Tag Archives: mandarin

A Very Particular Period of Chinese Language Studies

When I first started learning Mandarin Chinese, I relied heavily on a series of Pimsleur courses. I found these very helpful in learning the different sounds and tones of the language, as the Pimsleur method places heavy emphasis on repetition (quite useful for speaking Mandarin).

It has been four years since that time and here I am: still working on the basics.

As part of my journey to pass the HSK 5 I am trying out some new techniques and experimenting with using new material. In particular, I have been very interested in using material from the US government’s Foreign Language Institute.

Today, I actually got around to downloading and listening to one of their tapes. You can find that tape here . (Please note that this site is not affiliated with any government entity and is privately owned).

Now, it doesn’t say exactly when the course was created, but on this particular website it uses the words “many years ago”. After listening to the tape, I realized that they were not exaggerating.

The two speakers I heard on Unit 1 Tape 1 spoke not only very quickly, but also with a heavy Beijing accent. After listening to the tape I found it very curious indeed how people were able to learn Chinese twenty or thirty years ago.

The tapes are interesting from a cultural perspective. They harken back to a time when people in the USA and China did not know very much about each other. I imagine that many of the more experienced China hands I know today learned Mandarin using similar materials.

PS: I could not find a record of the first US student to study Chinese in Mainland China. I would love to know who this person was and their story. If you know, please drop me a line.

Wikipedia Background Links

US-China open door policy and 1978 opening to foreign investment
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Door_Policy

Brief history of Chinese language studies
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_as_a_foreign_language

Riding Electric Scooters in Beijing

When I first came to Beijing I used to commute to work for an hour and a half each way on the subway. That meant most of my time was spent either at work or in the metro.

I think it was in one of those early morning commutes that I vowed to myself that I would never knowingly accept such a commute again if I could help it. In order to make good on that promise to myself I needed to find another job and minimize the time spent commuting.

Since those early days I have switched jobs a few times and apartments as well. A big part of my solution to the original commuter problem is to live in an apartment located nearby my office and to ride an electric moped.

Riding a moped into work is not perfect, (early morning traffic still gives me anxiety), but it definitely beats taking the bus or metro. In fact, the utility I have found in owning a scooter is one of the biggest reasons why I like my job and life in China.

My Current Scooter Set Up

Throughout my time in Beijing I have had two scooters. The first was a beat-up model with wide handlebars that navigated the hutongs more like a boat than anything else. Ever though it was old, it was still useful to commute from the room that I had rented in the city center to my job a few blocks away (this was post first Beijing job).

That bike had many problems and eventually I ended up selling it to a local repair shop for 300 RMB. Considering that I had used it for the better part of a year, and bought it for 800 RMB, I considered it a good purchase.

I purchased my second and current scooter upon getting a new job in a different district and moving nearby the office. In this area, it was very hard to find a good apartment close to the subway, so buying a scooter was a way for me to get around while still living somewhere nice.

While people often go for style when purchasing scooters, I chose a slightly different tact. For me, the most important feature was utility as I was using it as a tool to both commute to work and park nearby the different metro stations. That meant I was concerned primarily with the scooter utility.

When judging a scooters utility there are two important factors: batteries and safety. I decided to go with a very basic, large black scooter and lead batteries for 2500 RMB based on these two criteria.

Battery Life

WeChat Image_20170804141755.jpg

six pack lead batteries

WeChat Image_20170804141802.jpg

battery price list from local shop

WeChat Image_20170804141807.jpg

outside of the lead battery pack

As noted above, perhaps the most important quality of a scooter is its battery system. In China, there are many different kinds of batteries to choose from, ranging from cheap lead, to higher quality lithium.

Lead batteries are of poorer quality. This means that they will wear out much faster and weigh much more depending upon your desired range than lithium. However, because they are less valuable, they are also less likely to be stolen. A box of six lead batteries can cost from anywhere between three hundred to one thousand RMB.

Lithium batteries are much better. Generally speaking, you will only need one lithium battery to power your scooter with excellent range. They are lighter and also last much longer than their lead counterparts.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of lead batteries is the difficulty in charging them. If you plan on using your bike for commuting anything more than a couple of kms, then you will need more than one in your bike. (For the record, I commute 9 kms every day and have placed the entire pack of six batteries in my bike).

