Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Pod’
There was a very useful development in the Chinese language-learning sphere while I was back in Britain. It was the emergence online of AllSet Learning’s Chinese Grammar Wiki, developed by John Pasden of Sinosplice and ChinesePod fame. John and his team have been developing a comprehensive wiki-styled grammar resource for some time now (it does in fact use the same software that powers Wikipedia), but they had not previously released it onto the world wide web. The project was initially aimed at, and used by the students at AllSet Learning, but has now been wheeled out under a Creative Commons License for us all to benefit from. It is an amazing project just to have contemplated, let alone committed to. And, it is that much more impressive now it has actually been brought to fruition. It is already very useful and it is only going to get better. John and registered editors will continue to tweak and add to the existing information.
The home page is structured to be useful for beginners but it is a site aimed at being an irreplaceable grammar resource for all Chinese language learners, no matter their level. I have already benefited from the ridiculously comprehensive page on explaining the use of 把. Not only does it have clear explanations and a host of relevant examples, but there is also a fantastic linked-in list of related material. This includes internal links, links to websites and page references for the more commonly used textbooks. So, when you are studying, for example, how to use 了 it will point you to the pages in the book that you are probably already studying somewhere, or that you have kicking around at home. I will vouch for anything that can add just a little something to the process of getting this language into my head: this site offers more than a little help. I, for one, am running out of excuses now – these guys are doing too much to help – there really is nothing else for it; I am just going to have to master this language. For now, though, here is a Confucian quote that I included here almost three years ago, but which still adds a good bit of perspective to this process – it is probably even a little more valuable now than it was then:
‘Study it [the way to be sincere] extensively, inquire into it accurately, think over it carefully, sift it clearly, and practice it earnestly. When there is anything not yet studied, or studied but not yet understood, do not give up. When there is any question not yet asked, or asked but its answer not yet known, do not give up. When there is anything not yet thought over, or thought over but not yet apprehended, do not give up. If another [person] succeeds by one effort, I will use a hundred efforts. If another [person] succeeds by ten efforts, I will use a thousand efforts. If one really follows this course, though stupid, he will surely become intelligent, and though weak, will surely become strong’.
[from the Confucian text Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Chung-Yung (the Doctrine of the Mean) XX: 19-21]
Now, one thing is for sure: you will not find me making bold statements about mastering the art of Chinese language learning. This is in part due to the fact I have been such a slow and unfocused student of the art myself, and in part because I realize it is definitely a life long task. I am, though, now beginning to take my Chinese studies seriously again. Consequently, I thought I would note down some of the online resources that are out there to help. But first, my brief take on the three basic phases of Chinese learning.
The initial phase is to get to a point where we have enough words to order food and drinks, get around town, and be able to have some very simple conversations with locals. This is the stage where we find the words tīng bù dǒng rising to our lips with utterly depressing frequency. Sadly, it is a symptom that can still be found in the early stages of phase two.
This second phase is like the first of two very big jumps. This jump takes us to a point where we can do most things in daily life, and chat simply about a variety of topics. We can reach a level here where we can get out and about confidently knowing that tīng bù dǒng are words we rarely have to use. At this level we know enough to get people to explain things using language that we do understand. To arrive at this position takes an awful lot of work.
The third phase is another huge jump. It takes us from this “everyday, no worries” level to fluency, which means using the language in almost the same way that we can use our own. This includes being able to discuss, to a reasonable depth, a wide variety of topics, only really being restricted by personality and specific interests.
This phase is going to require a level of focus, daily commitment and long-view perspective even greater than that which went into getting through the second phase. So far I have lacked the motivation to take this next step. My Chinese has been fossilizing for a couple of years in that get-by-everyday-no-worries sort of state. However, now that I am re-engaging with my studies, I will simply list a few online resources that may be useful for all students of Chinese.
I will begin with a heads up to a Lost Laowai series of interviews, known as Mandarin Mondays. Here Ryan McLaughlin, of the Lost Laowai site, has gathered together a number of China language specialists with an online presence, to offer reflections on, and tips for learning Chinese. These interviews act as good reminders and motivators; to help all of us students take steps in the right direction.