Mandarin teaching methods (Comprehensible Input)

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Mandarin teaching methods (Comprehensible Input)

Postby Teddoman » 17 May 2012, 22:00

I watched part of one of your videos describing these methods. Quite interesting stuff!

Would be very interesting to actually watch a session taught. Some things are easier to understand visually than through description. Would an observer (who is fluent in Chinese) be able to intuitively see how they are picking things up by watching a session? Or is it invisible learning by being based on constant repetition of various known vocabulary and grammar structures, so we might not be able to see anything concrete in one session but over the course of many sessions you would just see them being able to speak and understand better?
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby R_jay » 17 May 2012, 23:14

I'm curious about this approach, but to be honest I'm still kinda skeptical. Take for example how I got started in Mandarin, it was in a similar way to what I understand this method to be. I was working in an office in Singapore where I was the only westerner, so I'd hear Mandarin spoken all day every day. I'd learn words from the conversationally-based book then try to use them, then also chat to my girlfriend. Because of this I was able to skip the first 3 terms when I arrived in Taiwan. But when it came to writing or speaking extended sentences, I was failing miserably. I was able to recognize what was written, but as I didn't have specific practice in the methods of grammar I was unable to formulate it on my own. I would know when something sounded weird, but did not know why. And so I languished until I bought the books I skipped over and studied what I had missed, once I knew the grammatical basis of everything then all of a sudden I improved dramatically in the space of a month. So thats why when everyone rips into the Taiwan way, well.... at least at Wenhua, I think it's not so bad. This may be because of my profession perhaps I have an analytical approach to everything, and need to see the reason for why things are the way they are, otherwise I have trouble remembering. I'm sure different people respond to different learning methods.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby ironlady » 17 May 2012, 23:22

Teddoman wrote:I watched part of one of your videos describing these methods. Quite interesting stuff!

Would be very interesting to actually watch a session taught. Some things are easier to understand visually than through description. Would an observer (who is fluent in Chinese) be able to intuitively see how they are picking things up by watching a session? Or is it invisible learning by being based on constant repetition of various known vocabulary and grammar structures, so we might not be able to see anything concrete in one session but over the course of many sessions you would just see them being able to speak and understand better?


Words can be acquired after a single session (because they take fewer repetitions to "stick" than grammar patterns, which have to be generalized from many encounters with different tokens that all use the same pattern). Structure takes longer. Typically, after 10 hours (that's the checkpoint at which we start reading in characters) students have correct unconscious control of pronouns, negation, all the question patterns, stative verbs, adjectives and possessives, and are somewhere along the way to "getting" subordinate clauses [those take a long time, especially the really long ones you can get in Chinese], locative placement [strong interference from English when they are allowed to stop and think where to put them], and so forth.

Most people I know who are native speakers of Chinese can't see the progress, though they are usually surprised by the fluency of the students after a set number of hours, as well as how many grammar patterns the students have internalized (including some that are considered "hard" and taught later in most programs). The students do not have as broad an exposure to vocabulary words as the typical book-taught student, but then again most book-taught students can't actually use all the words that have been covered in the book anyway. Non-native speakers tend to see more progress because most of them can compare the performance they see to their own experiences in more traditional classes.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Teddoman » 18 May 2012, 00:05

R_jay wrote:This may be because of my profession perhaps I have an analytical approach to everything, and need to see the reason for why things are the way they are, otherwise I have trouble remembering. I'm sure different people respond to different learning methods.

I'm on the analytical side myself. I pretty much speak unconscious Mandarin now without reference to rules, but every once in a while I think back to rules long since forgotten and try to make sure I'm doing it right.

On the flipside, and correct me if I'm wrong since I really don't know the TRPS/CI approach, but very generally speaking, the CI approach seems very similar to what I semi-naturally do with my son. His noun vocabularly has slowly been built up, and we use the nouns that we know he knows a lot more frequently than nouns we know he doesn't. We have taught him a lot of words through translation. If he knows the English word, we tell him the word in Mandarin, or vice versa. We also expose him to a lot of different grammar patterns (probably more of the simpler ones than the complex ones). I may be getting CI wrong but it was my sense that it involves some variation on this theme. Every so often, my son just out of nowhere produces a sentence using new grammar he has probably heard many times from us, and it always strikes me as amazing. Now of course you can't compare adults and toddlers, but what struck me was the vague similarity of CI with "natural" language learning. And obviously we know natural learning works for toddlers.

