I’ve been told that an average person needs approximately 10,000 hours to master a language. The journey may be long, but the average person can achieve daily progress toward the goal of proficiency.
I’m the average student with an extraordinary desire to learn Chinese. I’m not the person who can remember a character after seeing it a few times or forever remember a word taught after a single memorization session or two. Every structure, word and grammar point that I have learned, I’ve had to diligently work at remembering and using.
Although I had some exposure to Chinese before I come to learn Chinese in China, my proficiency was minimal. I originally enrolled in Keats Chinese School’s intensive one-on-one classes. The benefit for me of one-on-one classes was the ability to gain immediate access to the teacher. After the teacher taught a new structure, word or grammar, I was able to ask clarification questions, to request further examples, and to gain immediate correction after using the newly taught point when speaking Chinese.
I have also taken a small group class at Keats. The benefit of a small group class for me has been the exposure to hearing other students speaking Chinese, which has increased my listening skill. I have also enjoyed the many games and activities that Keats teachers daily use in class. The group class has broken up the monotony of learning Chinese, and has been a continual source of encouragement as I watch other students struggle with the same problems that I have. I’m reminded that my language learning problems are not unique; other students have faced or faced the same problems I currently face. I can implement their creative solutions to break through my current language learning plateau. Our class discussions have also been enilghtening, and I have learned much about the local and national customs of China.
It is my understanding that the varied levels like to use different resources. At my current level I use the following resources. Some of the resources may or may not be useful to you, and you may already use some or most of them. But my hope is that you obtain something useful from the following list.
1. Purchase a good Chinese grammar book
A Chinese grammar book written for foreign students learning Chinese. Although there are many such books on the market, the books are replete with nonsensical explanations or nonsensical examples. I enjoy concise explanations in both English and Chinese characters, as I enjoy practicing my character reading skill on a constant basis. I recently purchased such a grammar book through the suggestion of a friend: A Practical Chinese Grammar for Foreigners, rev. ed., which was published by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press in 2015 and came with a workbook. This book has been a valuable resource in the reviewing Chinese grammar and structures.
2. Find a Daily-use Chinese App
There are many different free and for purchase Apps available. An App that allows you to review your new Chinese words on a daily basis can become an excellent character memorization and familiarization tool. I currently use a free app called Pleco. At the end of each learning day, I will create flash cards for all of the new words I encountered that day. I make an effort to review my flash cards in the morning and in the afternoon. Although I currently use Pleco, there are many other such APP tools that you can use. Fellow students have suggested Ankiapp, Memrise and Skritter. All of these are good, so it is best to become familiar with several and then utilize the ones which fit you best.
I also enjoy using a free app named Chinese Skill. Chinese Skill has an engaging platform and utilizes several activities to help gain an overall grasp of several language learning skill; including, correct sentence building, character writing and recognition, and listening.
The above suggestions are several of Chinese learning tools I use. There are many other valuable tools that you no doubt will encounter along your learning journey. I have included a few more tools in the second part of this article entitled, “The 10,000 Hour Journey and the Chinese Learning Tools You Can Use,Part 2.”
By Keats Student Lionel Dabbs