two blogs:

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/ : Excellent blog for motivation.

http://www.fluentin3months.com/ : Excellent website about learning languages in general and what people are doing wrong.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can alway preview any post or edit you before you share it to the world.

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