To charge lead batteries, riders either pull them out of the bike and lug them up to their apartments, or literally bring their bikes into the elevator and wheel them into their apartments.

The advantage of using lithium batteries is that you can simply pull the battery out and easily carry it up to your apartment. It’s simple, convenient, and incredibly light in comparison to lead batteries.

However, I chose to power my bike with lead batteries because I am honestly too afraid of a lithium battery being stolen. I myself have had two bikes stolen from me in Beijing (one I was watching for a friend) and do not relish the idea of going through this again with a lithium battery bike. Lead batteries allow me to leave the bike nearby the subway and worry less about the costs should it be tampered with.

Safety

Aside from batteries, the safety of one’s scooter is also very important. We can judge safety mostly in terms of how well the parts work: most importantly its wheels and brakes. The size of the scooter is also very important.

My first scooter in Beijing was second-hand and very unsafe.

Looking back at it now, I understand how the poorly maintained brake pads caused me to get into an accident. That … and a lack of concentration.

In order to hedge against poorly working parts I decided to buy a brand new scooter. This was a good way to ensure that everything was as new and safe as possible.

Also, like any good American, my desire to optimize safety led me to purchase the largest scooter that I could find. This idea was put into me at a very young age when my siblings and friends got their first cars to drive. That is, if you get into a crash, the largest car will always come out on top.

For these two reasons I went with a brand new model of the largest scooter I could find. This ensured brand new brakes and tires, as well as something large enough to make sure that I was a presence on the road.

Conclusion

Overall, I am happy with the purchase. It lets me cruise into work safely, and if something happens to the bike then I am not at a terrible financial loss. The size has proved well worth it while riding to and from work and I have not had a problem so far leaving it parked in various places.

However, I think if I were to purchase another bike I would seriously consider upgrading to lithium. As most of my distance gets put on between my compound and place of work, I find that actually I don’t need to worry about parking it that often. Once complaint that I have is that bringing my scooter into my elevator and then apartment multiple times a week is a hassle. I would definitely consider paying a little bit more to solve this problem.

What do you think? Are my scooter criteria aligned with your own? How do you make commuting to work more enjoyable?

Useful  Vocabulary
electric scooter: 电动车 (diàndòngchē)
battery: 电池 (diànchí)
wheels: 车轮 (chēlún)
second hand: 二手 (èrshǒu)

Chinese Markets

Don’t be confused by the architecture or the language or the way others look. We are all actually a lot similar than we might like to think. We all need the basics; food, shelter, water, love. We all worry about the future and the past.

But, sometimes, the color of one’s flag tends to confuse people. It can make us think that we are a lot more different than we actually are.

American exceptionalism.

Chinese copy-cats.

It’s all hot air.

In reality, the differences between our achievements come from how our societies are constructed and the resources which are available to us at a given time.

Americans aren’t necessarily “better” than everyone else. We have just consciously cultivated a place where cooperation, learning, and meaningful work are encouraged.

Chinese aren’t copy-cats by nature. It’s just that their educational system and this particular model suits their country at this point in time. And as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Throughout past four years living in China and coming to understand it, I have fluctuated between wildly outlandish, racist notions, and a more realistic grasp of how basic societal differences shape the people. 

The best way to understand China as a market is to understand the details, while at the same time not letting these perceived differences intimidate or deter you. Yes, living and doing business here is very different from many other places. But, no, it’s not impossible.   

5 Useful Attitudes and Habits to Adopt When Learning Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is a notoriously difficult language to learn.

When I first came to China in the summer of 2013 I knew zero Chinese, but still I had hope that I could succeed where other language learners before me had failed.

In the beginning I learned the easy stuff. Phrases like “听不懂 (tīng bu dǒng)” for “I can’t understand what you’re saying!” and “没有- (méi yǒu)” for “I don’t have it”.

With time and practice I learned more. However I was still so oblivious in those early days that I would often make some pretty cringe-worthy mistakes. Oftentimes, I would try to bull rush my way through a conversation, speaking quickly and imitating a Beijing accent; hoping that the other person would mistake my incompetence for “a more rustic feel” of the language.

I now look back at this technique and many others similar to it that I employed and see them for what they were: shortcuts.  

