25 June 2010

Learn me Chinese.

Dear TCG,

Whats the best way to learn Mandarin Chinese?


Dear Kevin.

Sorry I'm not particularly lucid today I just had a massive 3 hour argument over the phone with TCG's dad about the fact I'm unwilling to settle down and I am a bit of a 王子 (a playboy type) TGC's dad is upset that I'm, late 20s and have nowt much like my peer group to show for it. Though I do have some exotic highly modified motorcycles and a enough memories to last a life time.

Anyway enough of my uninteresting life and my woes.

Speaking? Reading? Listening? Writing?

There is no best way to learn languages, you merely have to find a method which works and stick to it.

Jackie Chan for instance is famous for being self taught English. Granted when he became famous he invariably had a private tutor to help him learn more. But he used to watch English films with subtitles (in Chinese) and hold his hands in a way to cover the subtitles and attempt to figure out what they were saying. He still has an accent which is noticeable. Though Jacky Chan is somebody I look up to not a hero per se but somebody who started from humble beginnings. His mate Sammo Hung sounds similar too.

I speak some limited Japanese due to a similar technique watching Japanese films without subs and therefore can say some limited things (though Japanese people think I talk like a girl though).

While some people prefer one to ones and some people like audio CDs and YouTube videos.

This is spoken Chinese and listening I suppose.

Reading and Chinese written work is a little more difficult, there is this book on amazon I can't remember the name of currently. But it uses a perfect flaw learning system in that look up most Chinese learning books and you invariably will find Pinyin underneath the Chinese character in question. The book played it differently as it would concentrate on the meaning and how to write it only and the meaning of the word. I think this does a nice job of splitting up the spoken and
the meaning elements of things.

In essence there is no best way just find a way that works for you. As an anecdote my Russian was terrible, spending 2 months traversing Russia and talking to locals on me motorbike, well not at the same time. I found I picked up on words I had to use all the time like Kafe or Khlep for bread. It was a matter of survival though which is different. You know perhaps you should go to Tonghua or Zhejiang University and study there. The prices are fairly reasonable I cannot find the direct link but they put you in a class for for 4 weeks for $250US and intensively teach you Mandarin reading, written and speaking. It went up to 3 months for $700US. It's not bad besides the airfare costs of $1K you'll have to stump up as the digs there are reputed to be cheap. My acquaintance Ollie went there and did a 3 month intensive course and puts me to shame sometimes, (he is originally from Wales).

Maybe going on gumtree (does it exist in the USA) or Craig's list community chest type pages and finding your Chinese for my English type adverts maybe useful as native speakers can correct where you go wrong and you both get something out of it and usually have to pay nothing more than a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza. In Korea TCG was accosted by many Koreans wanting impromptu conversational practice lessons. Though TCG was often mistaken for a kyopo type and they would usually buy me a beer afterwards.


  1. So far Ive been using EuroTalk language software and studying a Chinese-English dictionary on my iPod. Strangely, I find reading Chinese is much easier than speaking it.

  2. Well you've won half the battle already.

  3. Im no expert, but I believe you just made an excellent point. You certainly fully understand what youre speaking about, and I can truly get behind that. english classes hong kong