Q: What’s your reason for learning Chinese? / Nǐ xuéxí zhōngwén de yuányīn shì shénme?
A: I want to learn Chinese because I want to go to China one day. / Wǒ xiǎng xué zhōngwén yīnwei wǒ yào dào zhōngguó qù
Q: What is your job? /Nǐ de gōngzu. shì shénme?
A: I’m a student / Wǒ shì yīge. xuéshēng
Q: What do you do? / Nǐ shì zuò shénme de?
A: I study at the university. I’m a teacher / Wǒ zài dàxué xuéxí. Wǒ shì yīg. lǎoshī
Q: What is your age/How old are you? / Nǐ duōda le
A: I’m 30 years old. / Wǒ 30 suì
Q: What do you do in your spare time? / Nǐ yǒu kòng de shíhou zuò shénme? etc…
Once all the stock questions and answers are familiarized for all the interrogatives, he introduces what he calls “key words”. These are the connector words that give speech the fluidity expressed by advanced speakers. He has about 40 of them. A few for example are :
as long as, continue, still, probably, maybe, usually, sometimes, ok, I see, once in a while, always, especially, like this, like that, must, simply, yet, I feel that etc.
He memorizes these 40 words and then uses them to recompose the sentences that he has previously learned. The key words can then link several of the sentences together and give a sense of fluidity to them. He makes his own drills by writing and memorizing these recombined sentences. Once he has done this he gets to work speaking with as many native speakers as he can find. For some more obscure languages he has to do it online or in chat rooms. For a language like Mandarin, however, it is usually not too difficult to find speakers in the community.
This is supplemented by using a textbook and recombining the textbook’s dialogues with the key words as above. He then does the same process for comprehension difficulties: eg: “I can’t understand you when you speak that fast, if you slow down I might be able to understand better…”. This is followed by creating a stock paragraph introducing oneself that can be automatically reproduced from memory with a native speaker.
This method has been incredibly effective for Moses and his students. I met with him over Skype yesterday to discuss the method and how I could apply it to my Mandarin quest. Moses greeted me with a huge smile. He is incredibly friendly and clearly has a passion for languages and linguistics. We went through his own current plan for learning German. I was amazed! 50+ languages and he hadn’t tackled German yet. We shared a laugh over that one.
The great thing about his FLR method is that the learner can self-tailor it to his/her own needs. We talked about the textbooks that I was using and he pointed out that I could use a free online course called “Book 2”. Think about it. Countless scores of people are throwing hundreds of dollars away on ineffective courses like “Rosetta Stone” and Moses is using a free online course called Book 2 (& getting much better results!) http://www.goethe-verlag.com/book2/
We came up with a plan for me to efficiently tackle Mandarin Chinese. This week I am going to familiarize myself with the key words and memorize a solid chunk of the key questions and answers. The DLI course is on hold for right now and in its place I will start going through the Assimil Chinese With Ease course. The Assimil course lends itself to this sort of method better than the DLI course does. Oh yeah, and I am definitely going to check out the Book 2 course!
Moses has been kind enough to outline his method and link a few videos here: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=18808&PN=1&TPN=1
A few weeks ago I mentioned how Chinese characters are the same amongst the different Chinese dialects. Well, I got a reality check from Ari on the how to learn any language forum about this subject.
Ari wrote: Sorry, man, no free lunches. There are, however, a large amount of vocabulary overlap between the languages and the characters do make learning this a lot easier. The formal register of Cantonese is very close to Mandarin, since all books are written that way. So technical vocab is the same. The colloquial language spoken every day on the street, however, is vastly different.
So there you have it. Even in Chinese, there is no such thing as a free lunch!