Sunday, 8 February 2015

Top resources I've found so far

Wow, speaking Chinese feels really weird.

Growing up in a small rural town in Australia, I was never really exposed to foreign languages. In fact, I shamefully admit that, in our narrow-minded way, most of us were a bit racist towards foreigners.

If we did chance to see or hear an asian, we would mock the sounds we heard, like "ching chong chow!" and laugh about it. (Note: my attitude changed later on, when I became a huge Jackie Chan fan!)

The fact is, speaking Chinese feels really weird to me. To think those strange sounds can actually fit together to make a word or even a sentence!

So my first couple of days has involved learning the four tones and trying to separate them so they sound different.

I'm used to being able to take a word in English (or even Russian) and say it with different emphasis or intonation and have it still mean the same thing. However, Chinese is way different. It seems I need to stick fairly rigidly to the tones, otherwise I might accidentally call my mum a horse!

So I've gotten myself a chart to help me remember the tones. Here's what Google helped me turn up. I like this picture because it's simple and the tones are numbered.

As I said before, I won't be spending money on this learning project, as I think the world is loaded up with freebies if you're willing to dig.

So far, I've found some pretty good resources for learning Chinese. Here is a short list. I might talk about these more specifically as time goes by IF they turn out to be effective.

WEBSITES:

www.coursera.org turns out to be quite a find, I think. I can't even remember how I found it. There are free college-level courses on this site, one of which is Chinese for Beginners through the Peking University.

www.chinese-tools.com is one I have bookmarked and will come back to. It seems to be loaded with useful resources. I was particularly looking for help on how to write in Chinese.

dictionary.hantrainerpro.com rocks! It's an online dictionary with audio and large pictures of the chinese characters. Going back to the base url - www.hantrainerpro.com - there are bucketload of other nifty tools.

ANDROID APPS:

ChineseSkill - (available for iOS too)
I originally went looking for DuoLingo in Chinese, but it turns out it has been a long time in development. Someone in the comments section suggested the ChineseSkill app, and the follow up comments suggested it was a cut above the rest. Check it out!

MemRise - (website: memrise.com, iOS too)
I was talking to a friend just this afternoon. I knew "spaced repetition" was the big thing in vocabulary learning, but I had never heard of MemRise until she showed me it on her phone. It appears to be much more feature-rich than Anki or other such SRS apps. I like it, though I've only done around 30 mins on it so far.


DICTIONARY:


I've gotten myself a dictionary. I chose the Berlitz Mandarin Chinese dictionary because I really love the font size, the blue headwords, the extra pages of grammar notes on the inside. But MOST of all, I love the quality of the binding, print and pages. The cover is a kind of polymer plastic thingy which feels really durable and weather resistant (like, I could sit my cuppa coffee on it).

So, that's where I'm at after my first weekend learning Mandarin Chinese! I'm pretty pumped about going to uni on Tuesday (I have Monday off) and stunning my Chinese classmates with as many Chinese phrases as I can master before then.

I reckon I'm going to be the class celebrity!

Are you learning Chinese? Or maybe another language?

I'd love to hear about the resources you've uncovered that you feel have been valuable in your learning process. I'm willing to give new things a try!

Comment below with your ideas and links.