I Have Been Learning Chinese (Mandarin)

October 6, 2017 Posted by Tyler Cruz

Shortly before our first Chinese homestay student arrived about a year and 4 months ago, I decided that I would try to learn Mandarin.

I decided to do this for a few reasons. First, he was studying English and I thought it would be nice if I learned Chinese at the same time. Secondly, I have always been interested in learning Asian languages – I’ve just always thought it was a cool skill to have. Lastly, there are a LOT of Chinese where I live, so I figured it wouldn’t be a bad thing to learn.

Below is a video I recorded a while back (perhaps 10-months ago or so), so please excuse the poor audio quality as this was recorded on my webcam mic which is horrible.

There are subtitles available in the video, but you may need to manually enable them:

(Note: You may need to visit the post directly at TylerCruz.com if you’re reading this via e-mail or RSS in order to see the video.)

你好。 我的名字是Tyler。我住在加拿大。我学习中文为六个月了, 但是我觉得它很难。我从来不去过中国。再见大家.请订阅.

Unfortunately, with language, unless it’s your native tongue, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. And since I haven’t studied in probably 8 months now, I’ve already forgotten so much of what I learned.

I’m sure if I started studying again that I’d pick it up fast, but it is disheartening to know how easy it is to forget information you worked so hard on learning. The same goes for French – I was forced to study it in school from grades 7-12 and by the end my French writing and reading (my listening was very poor) was quite good but now I’ve forgotten probably 80% of what I had learned!

My Mandarin Learning

First, the amount of Mandarin I learned was very limited. While I’m “speaking” in the video, I could only really come up with super basic sentences on my own. When I studied, I spent the majority of my time learning vocabulary.

With Chinese, you have to memorize countless characters, many of which don’t mean anything by themselves at all and are actually just radicals. The radicals have a meaning, but aren’t an actual word. Radicals are then combined together to make a symbol which represents a word. You therefore have to memorize a different symbol for each word – it’s not like English or French where you only need to learn 26 letters of the alphabet. In Mandarin you need to learn thousands of “characters”, then associate each character with a pronunciation, then associate both with the translation!

I used the free language learning website and app, Memrise.com – primarily the app. I would lie on the couch or bed and just learn word after word. I eventually learned approximately 1,000 different words (although many of these were radicals, so not actual words yet), although now I probably only remember 300-400 of them.

Anyhow, I highly recommend Memrise. It’s similar to Rosetta Stone but completely free, and mostly run by the community. There are countless courses there and you can learn any language, or even non-language courses such as chemistry or botany.

Many of the words overlapped between courses, but in total I ended up memorizing around 1,000 words.

My Korean

Back in 2002-2003, before it was popular and “cool”, I had studied Korean. This was also before apps existed, and so I had to learn the hard way, through books and the help of some kind Koreans.

I got to a pretty decent stage at one point – being able to read and write at about a 1st-grade level, but of course I haven’t studied Korean in well over a decade so unfortunately most of what I learned has been lost. At least I can still read phonetically (my Korean pronunciation is pretty good).

Goodbye Chinese, Hello Vietnamese

I stopped learning Mandarin maybe around 8 months ago, mainly because I had studied it so much that I got tired with it, but also because both of our Chinese students are now gone.

We now have 4 Vietnamese students and so I am actually starting to study Vietnamese now! Who knows how long I’ll stick with it – but learning the fundamentals of a new language is always the hardest part, so hopefully if I get past the fundamentals then if I stop later, I can always return and pick it back up without too much added trouble.

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Posted: October 6th, 2017 under Personal  

One Response to “I Have Been Learning Chinese (Mandarin)”

  1. Nisa says:

    hi Tyler,
    I see your article from tumblr and I’m studying something about affiliate.
    I am surprised that some people will be interested in Mandarin,although you are not learning Mandarin, but I am glad that some people interested in Chinese.
    Yes ,i come from China.


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