Learning Mandarin from scratch 2.0

This is an expansion on one of my earlier posts from November about starting out from scratch in Mandarin using Zhang PengPeng’s ‘Intensive Spoken Chinese’, which I found out you can access for FREE with English translations at http://www.chinese-tools.com/learn/chinese/contents.html 

I recommend you start with lesson 4!!

The book is a collection of 40 short dialogues with pinyin transliterations, vocabulary lists and audio that I used to learn to COMPREHEND about 1,000 common words in Chinese IN ONE MONTH. To do this you only need about 15-20 minutes a day over the course of a month.

***You can use this method with any Mandarin audios where you have access to the dialogue transcripts. If the transcripts only contain Chinese characters, you can use the “pinyinization” (transliteration into English characters) tool at http://popupchinese.com/tools/adso to get the pinyin, and Google Translate http://translate.google.com/# to get a rough translation. If you want pinyin vocabulary lists, you can use CSLPod for free, or you can pay for ChineseLearnOnline, ChinesePOD or ChineseClass101.***

My improved method is

1) read the English translation while listening to the Mandarin audio
2) read the pinyin and listen again
3) read the pinyin vocabulary list and try to pick out the individual words as you listen again
4) read the English translation and listen again 
5) listen without reading to test your comprehension

This should only take about 10 minutes for each dialogue – I found that I could learn to understand a dialogue with sometimes 30 new vocab words in that time.

Once you can understand without reading anything, move onto the next lesson and do the same. Try to do a lesson a day. Then it’s just a matter of listening to the dialogues every day over the course of a week or so and after that occasionally repeating, and within about a month or less you can understand 1000 words of Chinese in context.

To learn even more intensively and prevent forgetting, use the following approach:

Day 1: Do the four steps above for dialogue 1

Day 2: Do step 4 for dialogue 1, do all four steps for dialogue 2.

Day 3: Do step 4 for dialogues 1 and 2, do all four steps for dialogue 3.

Day 4: Do step 4 for dialogues 1, 2, and 3, do all four steps for dialogue 4.

Day 5: Do step 4 for dialogues 1, 2, 3, and 4, do all four steps for dialogue 5.

Day 6: Do step 4 for dialogues 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, do all four steps for dialogue 6.

Day 7: Do step 4 for dialogues 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, do all four steps for dialogue 7.

DAY 8: REMOVE DIALOG 1, do step 4 for dialogues 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, do all four steps for dialogue 8.

Day 9: REMOVE DIALOG 2, do step 4 for dialogues 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, do all four steps for dialogue 9.

Day 10: REMOVE DIALOG 3, do step 4 for dialogues 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, do all four steps for dialogue 10.

Day 11: etc. for the rest of the month

Continue with this pattern, removing one dialogue and adding one every day, until you’ve finished all the dialogues. Each dialogue is only a minute long (without the vocabulary review), so you only need a maximum of about 15-20 minutes a day, including each day’s new lesson. By the end of the month you will know these dialogues quite well and have a very solid basic knowledge of Mandarin, at which point I recommend you use the same method with lessons from LingQ, ChinesePod, ChineseClass101, ChineseLearnOnline and CSLPOD!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: How I learned to understand 1000 words of Mandarin in 1 month « Mandarin From Scratch
  2. anamericanlinguist
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 19:24:04

    Mandarin is the next language that I want to study, but I want to get my German and Italian to an advanced level first. I’m already anxious to start, taking a peak at some ‘learn to write chinese’ books when I have some spare time. I’ll definitely be back when I start, you’ve got a lot of great articles and resources. Keep up the good work!


  3. mandarinfromscratch
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 19:27:59

    Thanks for your comment Dave. Let me know when you get started and I’ll point you in the right direction:) Congrats on your site, I really like the way you’ve put it together, and I’m jealous you’re getting to do so much travelling! Saludos!


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