Monday, July 30, 2007

Do I smell of principled radish?

Over the last couple of weeks I've seen a perfume for sale in Italian shops. It seems to have a Japanese name (can't quite remember - four syllables with 'ake' at the end), but it also boasts some hanzi as a prominent part of its title:


I wish I could offer a photo here, but I haven't had the chance to go and take a picture yet. I recognized zheng1 but I had to memorize the second character and look it up on Either my memory is shot, or the perfume smells of upright/principled radish, or the Japanese use hanzi in a very different way to the Chinese!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

ChinesePod Practice Plan: Day One

In a word: excellent (or in three characters, 非常好).

Vera is my tutor and she came really well prepared or else she's great at thinking on her feet. In either case, the effect was good. What impressed me most was how she wove together the elements of the lesson, and my only somewhat convoluted personal circumstances (Irishman living for the Summer months in Sardinia), to ask me questions that I was often able to answer, and always interesting in trying to answer.

I definitely learned a few things, but most of all, as with the Velcro theory of learning that Ken from CP has mentioned recently, now I have another hook. Today, Chinese was not just something that I read and heard, it was something I spoke. I've been missing my local language class in Ireland for quite some time, and these 10 minutes this morning were a great boost.

My goal above all is to lose as much nervousness and self-consciousness as possible when speaking Chinese. It's inevitable to feel this to some extent (hell I feel it when speaking English under some circumstances!) but too much of it interferes with the flow. That aspect, and some progress in getting over the current 'hump' in learning that I've been in for a while, will be the criteria I use to judge if the overall experience has been worth the effort and expense.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The next big push

I've been a bit quiet here lately. I've moved to Italy for the Summer and there has been a bit of business travel too so I've neglected my studies (and blog) for the past few weeks.

I'm finally back on track, and this very morning I spoke with Aggie from Chinesepod about my Practice Plan. I've signed up and begin tomorrow. I'm really keen to make this push me to the next level. My local (Ireland) Chinese teacher told my classmates and I that we were at a point on the journey uphill towards Chinese whereby one more big push would make all the difference. I hope she's right. I know I'm probably progressing, but most of the time I do feel like I'm trying to fill a leaky bucket.

With Aggie, the Skype connection wasn't great so we switched to a phone line after a while. I'll try again with Skype tomorrow with my Practice counselor. The plan is to use the first hour of my day (9-10 CET) preparing the day's lesson, and having the phone call. At 10am it's 9am Irish time and I can just get to work. In the evenings I usually have an hour or more to recap if necessary, and begin the preparation for the following day's lesson.

According to Aggie I'm an Intermediate, which kind of surprised me. Perhaps I am from a listening comprehension point of view, but certainly not as far as my spoken Chinese is concerned, or my hanzi reading either. So the practice sessions will be based on three Intermediate lessons a week, and two calls to revise, recap and bring all the threads together. I'll be concentrating on travel Chinese to prepare for my big trip - I can't believe it's only 6 months away.