Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Review of Resources to Learn Chinese

Greetings all!  This post will be updated throughout my time studying Chinese.  In it I will provide brief reviews of resources that I have used in my efforts to learn Chinese.  I am publishing this before I have completed all reviews because this is one of my longer posts and I want to meet my two posts for the week.  I hope you find this helpful!

Translator Websites:
Both are useful.  I often use them to translate an individual Chinese character or group of characters by cutting and pasting the character into the translator.  I think bing does a slightly better job, but there is not much of a difference between the two.

Blogs about learning Chinese:
Both of these blogs have articles that I found interesting and possibly helpful.  However, I think they both fall more into the category of time suck/procrastination bait most of the time.

Other websites/podcasts:
I like this podcast a lot.  The lessons tend to teach a language point or two while working in a cultural point.  I don't think that podcasts are a particularly good way to learn a language, but this is one of my favorites.  I do find listening to podcasts to be most helpful when doing a mindless task and that is when I listen to this.  It has a wide range of lessons, from the very basic to ones that require an advanced level of Chinese.  Even at the absolute beginner stage, I often miss the full meaning behind the dialog, but pick it up over repetition and explanation. 

Chinese Learn Online is a pretty good program for listening comprehension.  The dialogs are gone read a couple of times, explained and then read a couple more times.  Each lesson is about ten minutes and usually covers 4-5 words and about 2 grammar points.  I often listen to the lessons multiple times because I’m focusing on work rather than the lessons, but I am definitely getting something out of them.

CCTV offers a few language learning programs.  I have watched the Travel In Chinese and Growing up with Chinese programs.  I generally like the programs, but I have found it difficult to keep my attention with them.  One problem with CCTV is that the video players


Mandarin Chinese Lessons with Serge Melnyk offers a premium subscription on its website and also free podcasts. This review is just on the free content/podcast.  I am so ambivalent about this podcast.  On one hand, it covers a lot of ground and throws a lot of information at you.  On the other, it is on the boring side and it may be too much information.  My biggest concern is Mr. Melnyk’s accent.  He has a fairly thick accent in English even if he is completely understandable to a native speaker.  I am concerned that he has a similar accent for Chinese.  There are native speakers that participate in the lessons, but Mr. Melnyk seems to play an outsized role giving his likely accent in Chinese.

http://www.chinese-skill.com/cs.html Basically like a rushed version of Duolingo, which I don't mean as a big insult to Chinese Skill.  Duolingo is great, Chinese Skill is good.  Often times it will not accept variations in word order that are correct.  For example, you may be translating "I went to London once." and it might reject "Once, I went to London."  It is easy to work around because the app is consistent with how it will grad a sentence pattern.  This is one of my must use tools.
Anki deck:
Decks in Chinese are available at: https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/Chinese
I've been using the Mastering Chinese Characters (Listening Sentence & Vocab) series and like it.  The spaced repetition system is excellent at building vocabulary.  The biggest issue is determining how many new cards to review each day.  As you start learning new words, you slowly build up a backlog of words you've already learned.  Over the first couple of weeks of working on Anki you will build an equilibrium.  If you miss a day or two, you can get pretty backed up.

Related reading:Might I recommend Dream of the Red Chamber.   It is a book about the decay of the Qing dynasty told in the most poetic of ways.  I’ve provided a link for my Amazon Affiliate program.  I’m not trying to break the bank with the link, but I’ve been trying to complete mission without spending any significant amount of money.  I intend to use money made with the Affiliate link to review pay products.

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