My Mandarin Journal Part 1


I often feel I spend more time designing a method for learning the language than I actually spend studying the language.

The Methods I have tried for learning Mandarin Chinese, chronologically as much as possible:

Started learning the most basic phrase from Peggy Teaches Chinese on youtube, words and sentences from that by rote memorization. When your just starting out, the difference between knowing no Chinese to know a full sentences in huge so for the first little while I was motivated enough just learning a few phrases a day and reviewing everything everyday. I wrote them out in pinyin with tones on lined paper and read them out-loud and tested my self on them by seeing the English and speaking the Chinese translation from memory.

Found AJATT but didn’t implement his all of methods just yet, but I decided to try learning sentences I found interesting instead of just stock phrases.

Asked some Chinese friends to translate some movie quotes from English to Chinese and learned them by rote memorization of pinyin as before. Also I started writing out the sentences repeatedly in pinyin as a form of rote which was ok too in its own way, because your adding muscle memory and more visual memory, especially helpful with the tones because you have to write each one down with the pinyin.

It was cool to know how to say “I can touch you now Harry” in Chinese, but after a while I switched back to wanting more functional vocabulary so I asked my Chinese friends for more functional words like stairs, pen, table ect. This leaded me to a vocabulary binge, 50 words per day using mnemonics.

Most mandarin words are 2 syllables long there is a very limited number of syllables, around 400, plus each syllable has 4 tones, so 1600 total syllables, and some are rarely encountered in common speech. The main point is using mnemonics you can attach an image to syllable, like a person, a video game character or something, and them make up a story. Then the tones can elements in the story like actions the character makes, like the forth tone can be a character falling, so shi4 could be a ninja with a shirukan falling, or something. Ku4zi which meant pants, was easy because a guy form ghost in the shell names kuze was running around In only pants, I just created the image of him jumping down form a window ledge and easily remembered that the word is kuzi not kuze.

I found a huge number of words on Wikipedia for the Chinese hsk test which had most common words listed alphabetically and by hsk level. This is how the binge started. Everyday I’d go to school before classes and spend around 45 minutes going through 50 words creating mnemonics for them. It was pretty easy. I would create mnemonics for the first ten, then review those, then the next ten, and review the first 20, then the next ten and review the first 30, ect till 50. Very easy, the problem I didn’t think about was review, the next day I had to go in a review the first 50 and then start on the next fifty in the same way as the day before.


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