Deepening My Language Learning

I started using the Pimsleur method over two years ago.I’ve dabbled with Korean, Turkish, Hindi and Spanish; the bulk of my focus has been spent studying Mandarin, which has eluded me most of my life. Even though I speak Cantonese, I struggled to pick up or understand Mandarin. This was frustrating to my identity as a Chinese person; many of my relatives have picked it up informally or studied it in school.

So it wasn’t until 2013, when I started using the Pimsleur method, that the words finally started sinking in. The program primarily focuses listening and speaking short phrases and much more on grammar rather than vocabulary.

Last month, I finally finished unit 25 in phase 1. Mind you, completing this much in 30 or so months this doesn’t seem particularly fast. I wasn’t working particularly aggressively or fast through the units, since my focus was on other languages (i.e. acquiring Turkish when I visited Turkey and Hindi when I went to India with my sister). I took my time, slowly sipping in Mandarin here and there, sometimes taking a hiatus for several months. The other reason I wasn’t pushing as fast was that it’s simply not effective to work on more than one language at a time.

This morning, I started Phase 2 and did the first unit!

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.23.55 PM

I also decided to deepen my method of learning by practicing visual recognition of the Chinese characters**. I created a set of Quizlet flash cards to review vocabulary that I struggle to remember. I can have the app read the words aloud and it also solves the inconvenient problem of scrubbing* through the files in the Audible app.

Here’s the view of my words through the browser; you can access your card sets either through the app or from the main website:

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.07.57 PM

Ideally, I’d like to move faster through the second phase***, since I’m not learning any other languages at the moment. Maybe I’ll finish the next phase in half the time – in a year and a half? I feel that the app will increase my motivation to revisit lessons or terms more consistently, rather than having large gaps of time – weeks or months – in which I’m not practicing at all.

Either way, if I can get through at least one unit a month, I’ll be happy!

*As an alternative, Audible just realized Clips, a method of saving and sharing 45-second clips. I haven’t tried it out yet.

**I know about 70% of the characters already, but often recall the Cantonese pronunciation first. I’d like to be able to recall both Cantonese and Mandarin readily and this will strengthen visual recognition, something that I struggle with. I can read bits and pieces of a children’s book, but a newspaper is way too hard for me!

***Each phase has approximately 25 units, which are approximately 30 minutes long.


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