Reader Jarad Mayers wrote the following very good question:
I want to learn Mandarin. I am not sure how to go about it. This is the very first language I am attempting to learn. I have not done anything yet. I am on very tight budget and currently not employed. I tried to access the free material on Mandarin (http://fsi-language-courses.org/ )but it is no longer accessible . I was wondering if I could use your experince and if possible sort of outline the steps I need to follow.
BTW, I am not sure where to post my question. I am sorry if this the wrong place for posting it.
I’ve prepared the answer as a table – it is a whole programme to 80% of Chinese that you’d need to get your degree, read newspapers, live an everyday life in China. The rest after that comes down to vocabulary building for which I’d recommend the goldlisting of dictionaries or of bilingual literature. You could spend four times as much time getting from 80% Chinese to 100% Chinese (ask Vilf “the Gilf” Pareto, he’ll tell you why, or might have done, until 1923 – now you’ll have to look up what he thought in order to know why, or simply accept it).
Real Chinese philologists like Victor Berrjod might give you other useful sources better than the ones I have listed. All of the ones I have listed are available on Amazon. The audio courses are expensive so it will pay you to shop around a bit.
1260 hours, based on the number of years/days in Daniel and the Book of Revelation, also happens to be a typical year’s work in a modern Western company. This means that the below work programme can be:
- done in a year if you treat it as a full time job – you’ll need to plan that one out carefully in order to avoid time-clashing in Goldlist method, namely coming within 14 days of the last time you listed the word in the previous Distillation or Headlist.
- done over two years if treated as a half-time job
- done over three or more years if done in your spare time.
Don’t expect to learn Chinese meaningfully any quicker than that.
If you are sure that you want to get seriously into Chinese at an academic level, from my discussions with Victor “Hobbylinguist” Berrjod and concluding from certain things outlined by Mike “Glossika” Campbell. I’d recommend Goldlisting the Mandarin and also the Cantonese pronunciations of the characters in the character only Goldlist and the Words Goldlist.
Please note that in this Programme, quite apart from giving yourself 160 hours worth of work on audio only before even touching the Gold-List method, there are actually four separate Goldlists that you need and I suggest that at least at Bronze Book level you keep them quite separate. They are:
- 1) pinyin only for words and simple phrases, example sentences from grammar
- 2) character (one by one) including the elements of Hoenig’s explanations (alternatively Wu Gaofeng or James Heisig with Timothy W. Richardson, certainly Heisig rules the roost if it comes to Japanese and the whole method even Hoenig is using is Heisig’s really). You need several lines per character in the Headlist my opinion. One for stroke order, another for the primitives “story”, another for the pinyin sound and the meaning of the character. At this point in time you are not trying to combine them into words, that comes later.
- 3) words, based on one to four of the characters, but most commonly two. You might want to split this into different groups depending on tone pattern, eg Groups 11,12,13,14,15, 21,22,23,24,25, 31,32,33,34,35, and 41,42,43,44, 45 exist, with tone 5 referring to the reduced tone or “closed fist” to follow the idea of Dr Goodman.
- 4) whole practice sentences – you need practice writing but keep them in a separate Goldlist so as to not mess up the monitoring of progress by numbers in the other three. When distilling these you are choosing to let go forward the sentences you wouldn’t be able to write out from memory. You only need to listen to the Pimsleur or MT again when doing the Headlist and not for the subsequent distillations.In the first of the three Goldlists above you might consider using green, blue, red and black ink and pencil for the closed fist to drive home Dr Goodman’s way of teaching tones, which is sans pareil. You may also derive a benefit from making the enforcing movement with your free hand while writing the word with your pen hand.
Anyhow, here comes the Programme:
Feedback welcome – rather I should say obligatory, except for the fact I have now mechanism of making it so!
And thanks very much for the fine question, which with luck will have kicked off some useful debate as well as helped other prospective learners.
- -AM103 English Chinese Pinyin Dictionary Translator – Translate English Sentence/Word to Chinese & Pinyin (am103englishchinesedictionarytranslsale9w.wordpress.com)
- The Best (Online) Chinese Dictionary (cityhotpot.wordpress.com)
- Why You Should Learn… Mandarin Chinese (thewell-travelledpostcard.com)
- Bilingual Chinese magazine launches in Halifax (cbc.ca)
- Learning Chinese is No Longer Puzzling with PinYinPal (prweb.com)
- Someone has had trouble remembering enough words with their Goldlist (huliganov.tv)
- Pros and Cons of Pinyin (theawfulchineselanguage.com)
- General Tso’s chikin (languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu)