1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Language Exchange ads posted in the Learning Chinese forum will be removed

Moderator: ironlady

1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby kelake » 23 May 2012, 10:08

I've been studying Chinese for the past year and a half, primarily part-time at a local university (it felt like full-time with all the time spent writing), coupled with some one-on-one classes, and most recently a quarter of full-time study in Zhongli.

The past 2-3 months I've put forth my greatest effort. I spend about 2-3 hrs each work day listening to ChinesePod/PopUpChinese (I drive allot), 2-4 hours a day preparing class material (writing/reading), plus 3 hours a day in class. The class size is small, only 3 of us, so there is more than the usual amount of interaction. The teachers seem quite competent (I skip the weekly 'cultural' activity as it's a waste of time). The class material is the usual mix of texts common in every language centre.

Despite all this effort I don't really see any qualitative results. I swear the teacher can't stand when I open my mouth to speak. Sure I can sound convincing when ordering food at the take-out window or at our usual restaurants, but whether I point to the menu, speak English or Mandarin the result is still the same. I cannot yet have a serious conversation with the people that matter in my life (my kids teachers or other parents who don't speak English). It's especially frustrating as I've basically devoted myself to studying Chinese these past few months, I'm tired, and though the tuition is cheap, the cost is high; I could be making money or more importantly playing with my kids.

The only measurement of progress I have are the weekly tests, my test performance is poor and not improving, the marks get lower with each test. My academic performance is usually high, especially so in the other Chinese classes I have taken, so though high marks mean nothing to me, it's still a shock.

Is this a common experience? Is there something else I could be doing to master the material? It seems obvious as to how to study but could I be doing everything wrong? As a possible indicator of my level I've finished book 3 of PAVC.

I realize I need to spend more time speaking but with this schedule + family + trying to squeeze in some work for play money there just doesn't seem to be any time. I've never devoted so much effort to a pursuit and not succeeded so I'm starting to think that I am either too old or Chinese is a mountain I can't climb.
kelake
Eldest Grandchild (zhǎngsūn)
Eldest Grandchild (zhǎngsūn)
 
Posts: 1145
ORIGINAL POSTER
Joined: 19 Feb 2002, 17:01
Location: Hsinchu
21 Recommends(s)
5 Recognized(s)



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby Feiren » 23 May 2012, 10:25

Yes, this is a very common experience.

I think you need to stick to your program of full study. Normally, it seems to take most people about two years of full time study (10 hours a week) to really get the foundation down they need to go off and finish learning the language themselves.

I do think that you should limit yourself to an hour of study for each hour in class (not time listening passively). That makes six hours a day on Chinese which should be plenty.

If your test scores are low and getting lower, that means that you are in over your head with the characters. You should drop down to a level where you know about 90% of the characters already and are simply reviewing those along with learning the 10% you don't know. This will reduce your stress level and help you enjoy the classes.

I suggest that you try watching some TV soap operas to improve fluency. As you watch, try to repeat simple things that you hear. That will improve fluency and reduce the pain your teacher may experience when you speak in class. However, she is paid to do this, so don't let that discourage you.

The simple truth is that you haven't done enough full time study yet. A good friend of mine who has been in Taiwan for about 15 years and speaks OK basic Chinese, has now buckled down and done a year of full time study. He has improved tremendously and is now well on his way to fluency and literacy. It hasn't been easy and he was VERY frustrated with his lack of progress after the first few months. Repeating a class really helped, but it also just takes time. Go slow and steady.












kelake wrote:I've been studying Chinese for the past year and a half, primarily part-time at a local university (it felt like full-time with all the time spent writing), coupled with some one-on-one classes, and most recently a quarter of full-time study in Zhongli.

The past 2-3 months I've put forth my greatest effort. I spend about 2-3 hrs each work day listening to ChinesePod/PopUpChinese (I drive allot), 2-4 hours a day preparing class material (writing/reading), plus 3 hours a day in class. The class size is small, only 3 of us, so there is more than the usual amount of interaction. The teachers seem quite competent (I skip the weekly 'cultural' activity as it's a waste of time). The class material is the usual mix of texts common in every language centre.

Despite all this effort I don't really see any qualitative results. I swear the teacher can't stand when I open my mouth to speak. Sure I can sound convincing when ordering food at the take-out window or at our usual restaurants, but whether I point to the menu, speak English or Mandarin the result is still the same. I cannot yet have a serious conversation with the people that matter in my life (my kids teachers or other parents who don't speak English). It's especially frustrating as I've basically devoted myself to studying Chinese these past few months, I'm tired, and though the tuition is cheap, the cost is high; I could be making money or more importantly playing with my kids.

