I am a marathon runner. I may not be a very good marathon runner, but in 3 attempts, I have finished 2 marathons and managed to improve my finish time by 90 minutes. The next time I run a marathon, I plan to shave off at least another 30 minutes. To do that, I must design and implement an effective training plan. Without a training plan, I might crash and burn like I did in my 2nd marathon.
Chinese fluency isn’t a marathon…it’s an ultramarathon. 100 mile race? No problem…as long as you implement the right training plan.
For 7 years, I have experimented with a variety of study tools and techniques. Sometimes I am legitimately trying to improve my Chinese level, and other times I am evaluating concepts for possible use in DianHua Dictionary. It may not have made me fluent, but I do have a good idea of what does and does not work for my learning style.
So here’s my current plan:
- Study 5 Podcasts Per Week: I’m partial to ChinesePod, but there are other good services out there. 5 podcasts may not sound like very many, but I’m going to be actively studying, not passively listening. The podcasts will be a mix of Elementary and Intermediate levels until I begin feeling fairly comfortable with Intermediate. Elementary is arguably below my level, but it is a low pressure way to continue filling gaps in my vocabulary.
- Daily Reading: Because my character learning is far behind my listening comprehension, I need to start slowly. Children’s books, social media posts…anything of an easily digestible size will be fair game. For instance, today I worked on a screenshot of a message box in the CCTV iOS app that I didn’t understand.
- Daily CCTV: I need to hear more Mainland Mandarin so for the time being, I’ll be using the CCTV iOS App to watch the news daily.
- Spend 15 Minutes Per Day with Spaced Repetition Flashcards: I’ve accumulated a list of almost 3,000 words and phrases in DianHua Dictionary over the years, but I continually fall off the flashcard horse. It’s time get back in the saddle and stay there.
- Skype/In-Person Conversation Practice: I have a friend/teacher in China who I try to speak with weekly, but we are both busy, and the time zones catch up with us frequently. I need as much time speaking and listening in a conversational setting as I can get so I’ll be looking for teachers, language exchange partners, and quite possibly spending a lot of money at one of the local Chinese restaurants.
- Progress Videos: The last thing I want to do is see or hear myself in Chinese or English, but I’m going to try to bite the bullet and put up some progress and demonstration videos. We’ll see how that goes. I’m not making any promises.
In a couple of weeks, I will evaluate this plan and revise it as necessary. During that time, I’ll post some information about how I approach each of these language learning activities.