Shortcuts are useful in that they help produce results quickly. However, in the long run they are like a festering wound. I was like a man trying to run a marathon without any regard for the physical health of his body.

I wrote these five points to help novice Mandarin learners develop good language learning habits. They do not deal with linguistic or grammatical concerns, but rather the types of attitudes and ideas that many have adopted becuase of their effectiveness. These have come as a culmination of both my own and other’s trial and error.

  1. Tones Matter

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language which means that the tone of each word corresponds with its meaning. Maybe in the beginning you don’t want to admit it, but yes, tones matter. A pronunciation error can completely change the meaning of a word.

Some people might disagree with this, but that’s because their Mandarin isn’t that good. Although you can get away with not knowing the proper tone by speaking fast and glossing over certain words, this shortcut will ultimately handicap your progress

The best way to combat this is to focus obsessively on learning each word’s proper tone. That way, people can understand when you want to buy something, and not sell it (see 买 mǎi and 卖 mài).

Link: https://chinesepod.com/tools/pronunciation/section/17

  1. Learn How to Read and Write Characters

The written system for Mandarin Chinese is complex. It uses both character symbols (汉字 hànzì) and pinyin, which is the romanticized form created in 1958 with tones written above the letters- the same one that I have been using alongside characters here.  

In the beginning it’s common to say that “I only want to learn pinyin, characters take too much time”. However avoiding the deliberate study of Chinese characters is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when learning Chinese. Not only will you not be able to take any of the advance level tests (HSK for simplified characters), but you will also not be able to chat with Chinese friends online or read any of texts in the target language.

A side-note on reading:
Developing reading comprehension is especially important. It helps you to practice the language without having to find a conversational partner. It also allows access to content that will prove invaluable to you as a student of Mandarin. By developing strong reading skills you will have a unique perspective into Chinese society and culture that is often difficult to find as a foreigner due to an undercurrent of xenophobia (possible without, of course, but still inherently difficult).

  1. Work with a Qualified Tutor

There is a certain mythos surrounding those who are able to learn a language purely through self study and immersion. It’s easy for novices to believe themselves “language learning rogues” who will learn the language by “living among the people”. And while participation and interaction with native speakers is certainly important, this belief can be largely damaging to your progress in Mandarin.

Working with a qualified teacher is an effective way to keep your feet on the ground and make steady progress. A good teacher will drill the basics into you early and often. They will motivate you to speak and make mistakes, but will not let you believe that you are invincible.

A personal anecdote:
I was one of those students that didn’t believe I needed a teacher. In the beginning I managed to kind of bulldoze my way through and, as a consequence, I developed a rather gawky, toneless form of Mandarin. At that point in time, many of my Chinese friends told me that I spoke with an incredible amount of slang, which they called 胡同话 hútong huà. (Sidenote: this was/is not a complement).

I eventually hired a teacher and my Mandarin has been all the better for it. There are certainly a lot of positives about self-study, but I have found that a teacher helps me to correct errors that I didn’t know I had. Looking back, I can now also see how they helped me to make consistent progress.

  1. Speak slowly and deliberately

A lot of times when we start learning a new language we get very excited and tend to speak very fast. We think that this makes us sound more authentic and like we actually “know” the language. However the reality of speaking quickly in Chinese before you are ready is that you will hear “tīng bu dǒng” much more than if you were to speak slowly and deliberately.

Slowing down when you speak, and putting emphasis on the right tones, helps others to understand you.

A side-note on speaking:
Think about speaking to another person who is learning your mother tongue. Is it easier when they speak fast and try to add their own “flair” to the language, or when they speak to you at an even pace and try to keep things as simple as possible? If you want to have conversations with native speakers, and so make progress, then you need to do the same.

  1. Do Not Refuse to Speak English

Another tendency of the fledgling Mandarin student, especially while living in a Chinese speaking country, is to refuse to speak English with Chinese friends. This can lead to some awkward situations that you want to avoid.  

The fact of the matter is that many native Chinese speakers have been learning English their entire life and feel very proud of their ability. They don’t necessarily want to make you feel bad about your language level, but it’s slightly awkward and embarrassing when you are trying to have a conversation with someone, and that person insists on using a language they don’t know.

Be tactful with whom and where you practice in the beginning. Don’t, for example, try to respond to your boss in Chinese when she tells you something in English. Have faith that as you continue to study and immerse yourself that your Chinese will blossom like the Beijing botantical gardens, Summer Palace, or… well you get the point.