The only measurement of progress I have are the weekly tests, my test performance is poor and not improving, the marks get lower with each test. My academic performance is usually high, especially so in the other Chinese classes I have taken, so though high marks mean nothing to me, it's still a shock.

Is this a common experience? Is there something else I could be doing to master the material? It seems obvious as to how to study but could I be doing everything wrong? As a possible indicator of my level I've finished book 3 of PAVC.

I realize I need to spend more time speaking but with this schedule + family + trying to squeeze in some work for play money there just doesn't seem to be any time. I've never devoted so much effort to a pursuit and not succeeded so I'm starting to think that I am either too old or Chinese is a mountain I can't climb.
Feiren
Former City Mayor (qiánrèn shìzhǎng)
Former City Mayor (qiánrèn shìzhǎng)
 
Posts: 4912
Joined: 05 Jan 2002, 17:01
Location: Drum Tower
4 Recommends(s)
204 Recognized(s)



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby ironlady » 23 May 2012, 10:48

I'm fairly sure anyone who has been reading this forum will know basically what my response to this kind of thing is.
You've spent hours and hours learning about Chinese.
Go back and acquire it.
You need to read and listen to Chinese YOU CAN UNDERSTAND. That means, at this point, that someone tells you what it means, and checks to make sure you know what it means. For the vast majority of people, hearing and reading stuff you can understand is the only way your brain will acquire a language.
Learned language is slow, relies on rules, has you "looking up" while thinking hard about what to say. It's halting and hesitant. Acquired language "falls out of your mouth".
You do NOT need six hours a day to master spoken Chinese! That is the first indicator that the methods just aren't working.
Anyway, search the LC forum, or ask me a specific question if you want more details.
Terry Waltz, Ph.D
Click here to Finally Learn Mandarin!
Squid for Brains Learning Games -- not your nainai's flash cards!
...although his father beat him every day, wishing him to learn the speech of Ts'e, it will be impossible for him [at least using current methods]...-Mencius

This post was recommended by archylgp (23 May 2012, 13:13)
Rating: 4%
Forumosan avatar
ironlady
Goddess of Fornication & Prostitutes (tōngjiān hé jìnǚ de nǚshén)
 
Posts: 8370
Joined: 13 Nov 2001, 17:01
Location: A place where people can't sleep or teach English in McDonald's
87 Recommends(s)
321 Recognized(s)
In Taiwan since: 0- 0-1987



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby the bear » 23 May 2012, 10:49

I dunno, I reckon some people just can't pick up languages just like some people can't carry a tune. It may be you just don't have the aptitude for languages and should consider cutting your losses and taking up the bassoon. [cue for the Ironlady to weigh in]

edit: damn she done beat me to it.
I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.
Forumosan avatar
the bear
Buxiban Laoban (bǔxíbān lǎobǎn)
Buxiban Laoban (bǔxíbān lǎobǎn)
 
Posts: 3850
Joined: 14 Jul 2003, 14:45
Location: Taipei City
29 Recommends(s)
107 Recognized(s)



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby Feiren » 23 May 2012, 11:18

I think six hours a day is probably too much as well for most people. Especially people with a job and a family!

I do think an hour of preparation for an hour of class is a reasonable ration in any serious subject of study. So maybe the answer is just to spend fewer hours in class. It's hard for me to believe that three hours a day is necessary or productive.

I hope Ironlady is right, but while she is out there perfecting Chinese pedagogy , you are here in Taiwan. You can search for and debate the best way of learning Chinese, but the way that actually works is sitting down in that crappy Chinese class for two hours a day for two years. This has worked for thousands of learners and it will work for you if you force yourself to keep going and pay attention in class.

Of course it's frustrating and there must be a better way. But right now what works is GOING TO CLASS.

I'm very interested in Ironlady's methods and I think she is 100% right, btw.
Feiren
Former City Mayor (qiánrèn shìzhǎng)
Former City Mayor (qiánrèn shìzhǎng)
 
Posts: 4912
Joined: 05 Jan 2002, 17:01
Location: Drum Tower
4 Recommends(s)
204 Recognized(s)



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby ironlady » 23 May 2012, 22:37

Feiren wrote:I hope Ironlady is right, but while she is out there perfecting Chinese pedagogy , you are here in Taiwan. You can search for and debate the best way of learning Chinese, but the way that actually works is sitting down in that crappy Chinese class for two hours a day for two years. This has worked for thousands of learners and it will work for you if you force yourself to keep going and pay attention in class.

