This was in response to the following question from dunderklumpen. I thought it deserved its own thread, in case other expats wanted to chime in, and because I tend to babble.
3 minutes ago
You live in China now, right? I'm curious to know what you think about the learning process before and after moving there. Would you have chosen a different approach to learning the language if you could "live you life again"? More or less reading, more or less listening to podcasts, more or less cPod (hehe, a "sensitive" question) and so on . How useful was the chinese you learned before going there?
I'm in Taipei now. I don't think there is a lot I would have changed, though I would have liked some more structure. Cpod is obviously a phenomenal resource, but it's difficult to create a really good study plan here and stick to it. I wish I had a bit more formal schooling on a regular basis, maybe 2 or 3 times a week.
I did have a native tutor off-and-on, but it didn't improve my Chinese as much as I had hoped (I guess that boils down to how good your tutor is).
I also did a lot of self-study, especially with grammar and learning hanzi since they're not a big focus on Cpod. Learning hanzi is obviously a bit easier now, since I see them constantly (it's actually quite a cool feeling to be walking down the street and say "hey, I know what that character means!").
I wouldn't change a lot about how I used Cpod, although now I would stress quality over quantity. When I first found Cpod, I wanted to soak up as much as I could...I was doing maybe 1 or 2 lessons everyday. I was studying a lot, but I wasn't retaining a lot (of vocabulary). I wouldn't recommend that, at least not for most people.
Now I study maybe 1 or 2 lessons every week. That way I can take my time and really learn and retain the vocabulary (I use PlecoDict daily to reinforce the vocab. - highly highly recommend). Doing this also allowed for more time to review, which obviously reinforced previously-learned vocabulary. Some people are sponges, but I'm not, so for me less is more.
The only other thing that has changed is the way I choose the lessons I want to study. Now that I'm here, there are subjects that are more important than others (like setting up a bank account, going to the doctor, mailing a letter, ordering a pizza ;-).
Before, I used to study the lessons as they came out. Now I study lessons that I know I will need to use soon (so as not to look like a moron). This really reinforces the vocabulary because I really need to know it and I am actually using it in a real-life situation.
And 9 times out of 10, I mess up a lot of what I learned. It's not too difficult going into a situation with some set phrases, prepared for what to say, but once someone starts speaking Chinese at warp speed, it's all over and it's back to the books (or internet in this case)!
I will say this, without ChinesePod and all the other resources I used for 2+ years, I would be completely clueless here. As things are, I'm just clueless...with the goal of one day being able to hold a decent conversation with a native Chinese. I can't wait for that day!
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