A side-note on no refusing to speak English:
If you work hard enough, then eventually you will find yourself in many situations where the tables have been turned, that is, your Chinese is better than the other’s English. If you don’t understand what I am talking about now, perhaps you will have more appreciation for this point then.   

Wrap Up

The adoption and commitment to these attitudes and habits will help you improve your Mandarin level and get rid of some of those nasty habits that are holding you back from developing a more thorough understanding of the language.

Until next time, Cheers and 加油!

Questions That Effective Language Learners Ask Themselves

Have you ever wanted to learn something so badly that you studied it all the time?

If you are like me, then you have experienced the point at which studying becomes counterproductive.

When learning something new, it is important to take intermittent breaks. This practice allows you to replenish your “focus muscles” and reflect on your progress.

In fact, this past weekend I took a break from my Mandarin studies.

I knew it was time for the break because I had lost both my focus and desire to sit down with textbooks, flashcards, movies, etc. Moreover this period coincided with a three day weekend courtesy of Qing Ming Festival in China (I live in Beijing).

Qing Ming is a time for Chinese to visit the tombs of their ancestors and pay their respects. For me, it was a good time to let my brain relax.

While I relaxed, I noticed how my brain actually had a hard time cooling down. It seemed like I was constantly looking for things- anything I could consume- a book, movie, writing in my diary, anything to distract myself.

(I am very aware of my own preoccupation with being occupied. I find that meditation, exercise, and eating healthy are good ways to keep myself sane.)

But sometimes I still blow up little things, like my language learning hobby, and create new areas of stress.

That’s why I take breaks. And when I take breaks I also ask myself some questions.

I like to reflect and consider these areas of stress within the context of my life.

Once I do this, I can better understand why I am acting in such a way, and then change my behavior if it will help to decrease my stress (or accept it and move on if there is nothing that I can do in that moment).

I wrote down these questions for language learners, but you could also apply them to other subjects/areas in your life.

OK, so here it goes…

1. Why am I interested in learning this language/subject?

The most successful students have a good answer to this question. Such answers normally go deeper than the surface. They are tied to our likes, interests, and backgrounds/childhoods.

In terms of language learning, people who live in a target country have a strong reason to learn. People with family ties to a language also have a strong reason.

Try asking yourself a few questions about why you are learning a particular language.

  1. Do I enjoy the culture?
  2. Do I plan on living/visiting this country in the future?
  3. Do I have familial ties to the language?

2. What are my goals for learning the language?

Tests and courses are popular for learning because they give people clear learning outcomes. They become even more useful when they are tied to industry or academic standards.

People who are studying English, for example, often take the TOEFL or IELTs to enter university or acquire that highly sought after raise. Such reasons are powerful motivators.

These questions should help you judge the efficacy of your language learning goals.

  1. Do I have a professional use for the language?
  2. Will I use the language outside of my job?
  3. Am I interested in the culture that the language resides in?

3. How much time and resources do I have to put towards learning the target language?

People have different amounts of time and resources available at different times of their lives. When you are younger, then you need to consider your studies. As you get older, professional and familial responsibilities take up more of your time.

Tutors, language courses, books, apps are all good resources but they also cost money.

A student, for example, will have much more time than a single mother. A young sales clerk might fit somewhere in between.

Consider these questions to help better understand the limitations of your time and resources.

  1. What are my personal and professional responsibilities?
  2. How much free time do I have and when do I have it?
  3. How much money can I allocate towards learning materials?

Wrap Up

These three questions are a good start to understanding 1) why we are interested in a language (or subject for that matter), 2) what we hope to accomplish, and 3) if we are being realistic or not.

I find that being realistic is perhaps the most important of all the three. If we are not being realistic, then we are apt to either overstretch or underestimate ourselves.

Of course, a large part of this practice is the art of understanding yourself. The more practice you have in learning new things then the easier this will be for you.

Do you use a process similar to this? Is there anything that you agree or disagree with in the article? What language are you learning now?

How To Watch Movies and Learn a Language (Will’s Movie Study Technique)

My Technique For Studying Chinese Via Chinese Movies

Watching movies in Chinese is a great way to improve your fluency in the language.

