I thought I might write a little about how I have been studying Mandarin Chinese. Please note, my Mandarin Chinese is very basic. Like, super basic! I will write a post once a month to measure my progress.
To begin with, when I was at university, many of my friends were from Hong Kong and used to load a whole lot of their favourite Canto pop songs onto a USB for me to add to my iPod playlist. I had to spend about three hours traveling to and from university each day, so I had a lot of time to kill and remember listening to a lot of Canto pop during my commute. Some songs were in Mandarin, but I have to admit that I preferred the sound of Cantonese (I still do…)
The first time I started studying Chinese, I was in France, sitting at the dining table in my home in the Alsace. It was perhaps a little strange to decide, in the Alsace, that it was a good idea to learn Chinese for the future, but I went to my local library and borrowed a book and there I was, studying away. It was a basic book, but showed me that maybe Chinese grammar wasn’t as scary as I had first thought.
Well, that was in 2008 and to be honest, nothing much came of that study attempt. I am a bit of a slapper when it comes to languages. I jump from one to the other rather quickly. Anyway, I came back to Australia and bought myself a copy of Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1. Despite the price (I could have bought 31 lattes for that price….), it’s a very good textbook. I enjoy the dialogues and the vocabulary in each chapter is quite good. I used this textbook for several years. Don’t look at me like that! I know it’s pathetic! To be honest, I have been more motivated to study other languages rather than Chinese.
Over the last few years, I also found a great video series on the net called Growing Up With Chinese. Although some of the dialogues are aimed more toward Intermediate learners, I find it entertaining and there were many things that I picked up from watching the videos. You can also find these videos on YouTube if you are interested.
Another resource I have been using is Zhongwen Red. There is also Zhongwen Blue and Green, and I am not really sure what the difference is between them. Zhongwen Red seems to have more lessons. These lessons are very similar to the book I borrowed from the library in Alsace. Each lesson is based on the previous lesson and the sentence gradually takes on different verbs and different meanings. I find it really helpful to get my head around different grammar points in Chinese.
To compliment these resources, I have my trusty Lonely Planet Mandarin phrasebook. I find phrasebooks really useful when learning a language. They provide up-to-date vocabulary and help you to see how questions and statements are best phrased depending on a particular circumstance.
I have been very frustrated over the last few weeks. My level of Chinese is so low and I find it very hard to remember the tones. I use Pleco dictionary on my iPhone which, as well as providing you with the pin yin for each word, shows you the character in a colour which corresponds to its tone. For example: 圖書館 túshūguǎn (1st Tone: purple, 2nd Tone: green, 3rd Tone: Blue, 4th Tone: Purple) I have just discovered that apparently this colour system is not just used in Pleco but is also mentioned on the Mandarin Chinese phonology page on Wikipedia! Colours are great, but you really need to be able to recognise the characters enough to be able to associate the colour with the character, so maybe it isn’t quite as helpful as it could be.
(You may notice that I used the traditional characters up above. Well, I am much more interested in learning the traditional characters than the simplified characters. Some would say it is silly, but I feel they are much more interesting.)
Ideally, I would be attending a Mandarin class. I feel like I would benefit immensely if I had a structure to my studies. The classes I have seen are all very expensive, so I might have to save up. Until then, I will have to continue to write vocabulary lists of useful words that will help me to get by in Shenzhen…