keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

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keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby swervetech69 » 17 Jul 2012, 12:46

Im back home in Canada after 7 years in Taiwan doing many things, one of which was learning Mandarin at the ICLP. At my peak I was pretty fluent in reading, speaking and typing. I could go to trade shows and talk to vendors in Chinese, understand most TV and handle day to day activities. since coming home and going to grad school for business I have found out that this was a good decision to learn Chinese and have had some good job opportunities partly because of it. Not directly involving it, but businesses like the fact I lived in Taiwan, got the business experience and learned something very difficult. I am no doubt not as fluent as I was when I was in Taiwan 7 months ago but still think I can get back to that level. My wife is there and will come to Canada in 6 weeks. Do you guys that have been in a similar situation think that with speaking only to my wife in Chinese and doing a few hours a week of self study reading and writing ill be able to progress past what I was in Taiwan, or is being in the environment all the time of up most importance? Anyone have a similar experience of going home and trying not to lose, but gain fluency in Chinese?

By the way, don't believe those that say you have to be 100% fluent or a translator to gain from your Chinese. Ive had some interviews in Chinese with international companies and they were blown away that a westerner took the time and had the dedication to get a s far as I could. Also some of the life skills and business skills of living in Asia are attractive to companies. You wont be able to get away with this with crap Chinese but if you can get through an interview and make conversation with people its good enough for a sales job apparently.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby headhonchoII » 17 Jul 2012, 12:55

I doubt you will gain fluency when based in the West, maybe others have ideas? The thing that really helps for me is to practice speaking.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby Adam_CLO » 17 Jul 2012, 14:51

If possible, I'd recommend expanding your speaking partners beyond your wife. I find that wives understand our garbled tones and are much more forgiving of grammar mistakes than strangers would be.

See if you can organize any mah jong or poker sessions with local Chinese speakers. There may be events posted in China town that you could attend as well.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby Chris » 17 Jul 2012, 17:48

Go to your local Chinatown. Seek out Chinese restaurants and other businesses run by Chinese.

Bonus: many people speak Cantonese, so you could learn it, practice it, and add it to your language repertoire. It's not hard to learn if you already know some Mandarin.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby swervetech69 » 17 Jul 2012, 20:47

Thanks for the replies. Id hope that getting 10 plus hours of speaking a week I can at least get back to where I was a year or so ago. Not interested in Cantonese, and I do know some Mandarin speakers here. Anyone else have a similar experience?
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby Mucha Man » 17 Jul 2012, 21:37

Being in the right environment is important, and that doesn't have to be a Chinese speaking country. Lots of people live here for over a decade and make no improvement. Heck, I just came back from 4 months of travel in China and I feel I am speaking worse as I was exposed to too may accents and regionalisms. I made far more progress the four months previous when I was working with private tutors only 4 hours a week.

So, get some tutors, self-study, and there's no reason to lose what you had.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby ironlady » 18 Jul 2012, 13:38

If you already speak reasonably well, just get one of the cheap tutors in China who offer online lessons via Skype. It works out to about $5 an hour or so. I wouldn't recommend them for a beginner, but if you have some competence already it should be fine.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby swervetech69 » 18 Jul 2012, 20:34

5 bucks an hour for basically a conversation partner correct? Wow thats cheap, problem would be you get what you pay for. I just basically need to learn more vocab, grammar isnt a problem and my wife is a tone nazi. How do i locate one of these people? also Ironlady I remember reading you do some online teaching. If I can get my employer to flip the bill for that are you available? My company is expanding to china in the next few years and I have a feeling I was partly hired for that reason. Thanks for that advice
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby ironlady » 19 Jul 2012, 05:38

Throw me an e-mail and weʻll see about details.
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Re: keeping Chinese skills polished while in the west

Postby DevinRB » 19 Jul 2012, 10:59

I've lived in Chinese-speaking environments on-and-off for a few years, and done a lot of learning in non-immersive situations. I've found a couple of things really helpful, below.

Vocabulary
- Skritter.com for writing and vocabulary
- Anki (spaced-repetition software) for in-context vocab memorization

Reading an article or so a day, putting unknown vocab into Skritter and complete sentences with unknown vocab/grammar will get you pretty far. I've found that with this sort of consistent practice, my spoken fluency will decrease, but reading and writing + general vocab knowledge steadily increases even in primarily English-speaking environments. Spoken fluency returns pretty quickly with that foundation, but consistent conversations with Chinese speakers really help.
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