Similar to learning a language through immersion, this technique forces you to progress via context and setting. If used effectively, this technique will not only increase your listening comprehension, but will also increase your vocabulary and cultural knowledge.

To_Live_Poster

How I Use Movies To Study Chinese

As many of you know, my current target language is Mandarin Chinese. As part of the “campaign to increase the development and prosperity of my language learning efforts”, I have begun to incorporate the practice of watching Chinese movies into my weekly study routine (approximately two nights a week).

This past weekend I finished the classic To Live (活着) by Zhang Yimou (张艺谋), based on the novel by Yu Hua (余花). The movie portrays a man and his wife as they live through 20th century China; a country torn apart by war, politics, and ideology.

Beyond the benefit of immersion, those who make use of movies as a language learning resource also gain valuable cultural knowledge. With each Chinese movie I watch, the deeper my understanding of Chinese culture becomes. In Yimou’s To Live, for example, I contemplated the narrative of a layman’s family during the Chinese Civil War, The Cultural Revolution, and the Great Leap Forward.

This type of knowledge is useful to both understand colloquial sayings (whose roots are in cultural events) and the psychology of Chinese citizens today. Remember, communication is both verbal and nonverbal.

There are many ways to use movies as a language learning resource. However, I find this practice most useful when I use my movie study techniques. Perhaps these can help you make use of movies as a language learning resource as well.

I have broken down my movie study technique into five simple steps below.

Will’s Movie Study Techniques

  1. Use Target Language Audio and Subtitles

Make sure to use your target language for both audio and subtitles. Watching a foreign movie in your native tongue may add to your cultural knowledge, but it will not improve your language level. The audio improves your listening comprehension. The subtitles improve your reading comprehension.

  1. Create a Vocabulary List

Keep a pen and pencil close by to record any words that you don’t know. After the movie you can copy the list down again and translate any words which are unclear. Make sure to label and date your vocabulary list.

  1. Watch Movie Alone

Watch the movie alone to increase your focus. Refrain from inviting a friend or significant other to the viewing. While movies are most often used to relax, don’t forget that this is a study session and it should be taken seriously.

  1. Utilize Context and Plot to Learn Words and Phrases

It is almost 100% guaranteed that you will not understand everything in the movie. That’s ok. The point of this exercise isn’t for total comprehension. The point is that you are focused on understanding. Use the actors body language and scenery to understand what is happening in the movie.

  1. Read Reviews and Plot Summaries in Your Native Language After Watching

After the movie is over read some commentaries and general overviews in your native language. This will reinforce a lot of the cultural points which you might have noticed but are still a little confused about. Allow yourself to consider the main idea of the movie, its plot, characters, and political slant.

Final Thoughts

Watching movies is a great language learning technique that is underutilized by most language learners. While it cannot replace the heavy lifting required of grammar study and raw vocabulary accumulation, it is an effective method learners at any level to increase their fluency.

Postscript

Below you will find six movies that have stuck in mind ever since watching them. Each is special to me for a variety of reasons, but have mainly served as good resources for studying Mandarin. Perhaps you can find some use in them as well.

  1. Movie: To Live
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Live_(1994_film)
  2. Movie: Black Snow
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Snow_(1990_film)
  3. Movie: Keep Cool
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Cool_(film)
  4. Movie: Saving Mr. Wu
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saving_Mr._Wu
  5. Movie: Raise the Red Lantern
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raise_the_Red_Lantern
  6. Movie: Beijing Bicycle
    Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Bicycle

6 Ways To Improve Your Mandarin Studies

Have you ever wanted to find and implement a more effective approach to learning Mandarin Chinese? People who study Chinese know that it is an incredibly arduous process, full of pit falls and roadblocks.

I remember when I began studying Mandarin in 2013. Like most of intellectual pursuits I start, it was so incredibly interesting and fun in the beginning.

In that time I would drive down to Boston every weekend to learn the basics like numbers and greetings. I got a thrill from it. Yes, this is it… look at me! I would think to myself. I am learning something truly exotic and interesting. 

I moved to Beijing that summer. I would sit in my cramped Beijing apartment, copying down characters over and over, hundreds of times even.

What had seemed like an exciting hobby in the beginning had effectively become a pool of anxiety. Yet, despite my doubts I kept going. Maybe it was ignorance. More likely it was pride.

