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OneEye’s TAC 2013 - Chinese, Japanese, 台語

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OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4257 days ago

520 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 1 of 41
06 February 2013 at 5:59pm | IP Logged 
A bit late to the game but let's give it a go anyway.

I'm just doing this as an individual thing, no teams. I live in Taipei and have been studying Chinese here for the past 18 months. My Chinese is reasonably good (let's call it ILR3-ish), but there's still room for improvement. In addition, I'll be working on Japanese, Taiwanese, and Classical Chinese.

I'm going to take a page out of Vermillion's book and go into a bit more detail below.

Chinese

Like I said, I've lived and studied in Taiwan for the past 18 months. I spent 15 months at the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University, and am now studying one-on-one with a tutor. I'm hoping (pending application results) to start an MA in Chinese at the same university this fall, with a focus on reading excavated texts (出土文獻), particularly the bamboo strips from the Warring States period excavated in huge quantities over the past few decades. S most of my study time is spent reading relevant books in the fields of 文字學,聲韻學,古代漢語語法, etc.

However, I don't want to rest on my laurels at this level. My spoken Chinese, while it never impedes my ability to communicate, is still a bit unnatural. My pronunciation and tones are solid, it's my word choice and phrasing that can be a little foreign. To that end, for the past few weeks I've been collecting sentences from TV shows, friends, and other sources, and reviewing them in Anki daily, reading them aloud, and trying to use these structures in my speech as much as possible. It seems to be working well so far.

I'm working on writing with a tutor. For now we're focusing on my MA applications (autobiography and study plan both written in Chinese), but after mid-March that will change. I'm also working through a collection of essays called 從精讀到泛讀, which is about the most advanced reader available for learners in Taiwan. The articles tend to be dated, but it does help a lot to read outside my usual area. I'm also reading a 古龍 novel called 《流星·蝴蝶·劍》. I planned to finish it in January, but I'll definitely finish it this month. My goal is to read at least 6 books outside my field this year (two months per book), but ideally I'll read 12.

Finally, I took the TOCFL Level 5 (流利級, the highest they currently offer) last year and failed by a single point. I intend to crush it in May.

Japanese

I've stopped and started this one a few times over the past few years, never getting further than a few lessons in. I love Japanese and have always wanted to study it, but Chinese has of course been a higher priority. I started back up in December, and then spent a week in Tokyo right before Christmas. This really made me fall in love with the language, so I'm finally getting serious about it. I don't have more than an hour to devote per day to this, but that will at least allow me to get a good foundation this year. My goal is to pass the JLPT Level 3 in December. I have to pass that level by the end of my MA anyway, so I figured why not get an early start so I can maybe learn it to a useful level by the end of my MA?

I was using a book called 大家學標準日本語, which is aimed at Taiwanese people. I liked it because (obviously) it doesn't assume you're afraid of the kanji, and it's free of the absurdly slow speech of Assimil. After getting 3 units into it, I've realized it goes a bit too slowly for my taste. So I'm back to Assimil after all.

I also picked up 2 books at Kinokuniya called Shadowing: Let's speak Japanese! (one is 初~中級, the other is 中~上級), which contains dialogues at a normal (read: fast!) speed for shadowing. It seems to be intended for use as a supplement for a regular course, and I think it will compensate for Assimil's deficiencies quite well. As a bonus, it contains translations in English, Chinese, and Korean (the latter of which is no help for me). The dialogues reach quite a high level, with the last two units of the first volume supposedly corresponding to the old JLPT 2. I'm also using Tae Kim's Grammar Guide as a supplement.

Classical Chinese

I've done quite a bit with this so far, but given my research field I need to be as proficient as possible. I've used high school readers, and even a few units from some university-level textbooks, but it still takes me forever to read a passage from say, 左傳.

This month I'd like to make a solid start on reading the Four Books of Confucianism (四書). I have a reader (四書讀本 by the excellent 三民書局 in Taiwan), and hopefully I can get through at least 大學 this month. Time is short due to the holiday next week, so I may not finish 中庸, but I'll try. I may get back into one of those university textbooks again later this year, but for now I think I need to spend some time reading full works rather than just excerpts.

Taiwanese

There are a few reasons for me to learn this language, the main one being that I live in Taiwan. Despite the prevalence of Mandarin here (particularly in Taipei), Taiwanese is the true soul of the island. Now that I live outside of the main part of town, I hear it a lot more than I used to. Then there's the shock factor, the gasp and surprised look that inevitably follow an 阿兜仔 speaking a phrase or two of Taiwanese. Most pertinently for my purposes is that it preserves many aspects of Old Chinese much better than Mandarin does, and familiarity with a southern language helps a lot with the study of early Chinese phonology.

For now I'm using a book called Harvard Taiwanese 101 (哈佛台語101). It's OK, but the main reason I'm using it is that it's the only decent textbook I know of that teaches the Taipak (Taipei/台北) accent. I have the first two Maryknoll books, but they teach Taitiong (Taizhong/Taichung/台中) pronunciation, while the Spoken Hokkien book I have (published by SOAS) teaches the Tailam (Tainan/台南) accent. My Taipei friends have a hard time with the Tainan accent, and even the Taichung accent causes some confusion, so my hand is forced. Fortunately, I found a book (also at Kinokuniya) called 台湾語会話フレーズブック (Taiwanese Conversation Phrasebook), containing 2900 sentences in Japanese (which isn't much help at this point), Taiwanese, and Taiwanese Mandarin (which of course is a lot of help), with 3 CDs of good, clear 台北腔. Once I finish with 哈佛台語101, I'll move on to that.

