If you're a new subscriber, and wondering where to start in learning Mandarin, I have some suggetions. These suggestions are tailored to a person ACTUALLY HEADING TO CHINA FOR A YEAR. If you a hobbyist and merely interested in a place to begin to hone ideas on your own starting point, this might also be a good post to read.
My approach has been is to treat learning mandarin as a 3 credit course at a university. Once you're here in China, you'll realize how unprepared you are, and wish you'd PRIORITIZED LEARNING CHINESE higher among your many daily tasks, instead of looking/feeling like a babe lost in the woods all the time once you're here.
As part of the self study thing, i'm thinking that ideally, I would love to be "fluent" in mandarin by the time my CPOD subscription runs out in Sept 30,2010. "Fluent" is defined as having working knowledge of around 5000 words/phrases. 5000 words/phrases was arrived at somewhat arbitrarily, and is certainly arguable why 5000 words/phrases isn't better that 6000, 7000 or even 10,000 words/phrases, but it's a decent metric to start for the following reasons:
-5000 words is about 100 words a week for a year. I've thought 100 words/week was a lot, and in practice, i'm running at maybe the 20-30 words/phrases per week on average (this is what happens when you have a full time job with 2 pre-schoolers around).
- I'm told that you need knowledge of about 2000 characters in order to read a Chinese newspaper and get most of the gist of the articles (certainly more characters is better, but this might be a reasonable mimimum). i'm hoping that 5000 words gets me to that level.
I have an engineering background, and one of the things you're taught is to break up big tasks into smaller ones. "BE FLUENT IN MANDARIN" is a big task. Learn 100 words a week is a smaller task. Learn 20 words a week sounds almost easy (until you try it).
YOU'RE ON THE GROUND.....
.... At Beijing Capital International Airport (or Shanghai Pudong, or Shenzhen BaoAn or whatever entry point). After having received your passport back from the consulate/embassy, bought your tickets, got your guide book, maybe even bought some renminbi. You board the airplane, giddy with excitement and anticipation. 10-14 hours later, you land, go through customs, and then you see the signs for drivers picking up paying tourists, they're screaming, yelling, people coming up to you saying in bad english, "you need taxi?" "where you go?", the written text is in English and Mandarin, and then you
realize, what the %$@#*&% do I do now?
This is the part where I continually tweak, but here goes
download taxi lessons. i'll put the links for the best ones shortly.
LISTEN to the lessons FIRST. (I'm using caps to get your attention). Do not bother with the pdfs at this point. download to your iPod/Zune (i dare to be different). At this point, you'll need to anchor your intuition about Mandarin through listening to it. Mandarin, as you already suspect and know, is really different from English (i'm a native English speaker, and an American one at that, so forgive my biases/metaphors/etc...). LISTENING TO THE PODCASTS FIRST starts you on the path toward learning the mandarin pronunciation quickly.
More posts to add. Will do shortly
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