I have used, and continue to use, multiple methods when studying Mandarin: Pimsleur, university courses, training school courses, tutors, self study, e-learning resources, language partners- and so on.

I have reached an HSK level 4 and am currently preparing for the 5 (Chinese proficiency test administered by the PRC).

The following is a list of methods which I have found most useful. I hope that it can provide some insight for those interested in Chinese and/or language learning in general.

1. Use Standardized Tests As Goals (HSK)

Standardized tests are very helpful in goal setting. Goals in the context of language learning allow us to push ourselves and develop a strong base in vocabulary and grammar.

Don’t fall into the trap of learning language “from the streets”. Humble yourself and take advantage of what professional organizations have created as a means accelerate your language learning process.

HSK is an acronym for the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试), which is a Chinese proficiency test administered by the government’s Confucius Institute. It is the most popular and useful accreditation for learners of simplified Chinese.

(Sidenote- international companies are more and more attuned to this qualification and if you are serious about a career in China/dealing with Chinese then it looks good on your resume.)

2. Pimsleur

Pimsleur is a series of audio recordings that uses repetition to help learners improve their pronunciation and listening comprehension. I have found it particularly useful in learning Mandarin because of the inherent difficulty in learning the phonetics and tones.

I suggest doing the Pimsleur courses on your way to work or class. When I first started out I downloaded it to my smartphone and participated during my commutes.

Sure, people probably thought I was a little strange, but it was a great way to practice listening and speaking before I was able to actually have a conversation.

3. Attending Chinese Only Events

Events where people only speak Chinese are a great way to get practical experience as well as to train your ears. In the beginning you certainly won’t understand everything, but that isn’t necessarily the goal. The goal is to learn the language’s cadence .

I think learning a language is a lot like muscle memory. You need to expose yourself to the language and, the more you do this, the more your brain will start to recognize differences in sounds, pronunciation, and tones.

If you don’t believe me try this. Pay attention to people that study Chinese a lot on their own without much exposure to native speakers. Compare them with those who are exposed. You will notice that the first group has less trouble communicating with native speakers, even though their knowledge of the language may be less nuanced. 

4. College Courses

I have attended both training schools and college programs in Mandarin. I don’t go to training schools anymore because I think they are mostly a scam and the curriculum is nonexistent. Teachers just show up and go through a book (if you are lucky). That’s good for them, bad for your Chinese.

Similar to standardized tests, university courses offer a much more structured approach to learning Chinese. Furthermore, and a perhaps stronger reason, is that you will be surrounded by students who’s Chinese is most likely a lot better than your own (I’m looking at all the Koreans now).

When I took a college course I often felt compelled to study and prepare more because my classmates were at a much higher level. If you are looking to make a big jump in your Mandarin, I highly suggest taking a college course.

5. Translation

I use the translation method to practice reading and writing. I don’t literally translate the text into my native tongue, but I go over it a few times to make sure I understand it well enough that if I were to be asked what it meant, then I could explain it in English. I have found that writing it down in English is largely counterproductive and a waste of time.

I am really in love with this method and perhaps I will write more about it in a future post as there are many different aspects to it.

6. Flashcards

I prefer to use flashcards that I make on my own with cut up pieces of paper and a black pen. The words I write down come directly from my own translations and therefore are very useful.

Flashcards work well in combination with testing environments because they are an extremely efficient way to increase your vocabulary.

I have also used the online service Memrise, which is a very nifty flashcard E-learning site/app. (Although I don’t recommend shelling out for the premium version).

Final Thought- think about what helps you to focus.

When designing your own study routine think about what is most effective for you. When I say “most effective for you”, I am really talking about what kind of activities can hold you focus.

People say that you need to understand how you learn, but I think that is too vague. It is easier to think about which activities allow you to focus and stay engaged.

From my own personal experience it is very easy to just “go through the motions” when studying anything. Just “going through the motions” isn’t what you want. If you want to progress in anything, you need to bring your attention to it and understand how all the little pieces fit together.

There isn’t a magic pill, but there are small incremental changes you can make that will improve your efficiency. People aren’t naturally better at learning languages then others, they simply understand which activities are most effective.

Do you agree with me? What methods have you found effective for studying Chinese or another foreign language?