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How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby archylgp » 17 May 2012, 12:37

It's not your fault. It's because Chinese-language education in Taiwan is bad. (Worse than I thought if you can't understand rice after four months.) I recommend doing the opposite of what your teachers say: close your text book and put down your character flash cards; find a friend to teach you survival phrases and then go out and do stuff -- order food/buy tea/ask for directions. Try not to hold up lines and keep a smile on your face and most Taiwanese people won't mind repeating themselves. Try something new everyday. I guess you'll need to pass whatever grammar/character tests you'll get and go to class, of course, which will waste a bit of your time, but besides that, you have all day to speak Chinese!

If you are working (and have an ARC through your job), I suggest quitting the class (make sure you tell them why!(can't understand rice after 4 months of class!! refund??)) and spend that time interacting with people. 1-2 years later and you'll be doing just fine :)
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Confuzius » 17 May 2012, 13:55

Dude, don't feel bad.

I have seen a lot of people say it here and I agree-with learning Chinese there are a lot of plateaus, valleys and mountains (more so than with other languages). What I mean by that is that there is not really a linear progression. Its more like one week you feel like a dumbfuck and then next week when you go out of town and HAVE to use your Mando people are so impressed and you can get by! Then when you come back home you feel more confident, try to speak to people...but then feel like a dumbfuck again.

And in terms of understanding people...(this just happened to me the other day) sometimes in the moment you are trying SO hard to understand you get all flustered and screw it up. My security guard was asking me about the elevator and if I wanted to pitch in to pay for an added sensor. I couldn't understand wtf he was talking about, not a darn work, (until he took me to the elevator and showed me).

Afterwards I reflected on the conversation and remembered him saying all the words I know (pay, elevator, etc) though it was mixed with a lot of words I don't. BUT, I thought he was talking about exercise equipment (lol).

Just keep plugging and put yourself in situations where you HAVE to use it. Its painful, yes, but it seriously helps. I am at least now at the point that I can usually pick out the words I do not understand from the ones I do and say "XXX wo buzhidao shenme yisa" (I dunno wut X word means) which is leaps and bounds past where I was before I started studying. But still, get flustered, frustrated and disappointed during a conversation, which seems to make the Mando vocab inside my head run away and hide.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby R_jay » 17 May 2012, 19:10

Confuzius wrote:Dude, don't feel bad.

I have seen a lot of people say it here and I agree-with learning Chinese there are a lot of plateaus, valleys and mountains (more so than with other languages). What I mean by that is that there is not really a linear progression. Its more like one week you feel like a dumbfuck and then next week when you go out of town and HAVE to use your Mando people are so impressed and you can get by! Then when you come back home you feel more confident, try to speak to people...but then feel like a dumbfuck again.

And in terms of understanding people...(this just happened to me the other day) sometimes in the moment you are trying SO hard to understand you get all flustered and screw it up. My security guard was asking me about the elevator and if I wanted to pitch in to pay for an added sensor. I couldn't understand wtf he was talking about, not a darn work, (until he took me to the elevator and showed me).

Afterwards I reflected on the conversation and remembered him saying all the words I know (pay, elevator, etc) though it was mixed with a lot of words I don't. BUT, I thought he was talking about exercise equipment (lol).



This I 100% agree with. This is *exactly* how it is.

TS, to be blunt after 4 months you're not going to be able to say much at all. Part of the problem is the way things are taught here (which I personally don't have a problem with). If you're studying at one of the universities you're using the PAVC series, which as far as I can tell is designed to get you from zero to being able to find a job or study at a university where Chinese language proficiency is required. Its a comprehensive series. Its not a conversation series. The "Communicate in Chinese" books I studied back in the day for example had dialogues which are more related from practical problems you face day to day. Compare that to PAVC, where you'll spend hours learning resultive endings of verbs. All that stuff is going to come in awfully handy when you get to higher levels, but for now knowing how to say "I need to add credit to my phone" is more useful knowing the correct resultive compound for X verb. There's nothing wrong with buying some more practical books and studying on the side to help strengthen your everyday abilities.

I am not an expert, not even that great a speaker of chinese, but thats just my take after going through similar experiences.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby asiababy » 17 May 2012, 19:56

I think it was at bout the four-month mark I called my dad and told him I'd finally found that thing was going to break me that everyone used to talk about when I was a kid. 18 years later, I get by. Dad still pulls the stories of my tears over the phone out when I visit.

BTW, one of room-mates back then was really determined to learn the language. He'd create ways to practice the language. For example, after learning "I want to buy a clock," (got to love those sentence patterns), he went to every general store he could find and announced, "I want to buy a (blue/black/green/red/small/large) clock." Then asked them all how much the clock was, wrote it down, and left. He did this for everything he could that was taught in class. He progressed much faster than any of us.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby ironlady » 17 May 2012, 20:57

These are all experiences using the so-called "communicative method".

