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Saturday, December 23, 2006

A very fair and reasonable comment

A Mandarin Student Chris in UK discussed about my Learning Mandarin Podcast in his blog.

I run into his blog and delightedly read through his fair and reasonable comment. It's really nice since he obviously sated very clear and accurate of the purpose of my setting up this podcast.

you can read it here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The use of a dictionary

Have you ever thought about that if you remember all the words in a dictionary, you will speak fluent Mandarin?

Well, if you are like me 20 years ago when I was learning English, I guarantee that you will fail.

20 years ago, I thought the reason that I couldn't speak English was I didn't have enough vocabulary. So I bought a dictionary like book English Vocabulary 10000. This book guaranteed me that after remembered all the words there, I could speak great English.

It took me four to five months to get through the book from cover to cover. I learned a lot of interesting words that I don't remember now. But guess what, I still couldn't speak English. And I realized that by just expanding vocabulary doesn't work. I have to try something else.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Diet Chocolate Cake

Christmas is around corner. Holiday season usually means "eat a lot and get fat".

But there was a TV show I watched last week said something different. They invented diet chocolate cake, low calorie pudding, and low calorie cookies. If you want to eat a lot and still be healthy, there is a way now!

Also, treasure this: if you spend 20 minutes a day to review your Mandarin or to listen to an audio lesson track, you will feel even better!

This is this holiday season's keep fit suggestion: diet chocolate cake + 20 minutes Mandarin/day

Friday, December 15, 2006

The habit of accomplish your goals

You enjoy learning Mandarin more when you accomplish more.

But accomplish more doesn't mean that you suddenly speak fluent Mandarin next week or next month. Accomplish more means you set up many many smaller goals and then achieve those small goals. Every step is an achievement, each week is a time to celebrate. Thus you get yourself into a habit of accomplish your goals.

You should feel good about yourself on every small step you made. You should be proud of yourself on every small goal you achieved. The very next small step is all you need to concentrate on, and this small step is very achievable as well.

In doing this, there is only one ultimate result in front of you: success.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The inevitable bump

Learning Mandarin is just like everything else in life. There will be times that you feel terrible about yourself, or you are too distracted by other things.

The way to handle it is also the same way to handle other inevitable bumps: Stick to your road map. Summon your extra strength to put one foot in front of another. Hang in there.

When the dark time is over, you will be happy that you didn't give up. You carried on.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's time to formulate a road map

If you have decided that in the end of 2007, you want to be able to carry on basic simple conversations in Chinese, you need to formulate a road map NOW.

The importance of the road map is to break down a major task into many many small tasks, into many many smaller goals. So that you can ONLY focus on the next goal.

From my experience, most people can carry on basic simple conversations after they finish Intro level. In Intro Level, there are two books, Intro level A and Intro Level B. Each book has 10 lessons and two reviews. From now till the end of 2007, you have 52 weeks. Here is a basic road map (the assumption is that you are doing self-study):

Week 1 : Listen to Intro A lesson 1 audio lesson every day
Week 2: Finish Intro A workbook lesson 1 (10 exercises in total, so 2 exercises per day).
Week 3: Listen to Intro A lesson 2 audio lesson every day
Week 4: Finish Intro A workbook lesson 2 (2 exercises per day)
Week 5: Listen to Intro A lesson 3 audio lesson every day
Week 6: Finish Intro A workbook lesson 3


Week 11: Review lesson 1 - 5 by listening to the audio lessons
Week 12: Finish Intro A workbook review 1-5 exercises


Week 23: Review Lesson 6-10 by listening to the audio lessons
Week 24: Finish Intro A workbook review 6-10


Week 47: Review Intro B lesson 16-20 by listening to the audio lessons
Week 48: Finish Intro B workbook review 16-20

Week 49 - 52: It's time to celebrate your success and plan for your next road map. Also time for a great Christmas!

The key issue is that you need to set your road map step by step to carry on from where you are now to where you want to be, and make sure you follow your map. Don't rush too fast, neither too slow. Always ONLY focus on your next step!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Shoot for the stars!

Before you set up any plan, it's important to know where you want to end up.
Do you want to:

  1. Carry basic conversations
  2. Express your self freely
  3. Use natural speech when socializing with Chinese people
  4. Discuss world issues and all kinds of topics
Where do you want to go? Can you create a picture in your mind? Can you describe your future successful in details?

