March 2012 update – revitalizing Mandarin

Hi all. I’ve been a bit absent from the land of language learning for a while. I’ve had several other projects on the go and have been generally busy.

Currently I’m working at a new job, where many of my coworkers are native Mandarin speakers. I’m hoping to revitalize my Mandarin skills over the next little while.

My first step is to do lots of listening, to revive the “natural” feeling. By this, I mean that I want the language to again feel really familiar, which is a vague feeling I get after having lots of exposure to it. I’m also hoping that lots of listening will reactivate some of the vocabulary that I’ve nearly forgotten.

Next is learning new vocabulary, or relearning words that are well on the way to being forgotten. For this, I’ll be using a parallel text of Harry Potter. I can read through the Chinese half with mouseover translation for some of the words, and use the corresponding English paragraph to confirm that I have the right overall meaning for the sentences and paragraphs.

Since there are some really basic words that I’ve forgotten, I’ll be delaying my speaking practice for another week or two, but then I hope to start saying more simple things. My coworkers are not used to speaking with non-native speakers, so when they hear that my accent and pronunciation are pretty decent then they just charge straight ahead with a highly technical conversation relating to work. I’m not really at the level where I can discuss embedded Linux devices and which MTD partition on the flash ROM contains the boot loader, in Chinese 😉

To that end, though, I bet there’s a small subset of vocabulary that I could specifically study in order to catch on to more work-related concepts. I’ve found previously that a lot of these sorts of technical conversations can be mostly understood with only 20-30 new vocab words that get used all the time. Do you want to understand Economics conversations? Go learn just 30 new Economics vocab words, and I suspect you’ll have most of what you need. These things follow the Pareto principle quite well, where 80% of the benefits can be had by doing only the first 20% of the work.

That’s it for now. I’ll try and update soon. Currently my work contract is only for 4 weeks, but I’m hoping it will be extended past that so I can continue being surrounded by Mandarin while getting paid to be there 🙂

8 Responses to March 2012 update – revitalizing Mandarin

  1. Keith says:

    Sounds exciting! I hope your coworkers have the kind of pronunciation that you want to emulate.

    Do you mind when someone you are talking to gives you a translation of some word you didn’t understand or they thought you didn’t understand?

  2. Igor says:

    “To that end, though, I bet there’s a small subset of vocabulary that I could specifically study in order to catch on to more work-related concepts. I’ve found previously that a lot of these sorts of technical conversations can be mostly understood with only 20-30 new vocab words that get used all the time. Do you want to understand Economics conversations? Go learn just 30 new Economics vocab words, and I suspect you’ll have most of what you need.”

    You bet! Some 100 topic words will do miracles. A day or two of hard work.

  3. Teango says:

    Good luck getting back on track with Mandarin, mate! Get bulking up on LR, and you’ll be making major gains in all those language muscles in no time at all. 🙂

  4. Mark Bosma says:

    Hey – I just found your blog this past weekend and read back through quite a few posts. It looks like we’ve had a few parallel interests in common: How did your experience in polyphasic sleep turn out? Did you keep going with your Dutch learning? I’ve been slowing chipping away at Dutch, using some Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. I’ve been looking around for other materials and am going to try the parallel-text-plus-audio method shortly. Any further pointers, tips or ideas for Dutch?

  5. Stefanie says:

    Hello,

    The Top 100 Language Lovers 2012 competition hosted by the bab.la language portal and the Lexiophiles language blog has started and your blog has been nominated in the category language learning blogs. Congratulations! The nomination period goes until May 13th. Feel free to spread the word among other bloggers writing about languages or to suggest one blog yourself.
    For further information on the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition, visit http://www.lexiophiles.com/english/top-100-language-lovers-2012-nominate-your-favourite-now

    Best wishes,
    Stefanie for the bab.la and Lexiophiles team

  6. J. Mitchell says:

    I’ve just learned two very useful language learning tips from your blog post.

    1) Going about actively learning just 20 to 30 new words specific to a particular topic is a great idea. As Igor say’s imagine learning a hundred topic specific words/phrases – this is a great idea.

    2) Reading a book on-line (in your case Harry Potter) using the mouseover translation to increase your understanding – just brilliant.

    These two ideas alone will help me a lot with my Spanish learning. Thanks for the tips:-)

    Joe.

  7. Reineke says:

    I hope things are going well.

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