Saturday, January 27, 2007

Some more flashcards...

I've created a single flashcard file that I intend to expand a lot. I'm transferring the vocabulary (and eventually sentences) from the notes I've taken during the last term of lessons here in Cork. I won't blog every time I update it (that would be too noisy) but feel free to download it regularly to pick up any changes.

As ever, my flashcard files can be found here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cork Chinese Learners: This weeks flashcards

For my fellow Cork Chinese students in particular, but for anyone else who may be interested:

I've made flashcards from Liping's lesson number 9. They can be found here along with any other flashcards. This time I've realised that there was no need to enter the cards twice (doh!) and it's simply a matter of selecting the last of 4 'side modes', under the advanced menu, when starting a lesson.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A slight change in direction

I started learning Chinese for the challenge and to try to keep the synapses crackling. But very soon afterwards, the idea of travelling around the world began to form in my wife's mind and my own (in that order - as with most good 'family' ideas).

Now it would appear, in a delicious irony, that I've got to learn another language before leaving Ireland: Irish! In order to home-school the kids while we're on the road, I'm going to have to get my Gaeilge back in order (it's been 20 years since I last studied it, and 26 since I last enjoyed that study). Ken from ChinesePod (if you're reading): How's your Irish?! I realise the market is about three orders of magnitude smaller, but any chance of you coming back here and setting up IrishPod ;-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sidebar: Mandarin Tones and Hearing Aids

I just came across this short article (and I wasn't even looking up anything to do with Mandarin!) which explains that folks with hearing aids might have difficulty understanding tonal languages.

Besides the interesting description of how one must use both sides of the brain in understanding tonal languages, it begs the question: Do native Chinese speakers fare worse with hearing aids than speakers of non-tonal languages? Are there some special specifications for hearing aids in China that make them more sensitive to musical sounds? Does this really matter?

No. Probably not.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sticking my neck out

Following my own excellent principle (ahem) that you can never learn a language unless you are prepared to make a complete arse out of yourself, and also taking on board Chris's excellent advice about going to Chinese medicine shops to try out speaking Mandarin, I found myself in front of Dr. China in Mahon Point, Cork.

Well actually I just found myself there by chance. But also by chance I have a persistent arthritic pain in the knuckle of my right hand. But the direct approach is not for me. Oh no. Instead of marching in there, rapping (arthritically) on the counter top and announcing my Mandarin intentions, I perused the leaflets on arthritis (and other ailments) that were strategically placed around the outside of Dr. China. And there I lay in wait, counting on the same entrepreneurial zeal that so cleverly placed the leaflets, to react to someone nibbling at the bait. In under 10 seconds a member of staff appeared from what seemed like a very busy shop to ask if she could help me with anything.

So far so good. Well we chatted about the availability of the doctor and the shops opening hours while I plucked up the courage to speak some Chinese, for all the world like a 16-year-old boy asking for throat lozenges in a pharmacy when he really wants condoms.

"One last question" I said, "ni3 shou1 zhong1wen2 ma?". She replied automatically in the affirmative, and in Chinese. It was only when I offered "wo3 zai4 xue2 zhong1wen2" that she seemed to realize that I was actually attempting communication. Now that, as far as the Chinese content of the conversation is concerned, is that. I switched to English to explain that I was learning here in Cork and that I was just trying it out (if not indeed trying it on). That's the problem about learning how to swim in pools - there's always a nearby edge to grab hold of.

Despite the embarrassingly basic level, it felt really good to have stuck my neck out and not get it chopped off. I fared much better than the time, for example, that I was watching a film in Italian with my Italian girlfriend (now wife) and my parents-in-law to be. On hearing the word "sega" over and over again, I asked aloud what "sega" meant.

"Wank" apparently.

Anyone else out there got any similar confessions?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Flashcards Continued: Some more

Taking a leaf out of John's book, and based on the lessons from my local teacher here in Cork, I've put together some flashcards using the jMemorize tool. This is just a first attempt (and only covers 3 out of the 8 lessons that Xiong Liping has prepared for us). The categories are a bit misleading, as the names of the lessons don't always coincide with the word-building section from which they are derived.

Again taking my lead from John, for each word I made two cards - one the reverse of the other. I wish the tool would make this easier by including a copy-and-reverse option.

My cards show simplified Chinese characters with toned pinyin on one side, and English translations on the other. If you download them, please let me know if I screwed up somewhere!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Flashcards: Thanks for the Memories

At the age of 37 (to steal that famous line from Marianne Faithful's Ballad of Lucy Jordan) my memory is sadly in tatters. I think it has been for some time. So one of the biggest problems I'm having with Chinese at the moment is absorbing new vocabulary.

I've taken to playing chinesepod podcasts, and my own local teacher's mp3 files in the car over and over, based on the old proverb that if you through enough mud against the wall, some of it is bound to stick. But thanks to John's Flashcards I now have another facility to deal with my fizzled out synapses.

John - thanks for your work on this. So far I'm finding it a really useful resource - so much so that I'm considering writing some flashcards for my fellow students here in Cork, based on the content of our course so far.