With comprehensible input-based teaching, four months of 15 hours a week? Over 200 hours of class? Much different outcome. The difference is that CI-based teaching is mastery based, and "communicative" teaching assumes that "they have to study on their own". With a good CI teacher, you absolutely know (have unconsciously internalized) what was done in class because the teacher makes sure you do know it to the point where it "falls out of your mouth".

I know everyone regards me as a broken record saying "if you just took a CI class you'd master Chinese". But in my experience, this has been the case. Why is it that over the years, only a small proportion of people ever made it to be fluent in Chinese? It's just another language, and simpler -- grammatically speaking -- than most European languages or English. Because of the methods. Using analytical methods and rules-and-output, it's usually said that about 4% of learners will "make it" -- and that's on languages without the literacy barriers that Chinese offers. So it looks to me like the percentage of fluent outcomes is about what one might expect using traditional methods.

All of the "standards" for how "hard" languages are are based on rules-and-output teaching. All the estimates for "how long to become fluent" are based on rules-and-output teaching. But there's an alternative, though ACTFL and the other associations are doing their best to ignore it -- which is why it's not showing up in standards and estimates. Or most classrooms, for the most part, because teacher training programs avoid it like the plague. It's tough for a professor of methods to look at his own practice after 25 or 30 years and say "There's something better." But there is.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Dragonbones » 18 May 2012, 00:11

spyfire27 wrote:In real life situations, I still have a lot of problems understanding and asking for things, and I barely understand anything if a store clerk asks me something. For example, I went to a vegetarian buffet yesterday and the lady asked me if I wanted rice, and I could not understand when she did it in Chinese. I was completely lost. Same thing at the immigration office.


But did you specifically have class content on how to interact with store clerks (and the wide range of vocab involved), how to order food (and the wide range of vocab involved), and how to discuss immigration and visas (and the wide range of vocab involved)? In the first four months? Not likely!

In addition to pronunciation and grammar, there's a VAST range of vocab and patterns needed to conduct those kinds of communication. To expect to be able to within four months is grossly unrealistic. So don't beat yourself up! You're doing fine. Keep plugging away at it, get out there and communicate more in the real world, and pick areas, one at a time, to try to learn the vocab for, e.g. with the help of a language exchange partner. I spent a couple months just intensively studying menus and how to order food before feeling reasonably competent at it.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Teddoman » 18 May 2012, 00:23

Try focusing on niche areas where you can develop competency. Being able to go to your local restaurant and communicate effectively will help you build up competence and the feeling of mastery. Once you know what it feels like to be in control (rather than out of control, which is what it feels like at the early stages of language learning), you'll be a better self-teacher from there on out.

I agree, food is a great teacher. Sight, smell, taste, feel, it employs 4 of the 5 senses so it's super memorable. Set a realistic goal, like one new dish per day or per week, whatever you are comfortable with. Just keep ordering that same dish until you have that feeling of mastery. Then order something else. Go to some hole in the wall restaurant where it's the same mom and pop owner and there are no other customers, so you can start to understand their Mandarin by hearing the same guy over and over when you go and he has time for you.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby spyfire27 » 18 May 2012, 01:01

Just want to say a big thank you to everyone who posted. I actually thought that some people would give me some harsh comments, but quite the contrary, everyone has been very helpful, and this is incredibly encouraging.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby austin » 18 May 2012, 08:12

sounds like OP is doing well

OP chose hardest language on Earth(or one of them) so it is not going to be as easy as Spanish, for example

But rather than answer your question, the real question is 'is this the right question?"

most people who have good Mandarin skillls would want to know if you like the culture. they would see the question you asked as not very germane

If you do like the culture, you might still be studying one of the hardest languages in the world 2 years from now, and maybe even 10 years from now

If you do not like the culture, then you will not keep studying it.

The difficulty of the language is why the culture fitting your personality dictates your progress ... and eventual success. For a speaker of English studying most European languages(like Spanish), this does not matter as much.
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How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby headhonchoII » 19 May 2012, 10:21

Ironlady goes off course as usual, starting to learn Chinese as an average westerner you have no base to work with, no visual, no Latin roots and basically no cultural understanding.

For example when I came here I didn't have a clue about the food. So you have to learn about the food and the language at the same time aswell as not being able to read a menu.

It's a massive amount for Western foreigners to take in at the start, at the same time you often have the speaking English to the white face that further impeded interaction.

On the other hand if you are Korean or Japanese you would have some cultural understanding, some visual understanding and you would be spoken to in English a lot less.

Chinese is easy enough to learn to speak if you can find people to speak with you normally, grammar is simple, but there are huge challenges with tones, reading and writing and cultural understanding and interaction for westerners, especially at the start.
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