Inventory of Resources

So, after rooting through the box under my bed, what Chinese learning resources did I find? They fall into the following categories:

General Language Learning/Motivation:

How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber: This guy is quite enthusiastic, and has some fun travel stories to help pump up the motivation. Some of the methods are a little dated now (does anyone remember what a cassette tape is? flashcards are now pretty much obsolete due to SRS apps, and these days we have Internet), however the underlying principles remain the same. I think this will be worth a re-read to psyche myself up.

How to Study Foreign Languages by Marilyn Lewis: this is a more traditional treatment of language learning, without all the frenzied hype from the previous book. I think it is worth a re-read as well.

Language Learning: A Lifelong Process by Joseph Foley & Linda Thompson: This is a more formal treatment of language development in babies through to adults from a cognitive perspective. Interesting, but I think this is a lower priority read.

Dictionaries:

I have some paperback two-way Chinese<->English dictionaries, including the Oxford Concise Dictionary and the Langenscheidt Pocket Dictionary. I also have a free app on my iPhone called Pleco. Since electronic dictionaries are really the way forward, I may need to look into purchasing the add-ons.

Hànzi (漢字) Learning Resources:

I have two resources here that may be useful:

Cracking the Chinese Puzzles (Abridged Edition) by T.K.Ann: I think this is probably more of a reference than something I would actually use to learn the hànzi.

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: I picked up this book at the airport on my way to Taiwan recently. It seems to be somewhat similar to the Heisig method used to learn the Japanese kanji, but includes mnemonics to help remember pronunciation including tones. I think I might give this one a go, maybe together with a home grown Anki SRS deck. The alternative is to perhaps use the Reviewing the Hànzi website, which follows Heisig, although having done Heisig for the Kanji once before, I think I want to focus on pronunciation this time round for the Hànzi.

Textbooks:

Teach Yourself Chinese: Traditional text following the standard Dialogue/Vocab/Grammar/Exercises format, however in the earlier stages it is all pīnyīn with no 漢字, which I am not too keen on. I think I might start with one of the following texts instead.

Chinese Conversation Made Easy: this is a thinner book, easy to carry around, has both pīnyīn and 漢字 right from the start. Seems to have some useful vocabulary, so this one may be a good one to start with.

Practical Chinese Reader Book I: From the Beijing Languages Institute, this is the simplified character edition, and also seems quite good. I might try it after, or maybe in parallel with, the previous book.

Grammar:

So far, I don’t have any book on Chinese grammar. For now I can probably use resources on the Internet, such as the Chinese Grammar Wiki, and I’ll check out the bookstore to see what they have in the way of grammar books.

Podcasts/Listening Resources:

I spend a bit of time of public transport, so listening to podcasts on the iPhone is a great way to pass the time. I recently found a podcast called iMandarinPod.com, which seems to be quite good. It is all in Mandarin though, and at this stage I am only picking up the odd word here and there. There are some other paid resources that offer a gentler introduction to the language, but they do seem to have lots and lots of English. I may check them out anyway, and see if they can give me a bit of a leg up.

So, there we have it, I do have a selection of materials to get me started. All I need to do is to stop procrastinating and start learning 🙂

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step…

你好!

Well, I just got back to Sydney from a business trip in Taiwan, where my lack of Chinese language skill let me down. It was depressing to struggle to order a meal or even a coffee, and so I’ve decided to do something about it. And so the journey begins…

Actually, this is not my first encounter with the Chinese language. I did enrol in a course over 10 years ago, where I studied Mandarin for a year and a half. However, somehow Life gets in the way, and I didn’t do any serious study since then. So, now I’m back to square one (well, almost!).

I read on the Internet somewhere that it can be helpful to start a blog when learning a new language, so I thought I’d give it a try. Let’s see how it goes…

I guess the first step should be to have some goals. What do I want to be able to do in Mandarin? Here are some longer term goals:

  • To be able to order food confidently in a restaurant
  • To be able to engage in basic conversation with the Chinese speakers in the office
  • To be able to read some of the local chinese newspapers
  • To be able to listen to and understand the Chinese language program on the local radio station.
  • When at a Chinese cultural event, be able to understand what the people up on the stage are saying
  • When travelling to an overseas office, be able to conduct some of the discussions in Chinese, rather than forcing everyone to switch back to English for my benefit.

So, how to get there? Well, in the next post I’ll have a look at some of the resources I already have from when I was studying last time.