November 2014 Language Learning Strategies Update

Hello, hello. It has been a few months since I have last done a language update so it is about time I fix that.

As I have mentioned before, I am focusing on learning Mandarin at the moment. In the past I bounced around between the various languages I was interested in but I’ve decided to modify my methods. Before I spend some time reviewing Croatian and beginning Japanes, I want to be at a comfortable conversational level in Mandarin, and so, I am studying with that in mind.

November Language Learning Strategies

Where I am at:

Speaking

For the most part I am able to construct very simple sentences without having to reference a dictionary or my notes. I am pretty happy with this but I want to get it to the next level and begin to construct more complex sentences as well as use future and past tense better than I am now able to do.

Goal: Learn to use more complex sentences and different tenses.

Listening

This is probably my weakest skill at this point. It takes hearing something three to four times before I understand and if even one word is different than what I am used to hearing I struggle to understand.

Goal: Improve listening overall.

Reading

I can know read about 300 characters. I still read about half of them in English (I do not connect the character to the Chinese word, I connect it to the English word) but I am able to understand a significant portion of beginning/intermediate level texts which is a huge improvement from where I was at just a few months ago (when I could not even read or write pinyin).

Goal: Continue working on connecting the Mandarin word to characters rather than the English words.

Writing

I can write fewer characters from memory than I can read but I am still working at it. I love learning to read and write and it is an absolute thrill whenever I can do either from memory.

Goal: Continue working on writing at the same pace. Actually use the Chinese calligraphy practice books I bought (they have been collecting dust on the corner of my desk).

Side note: I love watching these videos:

Things I’ve been doing to study Mandarin

Conversations

I decided to be a little braver than I usually would be this month and I initiated conversations with native speakers twice this past month. My mom owns a hair salon and while I was there another stylist was conversing with her client. I heard her ask “where are you at with your Chinese soap operas?” So I decided to be bold and I introduced myself in Chinese. She was incredibly sweet and told me that she loved that I was learning the language. She spent some time helping me translate a children’s book I happened to have on hand, reading it aloud to me (which I was incredibly grateful for)! M and I also went to a Mongolian hot pot restaurant. The waiter was super kind and patient, only using Mandarin with me as I ordered and requested things, rephrasing his questions if I did not understand the first time around.

Lessons

I had my first Mandarin lessons this month! My teachers were incredibly helpful and I cannot wait to have more.

Self-Study

I have continued my Pimsleur lessons and I have explored a few various other online resources. My Chinese notebook is now more than half full with vocabulary, grammar notes and sections on Chinese culture. If only my brain could retain as much of it as my notes.

Video Games, Movies and TV Shows

My Christmas gift came early. M bought me an iQue which is the equivalent of the Nintendo 64 in China. I have Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 installed on it and I have been practicing reading while playing the games. I have also watched almost every Mandarin language tv show and movie I can on Hulu. Although I do not understand most of what is said, I am starting to pick up more words and I have learned quite a few fun expressions I did not previously know.

I also recently watched this series available on Youtube:

 

A Summary of This Month

I am finally starting to notice the progress that I have made with Mandarin and I am excited to keep moving, studying and learning.

My goals for the next few months are to improve my conversation skills: speaking and comprehension. I hope to continue my Mandarin lessons and more actively pursue opportunities to use the language.

If you’ve been learning a language, how are you doing this month? What are some of the ways you’ve approached it?

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