So I too am still on the curious rather than convinced side, but I'm very analytical too, and still I see how CI is promising.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby dasmania » 18 May 2012, 00:10

Is this from a book or just an interactive course Ironlady? I'm curious to see it in action
I used to think I was wasting my time teaching in Taiwan...after 6 months of unemployment back home I realized what wasting time truly is. Enjoy the moment.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby ironlady » 18 May 2012, 21:07

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


A language is a language.
If you are acquiring it, none of them are significantly more difficult than any other.
If you are learning it, memorizing rules and studying vocabulary, then languages more dissimilar to one's native language will be harder.

The only barriers to acquiring good Chinese, with the simplicity of its structure, are generally teachers, because they cling to the old ways and they refuse to separate language and literacy. Chinese literacy is (and has always been, even for native speakers) a bear. But it's far more attackable if you are attacking as someone who has control (real control) over some portion of the spoken language first. Traditional teachers insist on keeping the "four skills" in lockstep, which makes the whole process even more difficult as reading is no longer reading, but rather painful decoding and brute memorization of squiggles.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Confuzius » 19 May 2012, 15:25

ironlady wrote:Yes. Starting to learn it. That's the point, in case you aren't picking up on the distinction between learning and acquiring. There is plenty of discussion about this in other threads.....

I love how people who've never experienced anything different just assume. For example, that reading and writing are difficult in Chinese (I mean difficult to the point where it's a deal-breaker).


So Ironlady, are you saying that it is equally easy to acquire Chinese literacy (ie reading) as it is to acquire literacy (ie reading) of a language written with the Latin alphabet?

This is a yes or no question. After answering "yes, they are equally easy" or "no, they are not, one is harder than the other" your explanation to backup and explain your stance is of course welcome (and I have no doubt will follow), but a straightforward answer devoid of monkey talk (like politicians) would be very much appreciated.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby ironlady » 19 May 2012, 21:52

Confuzius wrote:
ironlady wrote:Yes. Starting to learn it. That's the point, in case you aren't picking up on the distinction between learning and acquiring. There is plenty of discussion about this in other threads...


So Ironlady, are you saying that it is equally easy to acquire Chinese literacy (ie reading) as it is to acquire literacy (ie reading) of a language written with the Latin alphabet?


No. Because you don't acquire literacy. Literacy has to be learned. Language can be acquired. Children don't simply end up able to read after being exposed to print (a few do, but most do not). They do all end up able to speak and understand the language after being exposed to language.

The distinction between what is language and what is literacy is important because different strategies are called for because of the difference in learning vs. acquisition, but they are usually lumped together. If you have students acquire language first (even a subset of the language) and you then work on literacy within that subset of the language, spiraling back and forth, lather rinse and repeat, you'd be amazed at how quickly people are able to read and write Chinese.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Teddoman » 19 May 2012, 23:34

Yes, a lot of people conflate the spoken and the written difficulties of Mandarin.

Apparently linguists consider Mandarin to be a relatively non-complex spoken language. For example, there's no verb conjugation like there is in the Latin languages.

The writing is, however, probably one of the hardest of all languages.
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Re: How good were you after four months of studying Chinese?

Postby Confuzius » 20 May 2012, 00:55

ironlady wrote:
Confuzius wrote:
ironlady wrote:Yes. Starting to learn it. That's the point, in case you aren't picking up on the distinction between learning and acquiring. There is plenty of discussion about this in other threads...


So Ironlady, are you saying that it is equally easy to acquire Chinese literacy (ie reading) as it is to acquire literacy (ie reading) of a language written with the Latin alphabet?


No. Because you don't acquire literacy. Literacy has to be learned. Language can be acquired. Children don't simply end up able to read after being exposed to print (a few do, but most do not). They do all end up able to speak and understand the language after being exposed to language.

The distinction between what is language and what is literacy is important because different strategies are called for because of the difference in learning vs. acquisition, but they are usually lumped together. If you have students acquire language first (even a subset of the language) and you then work on literacy within that subset of the language, spiraling back and forth, lather rinse and repeat, you'd be amazed at how quickly people are able to read and write Chinese.


So, will you admit it is more difficult to learn to read Chinese? (you did say you acquire language, including Chinese, and literacy is part of language acquisition btw).

But yes or no again, will be appreciated.
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