Of course it's frustrating and there must be a better way. But right now what works is GOING TO CLASS.

I'm very interested in Ironlady's methods and I think she is 100% right, btw.


Well...not exactly. Going to class doesn't work for the majority of people -- or else everyone who started Chinese classes would end up proficient in Chinese. Yet we hear such a huge percentage of people saying "I took X [weeks/months/years] of Chinese and I can't do anything in Chinese at all." So while it has indeed worked for thousands of learners, it has failed tens of thousands at the same time, so I am not at all certain that it's fair to say to someone "it will work for you if you force yourself to keep going and pay attention in class."

I believe that you could take the money you are paying for classes, hire a one-on-one tutor (preferably one with absolutely no experience or training in teaching Mandarin, especially not one of these little 'certificates' that are popping up all over the place these days), train that teacher to provide you with comprehensible input, and you'd be better off than sitting in a class becoming frustrated. The time you now spend (6 hours a day) could easily provide enough time to:
a. Pick three sentences you really care about knowing how to say in Chinese. Sentences. Nothing more. The simpler the better. Things like "Bob takes the MRT to Shilin" or "George bought a jin of baozi yesterday." Fewer sentences would be even better, but it depends on how much time you want to have class and your patience level.
b.Get your tutor to say that sentence, then ask you every possible question about it (without adding any new information.) Who took the MRT? Where did Bob take the MRT? Did Bob take the MRT to Shilin or did Bob take the MRT to Hongshulin? Did Bob take the MRT to Shilin or did Bob take the bus to Shilin? Did Susan take the MRT to Shilin? Did Bob take the bus to Hongshulin? Did Bob take the MRT? etc. etc. ad nauseum. It really does look/sound like "ad nauseum", but your choices are be sort of bored answering stupid questions with a tutor for less money and less time, or be frustrated and made to feel stupid not keeping up with a class and getting little out of the experience. As the tutor gains experience, urge him/her to repeat correct answers and reject incorrect ones in a formulaic manner, as though speaking to an idiot. "Yes! That's right! Bob takes the MRT to Shilin! He doesn't take the MRT to Hongshulin! He takes it to Shilin!" This should remind you of the kind of language we use instinctually with small children.
c. When you've exhausted every question that can be asked without adding any new information at all to the first sentence, have your tutor ask for a detail. Who did Bob take the MRT with? OR Why did Bob take the MRT to Shilin? OR When did he take the MRT to Shilin? OR What was Bob wearing while he took the MRT to Shilin? etc. etc. But only pick ONE detail. Then do the same thing again -- ask all the possible questions about the sentence that makes the declaration about this exciting new detail.
Repeat (C) above until you run out of tea, your tutor starts making gagging noises, or you get tired. Then start the next day either from where you left off (if the story has gotten anywhere near interesting) or with a totally new sentence.

It is easier to talk about a third party ("Bob", "the king of England", "a green horse" or whom/whatever) than about "I". It gets confusing to use the first person this way, in a one-on-one tutoring session of this kind. BUT since Chinese doesn't conjugate verbs, you can just as well use the same language to talk about yourself or someone else with no difficulty once you've mastered whatever you've been working on, talking about a third party.

If you did even an hour a day of this kind of intensive input (and notice that the tutor is doing most of the talking, not you), you would get fluent really quickly. If you want to read, just stop every X days and ask the tutor to write out the story/narrative that has resulted from all those questions so you can read it. Extra points if the tutor can change the details of the story while retaining the basic structures and vocabulary words -- but this is something that would be more difficult to explain so as to get a text you can read versus a text that has lots of words you don't know in speech in the first place.
Terry Waltz, Ph.D
Click here to Finally Learn Mandarin!
Squid for Brains Learning Games -- not your nainai's flash cards!
...although his father beat him every day, wishing him to learn the speech of Ts'e, it will be impossible for him [at least using current methods]...-Mencius

This post was recommended by cranky laowai (24 May 2012, 22:02)
Rating: 4%
Forumosan avatar
ironlady
Goddess of Fornication & Prostitutes (tōngjiān hé jìnǚ de nǚshén)
 
