祝大家新年快樂! Happy Chinese New Year’s Resolutions!

My 100-euro 1st-prize New Year's Hong Bao(新年紅包)

(and 祝大家新年快 to all you mainlanders;)

Once again, it’s been a long while since I’ve posted on my blog and a lot has changed in my Mandarin learning since November of last year. This week I’m going to hit 200 hours of Mandarin listening, and you’d be amazed at how much progress you can make over the course of 60+ hours of listening. I’ve also (re)discovered quite a few tools to aid you in your acquisition of Mandarin, and one of my resolutions is to introduce one of them to you each week over the coming months.

As far as my second resolution is concerned, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn one chapter a week in 2012 from the textbook series New Practical Chinese Reader (NPCR) that we’re using for our Chinese studies in the Department for East Asian Studies at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (some of my fellow students and professors were featured last year in a video report from China Central Television about Sinology studies at the university, which you can view here). This includes the meaning, pinyin transliteration and characters for all new and supplementary vocabulary, for a total of 3840 words in 60 lessons, or 52 lessons in 52 weeks, as we’d already completed the first 8 lessons of the series by the end of 2011. This will allow me to finish the entire 5-book series by the end of this year, where it would usually be completed over the course of 6 semesters!

The reason I know the exact number is that all of the lesson vocabulary for all 5 books in the series have already been uploaded and organized by chapter, and can be learned in both their traditional and simplified forms on Skritter.com (here’s a direct link to the NPCR vocabulary list on Skritter), which is a Chinese and Japanese character-learning tool based on spaced repetition learning comparable to Anki in its functionality, both of which I’d like to address in further detail as they’ve become two of my 最好的朋友 since having to start learning the characters for my studies in October.

In addition to NPCR, Skritter has the complete vocabulary for most books used in any university course, as well as vocabulary lists to learn the component parts which make up all Chinese characters (called radicals), the requisite vocab for each level of the standardized Chinese examination HSK (similar to the TOEFL for English), and the vocab for all of the lessons found on ChinesePOD.com, which I finally decide to invest in last year as they had a deal for students on 1-year subscriptions.

I was also delighted to find that they have an Android app, which allows “ChinesePod users to download their latest lessons, listen to them, read the lesson transcripts, review vocabulary, review expansion sentences, drill down into vocabulary, play individual word (and sentence) audio, and more,” all of which I can personally vouch for. Although this did represent an expense that wasn’t exactly negligible, I’ve discovered that some things are just worth paying for in your language studies, especially if they allow you to organize and considerably speed up your language learning (and reduce your boredom factor;) – the reason why I’ve been a member of LingQ for over 2 years!

And now that I know approximately 300 Chinese characters, I been able to start using LingQ’s new SRS system to aid my studies. The cool thing about LingQ is that I can import lessons from CSLPod, ChineseClass101, ChinesePOD, ChineseLearnOnline and PopUpChinese into LingQ and immediately get sentence-by-sentence Text-to-Speech (TTS) audio by highlighting sentences and creating LingQs out of them. Although it’s TTS, it’s really not that far off from the original (I’ve done plenty of comparisons with sentence audios from native speakers on ChinesePOD, ChineseLearnOnline and iKnow (formerly smartfm)) and good enough for vocabulary review, as it’s really only meant as a supplement to daily dialog-based listening anyway. As you may remember, I talked about the power of dialogs in my post Don’t underestimate yourself – stop TRYING to learn and LET your brain do the work.

In fact, I would say 95% of the listening I do on a daily basis – which is quite extensive, as I listen to Mandarin in the morning when I’m getting ready, on the way to and from uni, between classes, on my way to work at the translation agency, in the library while I’m studying, on the way home in the evening, and even when I’m brushing my teeth before going to bed in the evenings – is dialog-based. If you’d like to know why, I recommend you read the post above!

This may seem like overloading on listening, but my comprehension has improved in leaps and bounds as a result, and I must say that I’ve found that there’s a certain amount of sense in what Khatzumoto says in his post Why You Should Keep Listening Even If You Don’t Understand, as any and all listening to your target language primes your brain for better comprehension and retention. Nevertheless, I usually try to find audios where my comprehension is 50% or greater, whether it’s purely auditory comprehension or with the aid of written translations, as from one of the above-mentioned podcasts or from Google Translate if I can get the text (with Slow-Chinese.com, for example), as it’s simply more interesting! I look forward to talking to you all more about these and other tools and resources in the coming weeks.

Seeing as the Year of the Dragon got off to a good start yesterday when I won the 1st prize of a 100-euro Hong Bao (see the picture at the top of the post) in the raffle at the Chinese New Year’s Festival here in Göttingen, as well as the fact that I got an A on our first major Chinese exam last week, I’d say this is gonna be a great year to learn Chinese!

好好學習,天天向上!

P.S. – If you can’t read the Chinese characters in this post and you’d like to have them instantly decoded, I recommend the free add-on pop-up dictionaries Perapera Chinese and Words Chinese for Firefox, and Zhongwen Chinese for Google Chrome!

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