If you don't know where you want to end up with, you won't go anywhere!

Set a goal! Shoot for the starts!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Make Year 2007 Your Most Successful Year

To make year 2007 your most successful year takes planning. You can plan anything now for the things you want to achieve next year. To narrow our focus, we only discuss learning Chinese here.

This is a borrowed quote:

The best time to learn Chinese is last year. The second best time is this year.

If you started in 2006 and carried on, it's time to appreciate how far you have gone. If you didn't start in 2006 and would like to learn, now is a good time to set a plan!

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Toilets in China

Very often I heard people telling me about their trips to China were very exciting, interesting in many ways except their experience of the public toilets.

I agree that public toilets in most of the places are not great.

If all the public toilets are improved over night, things will be perfect. As life has taught us many times that nothing is perfect, so take this as part of the package of your China trip and enjoy more with talking to people, eating great Gong Bao chicken.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This is for those who have made amazing results.

There are success stories happening everyday around me.

Henry started his Mandarin lesson in Nov 2005. In a year time, despite all the trips, travels and work load, Henry made very impressive results by finishing Pre-intermediate B.

Tim and Wantanee started their lesson during mid 2004. During this one year and half, they had some very long breaks. They are really amazing people. They made the commitment, and they carried on.

Nathan started his lesson during the summer last year. He consistently studies and the result is amazing.

Doron started his lesson early this year. He completes all the exercises and will do more. This is what gives Doron an edge.

And there are always more.

One common trait of them is consistent and self-discipline.

I feel lucky that I can witness their success, or in some cases, be part of it.

Priceless Moment

This is a story of a student. AT the time he was half way through Intro Level A, he went to Shanghai to do business. He was talking to his Chinese supplier on the phone and trying to set up an appointment at 6pm. But English didn't carry him very far. He found his supplier didn't understand "six o'clock pm". Then he tried "xia wu liu dian". And it worked! He was very excited!

Things like that are priceless for a language learner. It justified every effort you made.

What is the priceless moment you had?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What if you never had a chance to use Chinese

What if you never had a chance, and probably never will have a chance to use Chinese you have learned or are learning, would you want to commit yourself into this learning journey?

How many of you out there are putting 30 mins everyday for learning Mandarin and know you would probably never use it?

This reminds me that there are many people learning English in China. Some of them probably won't have any chance to use it, but they are happy to take a new adventure in an English speaking world. Why do they do this? What is the incentive?

My answer is that it's a self-satisfaction experience there. It happens when you are listening to radios, watching movies, reading books or newspapers. It's something out there that not so easy to master but ultimately satisfying to us humans.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tips On How To Use Workbooks

To use workbooks effectively will save you lots of trouble and sweat in the future.

Before you start doing all the exercises in your workbook, make sure you have learned the corresponding lessons in your students book, then you can:

1. Do all the written exercises first. In this way, you will see all the target words again and again, and this visual impact is important for further task.

2. Do 2-3 listening exercises. Make sure you understand 98%. If you have questions, go back to your book or ask your teacher, do a short revision

3. Finish the remaining listening exercises.

4. Review and further exercises.

MSL Featured Photo

Take a look at recently updated pictures here!

Also, if you have a great photo and would like to share with us, send it to me.
After all, it's sharing makes a good photo great!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Learning Mandarin is a Commitment

Provide the right materials, the right environment, the right method, learning Mandarin can be fast, but not that fast like you can master this language in one month.

Using the same materials in different ways is a very good way to speed up the process. That is why I made students book, CDs, workbook, audio lessons. But still you need a year to finish Intro Level and Basic Level to develop into a relatively good proficiency.

My definition of advanced learners is near native. They can THINK in Mandarin. Anywhere less than that is not advanced. There is middle point between beginning to near native. At this point, you can communicate in any topics and can understand most of what other native speakers said. You can understand 50-60% of movies without subtitles, or 90% with subtitles, and maybe 30% of news. This point is Intermediate.

If you study consistently using Mandarin Express series, from beginning to intermediate it will take about 1.5 to 2 years. From there to advanced level may take another five to ten years. And after that, you are still learning as the language is a living thing.

So, learning Mandarin is a life long commitment.