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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Input, Output and Audio Lessons

How to learn Mandarin Chinese effectively is about how to balance input and output. If you are paying a private tutor, it's also about how to make the most of it when you are with your tutor.

The basic input is sounds, words, patterns, meanings, sentences, or conversations, stories, etc. The basic output is your ability to carry on the conversations. How long you can carry on a meaningful conversation should determine your level.

Let's say the input part. It's a necessary stage. Without input, you will never speak the language, unless one day we are all like those people in Matrix, just load it up! Traditionally, lots of class time is spent on the basic input. Pronunciation, meaning, and repeat after teacher to try to get things right. Necessary guidance from teachers is essential, but sometimes things got stuck in one place and wasted too much time. This is where audio lessons fit the best. They can solve most of the problems in getting the pronunciation, pattern and meaning right. And they can also prepare you to speak to other people by first speaking to yourself. This alone will lift tremendous stress from students. If you have questions, ask your teacher. It's time saving.

The second part is output. Output requires practice. The first safe ground is to practice with your teacher. Teacher is patient, teacher knows how much you learned and therefore limits her/his language, teacher encourages you to speak even when you are not sure, teacher designs special activities to focus on your weak spots. Outside of classroom, things will get bumpy. Natural speech speed is the most difficult part to adapt, although many people believe that it is their vocabulary isn't enough. Most of the time, vocabulary is enough, it's the lightening speed that kills you. The excellent thing is that you have your teacher. The more meaningful practice you had with your teacher, the better you are in the real world.

If you do the basic input at home or at the airport, you will have a lot more time to practice with your teacher, also smile all the way in a class!