Notes on Language Learning

In no particular order, some ways that I practice and self-study Mandarin at home, as well as some things I learned about immersion-learning (or wished I had known before!)

  1. Confidence is key; the more confident you are, the more willing you'll be to practice and extrapolate on what you've already learned, leading to greater progress.  Easier said than done of course, but I have faith in you.  加油吧!我們一起努力,一起加油,一起提高!
  2. An app, verb, noun, lifesaver: Pleco (aka "The Fish" as my host-brother called it) is the best Chinese dictionary.  Wifi-less; free; includes pronunciation, example sentences, and radicals; and can report in 简体字/繁體字/Pinyin/Zhuyin.
  3. Independent study as much as you can before leaving, especially grammar.  When abroad you'll constantly be bombarded with new vocabulary, however it can be harder to pick up new grammar on the fly.  Studying grammar before going will help optimize language progress and allow you to actually use all the new vocabulary you learn!
  4. Trust yourself; you can accomplish a lot with very little.  Effective communication is always the primary goal, and this can be done using very simple grammar and limited vocabulary.  Use what you already know and extrapolate on it when necessary; never fear new situations because you think you can't handle them.
  5. Find a note-taking and study system that works for you, and be consistent.  Better notes will help you learn more content more clearly, and facilitate better review.
    1.  I use colored pens for grammar points and new vocabulary, and pencil for my own notes and practice.  I use consistent abbreviations and formatting, and also date every new note so I can track learning and find things easier.
  6. Be honest about what you know.  This is especially true for Chinese, where it's too easy to know how to say a word but not write it and vice versa.  Make sure for all new words learned you know the pronunciation and how to write the character (not just recognize it).
  7. Create actionable, accomplishable goals.  A long-term goal of mine is to be able to have better handwriting, thus for the past seven months I've had a daily goal of handwriting a journal entry in Chinese.
    1. This has been a super helpful way for me to learn 繁體字!  My journal is about my everyday life, so entries are comprised of many common characters.  After learning I was going to Taiwan, I phased out all of my simplified to traditional, and now can write most of the common characters I know in traditional.
    2. Building on #6, if I'm ever a little unsure of characters I write, I put the pronunciation, definition, and/or simplified form in parentheses next to the word.  At the end of entries, I compile any words I was unsure of in separate lists for easy reference/studying.
  8. I like listening to music, watching dramas/movies, and YouTube videos as ways to expand vocabulary, improve comprehension, and understand grammar usage.  Often provide better understandings of colloquialisms and cultural context.
    1. Music: 草東沒有排隊, EXO (and Escape Trio), Jolin Tsai
    2. Dramas: Go Princess Go, Our Times (movie), Bu Bu Jing Xin
    3. YouTube: TGOP, Papi酱, Fiona Tian

Hopefully at least something on this list was helpful or interesting; language learning is a continuous journey, let's improve together!


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