Saturday, October 15, 2005

Lee's Visit

We had a visit from a Chinese brother from Canada. He DROVE down. It took him parts of two days. He speaks Mandarin fluently (as well as seven other dialects). He gave some very helpful hints about learning foreign languages generally and Chinese specifically.

Here they are in no specific order:

1) Focus on the most frequently used vocabulary.

        There are about 200-300 words most frequently used in any language. Learn what these are in your target language.         
        Here are a few from Chinese:

2) Bring the books to the meeting that are of your target language.

In the case of Chinese, this is a challenge. When first learning Chinese I couldn't read ANY of the characters. Now I can read maybe 100. What that means is that I can follow as it is read from the platform up to a point. When they read a character I don't know I need to listen and look for one I do. This is what I've decided to do. One student began this process only after three months. What I've been doing up until now is bringing along the pinying books (Romanize Chinese). I need to move to the next level.

3) Pronunciation, Comprehension, and Construction

These are the three areas a new language learner must focus on. Pronunciation and comprehension seem obvious. Construction is the ability to put together sentences. In Chinese the sentences are constructed with the general in front moving to the more specific at the end.

In English I could say: Let's go to the store in the car. Or: Let's use the car to go to the store. In Chinese you must say: Let's go together to the store in the car. Chinese sentences must always have the time in the front. In other words: Let's at 2:00 go to the store in the car.

Constructing your sentences correctly will, of course, increase your chances of being understood by the natives.

I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.  ~Jane Wagner