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The Important Basics

The Important Basics To Cover in Chinese Language Learning May 17 Larry Ogunjobi Jersey , 2013 | Author: Amy Pierce | Posted in Education
The Reasons I wrote This


I’ve long been learning Mandarin ever since I was a kid. But to be raised in the language environment I have been in, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a native speaker of the Chinese language. Even today, I find it challenging to converse very fluently with the Chinese from China. I’ve found that I still frequently include some English expressions that I simply cannot explain in Chinese without stopping the conversation. However, my exposure to Chinese continues to be good as I majored in Chinese in university and I’ve been giving lessons to numerous people for a fair few years.


Over these years, I’ve come to realize that to master Chinese, you really need three things. You need motivation, the right techniques and good learning resources. I have my specific theory when it comes to Chinese language learning. It always frustrates me when I see how schools in my homeland are educating the students the wrong way, either by continuously lowering the bar, or giving up important areas of focus that are vital in language acquisition.


Therefore, I find that I have to write something to enable others to pick up on the proper concepts about the Chinese language so that they can excel.


Sounds, Form, Meaning and Usage


The many learners of Chinese most often would lament that Chinese language is far from easy to achieve proficiency. They normally concentrate in learning how to communicate in Chinese.


However, they did not think about the differences in language features that are bound to exist in every different language. The fact that they had not noticed the close relationship between sound, form and meaning in each individual Chinese character, had only made learning the language, even if it’s just the speaking part, that much harder. Chinese do not have so many ways of pronunciation as does English. If we’re not going to learn the characters which differentiates the meaning of one similar Chinese sound to another, we will not be able to memorize enough “Chinese sounds in context” to become proficient in the language.


I have always been an advocate of memorizing the basics when it comes to Chinese learning, as oppose “creative learning”. It’s not that I don’t believe that creative learning doesn’t work, because I believe it does. I only know that you can’t apply creative learning to Chinese language learning and don’t expect the students to memorize and still get proficient in Chinese. I mean, memory even affects the score of IQ tests, not to say learning a foreign system where there is grammar rules, pronunciations, meanings and contextual usage all jumbled together.


The greatest obstacle anyone can encounter in the course of learning Chinese characters is that they have no clue what different words mean when familiar characters come together. Although all these characters are the highest appearing characters and the student has already learned about it, they still do not know what different combinations of these characters mean.


I cannot stop stressing that individual Chinese characters can combine to form compound words, and we would need to have a solid foundation in those meanings of those characters of the most frequent occurrence so that we can guess the derived meaning of the words when characters join together to form new words. These are the basic concepts in Chinese language that would save us tremendous time in the future.


There are bound to be words that can’t be guessed from the basic meanings of each character that forms the word. However before you jump to a conclusion saying that most combinations can’t be guessed, I need to tell you the ugly truth that many Chinese characters have multiple basic meanings. Some basic meanings can even be more than one. You might start to wonder just how large the amount of basic meanings you need to commit to memory.


Next, to actually using the stuff you learn. My take is simple, which is to try to engage as many of your senses as possible, exposing them to all things Chinese, and then creating links and relationships between concepts, forms, sounds, grammar and images. My brain remembers better when it takes in more information. Sounds unbelievable? Try making up ten things you have done from the morning till the evening, then try saying them out backwards. Try the exercise again, only that this time round the ten things should be really stuffs you experienced. You will find that the latter is easier. That’s because made up stuff are just like memorizing Chinese vocabulary, they are only words and concepts in your mind, like the stuff you made up in your mind. However, experiences engage with your whole being. You see, you hear, you touch, you remember when you thought about at that moment, you listen, and all these come together to form a strong linkage in your mind, so you don’t forget easily. Learning and using Chinese is the same, you have to use it, listen to it and see the images relevant to the word to experience its use in different contexts.


How to Keep the Fire Burning


Some people will give up. People always do. These people will always find reasons to justify themselves and try to haul others down with them.


Motivation is crucial to maintain our passion in learning and it also adds fun to learning. Steve Kaufman, who have till date mastered ten languages, would tell you that the only way to keep yourself interested in language learning, is to continue to find reading materials that are interesting to you.


He believes that we must find that piece of article that is interesting to us, that would encourage us to find ways of finishing th

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