Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fuhuojie kuaile

Zhu4 da4 jia1 fu4 huo2 jie2 kuai4 le4. In case you don't understand that, it means "Wishing everybody a happy Easter".

I thought that today I would say a little about my strategy for learning Chinese. It might not be a good strategy for most people, but it does seem to be working OK for myself so far. In fact some of what I'm doing is very different to the standard, as far as I can tell. There is one very big problem with my strategy to date however, but today's podcast from ChinesePod has given me an idea about that, which I will get to in a moment.

My strategy so far has been mainly aimed at building up a vocabulary. I choose a subject then build up a list of words and phrases to memorize with flashcards. I have only been learning words in pinyin so far, but I intend to start learning some Chinese characters before too long. I have stayed with pinyin up until now because there is only so much I can stuff into my brain at any one time and I thought I would try and learn to speak Chinese before learning to read Chinese. Unfortunately this is where the big problem comes in. But I'll get back to that in a moment.

I also don't write pinyin squashed together as everyone else seems to do, but I do have a reason for doing it the way I do. Most people seem to write the sentence at the start of this post as "Zhu4 da4jia1 fu4huo2jie2 kuai4le4", so that each word corresponds to the equivalent word in English. That is, "Wish everybody Easter happy". I tend to spread it all out so that each word corresponds to the equivalent Chinese character. That is "Zhu4 da4 jia1 fu4 huo2 jie2 kuai4 le4", or 祝大家复活节快乐. I may be misguided in this, but I feel that it will be that little bit easier to learn to read the characters if I am already thinking of the language in the one syllable word chunks that each character represents.

Now back to the problem with this strategy. I thought that I could build up my vocabulary and practice speaking as I went along. I thought that as time went on my conversation would get better as my vocabulary increased. The problem with this is that conversation doesn't really work that way. I will need to build up a very large vocabulary before I can even start to hold a meaningfull conversation. The conversations I have now are either very short (two or three sentences) or are really English conversations with the odd Chinese word or phrase thrown in. My vocabulary is just not large enough. What I am now going to try to do is practice speaking, by choosing a subject that I know a number of relevant words for, and then try to converse on that subject for half an hour or so.

I will keep an eye on what else Ken has to say on this subject. It is where I need the most help at the moment.


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