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Saturday, July 22, 2006

What to learn first?

There are lots of (a lot more than before) kids are taking Mandarin at school. Lucky them! They won't have as much difficulty as grown ups do. For adult learners, a great deal effort need to be made, especially when they don't have as much time and energy as children do.

Some people are willing to quit their jobs and take full time program, while some people take lessons after work. No matter which way you go, it's good to have some basic guidelines when you first start, and some dos and donts.

Here's the donts:
1. At the beginning, don't learn too many new structures (or grammar rules).
Learn too many new rules only make you choke and too self-concious. Know some general rules, and maximumly use them can boost confident. People tend to understand confident speakers more.

2. At the beginning, don't jump start to listen to news.
You really don't get much out of listening to news at the beginning. It's really waste of time. The experiment goes that even baby couldn't learn anything from watching TV. Listen to something approperiate. You can ditch anything contains more than 10% new vacab or new structure.

Here's the dos:
1. Learn relevant stuff.
It makes more sense if you learn "zhe tai diannao bi na tai diannao gui." (This computer is more expensive than that computer.) than "zhe gen qianbi bi na gen qianbi jian." (This pencil is sharper than that pencil.)

2. Be resourceful.
It works better if you can maximumly use what you have learned than constantly adding new vocabulary to your flash card. For example, you want to ask "how did you meet Susan?". But you don't know how to say "how". Instead, you have learned "when" and "where". So you can voice you question this way: ni zai nar renshi le Susan? ni shen me shihou renshi le Susan? (where did you meet Susan? When did you meet Susan?) You can quickly develop fluency only by being resourceful.