Posts: 8370
Joined: 13 Nov 2001, 17:01
Location: A place where people can't sleep or teach English in McDonald's
87 Recommends(s)
321 Recognized(s)
In Taiwan since: 0- 0-1987



Re: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby austin » 23 May 2012, 22:52

This fits well with the post "is studying Chinese worth it?"
austin
Mastered ordering "beer" in Chinese (jīngtōng le yòng Guóyǔ shuō "píjiǔ")
Mastered ordering "beer" in Chinese (jīngtōng le yòng Guóyǔ shuō "píjiǔ")
 
Posts: 117
Joined: 16 Jan 2004, 17:12
5 Recognized(s)



AW: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby Hellstorm » 23 May 2012, 23:49

Why don't they just use the same concept which is used abundantely for every European language and do it for Chinese? These lessons work perfectly, and there are many many people who can speak English, French, German, Italian etc. Why shouldn't it work with Chinese?

No weird concepts like CI necessary. Just use the concept which work flawlessly in so many languages.
Hellstorm
Chair-throwing Legislator (rēng yǐzi de lìfǎ wěiyuán)
Chair-throwing Legislator (rēng yǐzi de lìfǎ wěiyuán)
 
Posts: 310
Joined: 12 Dec 2009, 12:13
1 Recommends(s)
2 Recognized(s)



Re: AW: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby ironlady » 24 May 2012, 00:11

Hellstorm wrote:Why don't they just use the same concept which is used abundantely for every European language and do it for Chinese? These lessons work perfectly, and there are many many people who can speak English, French, German, Italian etc. Why shouldn't it work with Chinese?

No weird concepts like CI necessary. Just use the concept which work flawlessly in so many languages.


Um...the "weird concept" of CI is how you acquired your native language. And using the old methods, there are many many more people who have failed to become fluent in those languages for every person who has become fluent. The thing is, if you believe that language proficiency comes from memorizing and applying information, and language is something you expect a bell curve of performance for because "some people are good at it and others just are not", you will be happy with "the same concept"; if you believe it comes from the brain acquiring language through repeated linkage of form and meaning, and you don't accept a bell curve because it's a universal human ability, you won't. It's as simple as that. There is as little point in your trying to convince me of your position as there is of my trying to convince you of mine, assuming neither of us deviates from the philosophical underpinnings of how we believe language "gets into" a person's head in the first place.
Terry Waltz, Ph.D
Click here to Finally Learn Mandarin!
Squid for Brains Learning Games -- not your nainai's flash cards!
...although his father beat him every day, wishing him to learn the speech of Ts'e, it will be impossible for him [at least using current methods]...-Mencius
Forumosan avatar
ironlady
Goddess of Fornication & Prostitutes (tōngjiān hé jìnǚ de nǚshén)
 
Posts: 8370
Joined: 13 Nov 2001, 17:01
Location: A place where people can't sleep or teach English in McDonald's
87 Recommends(s)
321 Recognized(s)
In Taiwan since: 0- 0-1987



AW: 1.5 years of study with little qualitative result

Postby Hellstorm » 24 May 2012, 00:50

I'm not talking about the Taiwanese style of teaching. I see that this doesn't work that well.

Have you taken e.g. French classes? English classes? Or Italian classes? These all work perfectly without CI. Why shouldn't this be possible for Chinese?
Hellstorm
Chair-throwing Legislator (rēng yǐzi de lìfǎ wěiyuán)
Chair-throwing Legislator (rēng yǐzi de lìfǎ wěiyuán)
 
Posts: 310
Joined: 12 Dec 2009, 12:13
1 Recommends(s)
2 Recognized(s)



FRIENDLY REMINDER
   Please remember that Forumosa is not responsible for the content that appears on the other side of links that Forumosans post on our forums. As a discussion website, we encourage open and frank debate. We have learned that the most effective way to address questionable claims or accusations on Forumosa is by engaging in a sincere and constructive conversation. To make this website work, we must all feel safe in expressing our opinions, this also means backing up any claims with hard facts, including links to other websites.
   Please also remember that one should not believe everything one reads on the Internet, particularly from websites whose content cannot be easily verified or substantiated. Use your common sense and do not hesitate to ask for proof.
Next




Proceed to Learning Chinese



Who is online

Forumosans browsing this forum: No Forumosans and 4 visitors

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me -- WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE