So I am really sorry I have not been posting. I am not going to make any promises that will change. We will see how it goes. I was inspired to write by Google Analytics. It showed me that the Addictive TV article on my blog Pediadigest hit the big time by actually being linked to from Wikipedia. This inspired me to go after my dream of being a wildly successful blogger.
The man thing that has been on my mind lately (besides Jesus and the Bible) is learning Chinese. Back in April or May I decided to buckle down and really try to learn Chinese. Since I had been basically living in China for over a year and had decided last February to live in China for a couple more years.
I hired the first Chinese tutor I met for roughly 9 dollars (55 RMB) an hour and had her teach me Pinyin and pronunciation 6 hours per week. Since she wanted me to do homework I knew I would not do I decided to hire two additional tutors that would help me do homework. Luckily since they were college students I was able to pay them $2.50 an hour or 15 RMB. Which they were really excited to get.
At first I focused on the basics of pronunciation and the tones. My I had my tutors only teach me how to things I thought I would say and words that I knew English Speaking Chinese people often didn't know in English. So this took the form of learning how to say my friends' / boss' address. That way I could get into a taxi and tell them where to go. Also I learned how to say "I want this" and "I want that." This was a great addition to my usual when the waiter comes just point to the picture on the menu that looked like the dish I wanted.
Another example of something I learned in the beginning the word charity. I work for a Non-profit organization and it seems like when you meet new people they always ask you what you do. The word charity is not a word that English speaking Chinese people commonly know. So I would tell people I work for a non-profit or a charity and they would louse face because they don't know the word and then I would need to spend 5 minutes having to explain my job. So it was huge help to learn to say charity so I can tell people in English and then add in the Chinese word preventing an awkward interaction.
It was really helpful that I had been in China for a while when I started learning Chinese. I knew the things that would increase the quality of my lifestyle. So I was able to focus on that and put it to use right away. Though after a couple of months I had mastered saying some basic things and my teacher started trying to teach me all of the basic first semester language learning things like colors and how to say the cellphone is on the table. This cuased a bit of a down time in my learning. All these thing I felt like it would just be easier to say to my friends in English.
But around June I was re-listening to the 4 Hour Work week on audio book and I was reminded of how Timothy Ferriss said he had a master code for learning languages. He explained that there is a list of most commonly used Japanese words. I figured if I could translate that list into Chinese and learn all of those word it would speed up my Chinese learning experience. Fortunately I was able to find a list of the most commonly used characters in Chinese. It is amazing while there are about 8 or 9 thousand Chinese characters it only takes a knowledge of about 3000 characters to be able to read. Then if you are focusing on the most used characters it turns out over 95% of everything said is only requires a knowledge of 1600 characters and 85% of whats said being less than 800 characters.
These statistics inspired me. While it could be possible that the real meaning of what people say is not found an understanding of only 85 or 95% of what say, I felt learning the most used characters would be pointing me in the right direction. I was certain it was much better direction than learning how to tell my friends that already speak Chinese that their pink book bag is under the table.
I have spent a lot of time focusing on vocabulary this summer and it has been going ok. Yet when I started working on putting that vocabulary in sentences that I started to make the most head way. Since I know how to pronounce the words from my initial training. Through flash cards I can focus on learning the literal translations of Chinese sentences made up of the 1060 most commonly used words. 1060 is 90% and it also gives me a lot of versatility in the sentences.Learning the sentences has had two advantages over just using one word flash cards. First since there is context the whole sentence is much easier to remember. Second by learning the sentence I learn grammar and can change the sentence to suit my needs.
I spent a month learning just words which was really hard and I don't recommend that though it did teach em some things. So even though I am nowhere near knowing all of the 1060 words I am focusing on in just a week and a half of practicing all of the sentences my Chinese level has increased dramatically. So what I have been telling people is spend a long time on pronunciation. This is the hardest part of Chinese but once you have it down the rest of Chinese seems pretty easy. Then focus on the most useful words. The words you will use the most first and then the words that are used the most.