This one isn't top priority by any means. Really, for now if I could just gain decent listening comprehension in Taiwanese I'd be happy, though of course I want to speak too. I'm OK with Taiwanese taking a bit longer than the others though.

Other info

I'm going to commit to weekly updates, because I think that will help me stay on track better than monthly ones. So if I don't update, either a nice friendly reminder or a harsh scolding would be appropriate.

Out of necessity, Mandarin gets top priority. That may change as my speaking ability (my main weakness) progresses over the next few months. Next is of course Classical Chinese, because it is directly relevant to my field of study (while Taiwanese is indirectly relevant). Japanese gets third place in theory, but I have a feeling that in practice I'm going to hit this one really hard and consistently. Taiwanese, by virtue of not being required of me, is last. Though depending on how it goes, I may take a dialectology course as part of my MA, which would of course make it pseudo-required.

Edited by OneEye on 06 February 2013 at 6:14pm



BloodyChinese
Diglot
Newbie
Germany
Joined 1771 days ago

39 posts - 22 votes
Speaks: German*, EnglishC2
Studies: Mandarin, Korean

 
 Message 2 of 41
06 February 2013 at 7:28pm | IP Logged 
Hi,

I've been following your blog for a while now and it has helped me get a better perspective on how to learn Chinese. I am half Chinese myself, but I haven't found talking to my Taiwanese mother particularly helpful so far; mainly because she can't assess my level very well and also can't explain grammar patterns when needed.

I'm studying Chinese at a German University now, but am rather dissatisfied with the course progression and the sort of passive understanding we develop here. What I want is something like AJATT, where I actually immerse myself in the language properly and work on assimilating natural patterns until I sound native(or get to a level where talking to my mother or other Chinese people actually helps me progress).

I looked at the Glossika method but realised that I can't just easily use these bilingual sentence books, mainly because I don't know enough Hanzi and grammar patterns yet to read at a reasonable pace and also because you've noted that these books you found use unnatural or out of date patterns.

So since that waitress episode, you have come to realise that TV Series are a good source for natural every day language. Problem here for me is that I like K-Drama Series but certainly not the stuff they produce in Taiwan(the stuff I've seen when visiting my relatives in Taiwan was just horrible, even though I didn't understand much). How do you cope with that? I am not aware of Chinese Dramas that are not too difficult to understand and also are addicting to watch(since I am still struggling to find anything addicting in Chinese culture)

What would you do in my case? For reference, I probably know around 1500 Hanzi and can engage in some small talk. But I am struggling to find a way to enter the immediate level of proficiency where you suddenly get so many things to do. I mean, I've tried listening to both Beijing and Taiwanese radios for awhile and it just doesn't feel like it helps me absorb patterns or vocab well since I don't understand much except a couple things or so.

I would appreciate any suggestions you may have since I have a feeling that I actually know how to learn a language efficiently, yet can't use native materials yet(where the magic probably would happen) and am kept busy with silly exams and exercises at University.

Edited by BloodyChinese on 07 February 2013 at 4:14pm



OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4257 days ago

520 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 3 of 41
07 February 2013 at 2:44pm | IP Logged 
I would absolutely recommend, if it's at all within the realm of possibility, to spend a year abroad in Taiwan during your degree. The MTC at 師大 offers courses specifically for heritage speakers.

As for the sentence books, I have (finally) found one that contains good, natural Chinese. One problem is that its stated goal is to be a two-way guide for both Chinese and English idiomatic phrases, so it's scope is a good bit different than a lot of the other sentence collections. Still though, IMO it's reasonably good for learning Chinese. Less so for learning English, which is ironic considering that's presumably the author's main intent, but there are some really obscure and outdated idioms in there. Anyway, it's called Chinese Equivalents to English Idioms (成語常用語翻譯辭典).

Before I did much of anything with native media, I hit the textbooks hard, sometimes studying two or three on the side of the main book I was using in class. I learned new vocabulary like a madman (more than 15,000 words in the last 18 months), along with every new character I encountered. I did extensive SRS work, just vocabulary. I don't personally subscribe to the idea of using native media when it's way above your current level, mainly just because I couldn't stand hacking my way through a page of text or a minute of video that was way beyond my level just to be able to say I was using native media. Focused study with quality learning material is a good way to get you to the point that native media is enjoyable to use. When I finally realized I could read a manga fairly painlessly, I say down and read the whole thing in one sitting, because it was finally fun to do so. Then I went on and read several more. :)

What success I've had in learning Chinese, I attribute to the above approach. That, and I started classical Chinese earlier than most people do, which helped my reading ability a lot. I also never bought into the notion that Chinese is somehow "difficult," because that's a useless outlook and only holds people back. It may take more time to learn to a high level, but there's nothing special about the language that makes it inherently difficult (despite the claim in nearly every old-school linguistics book that "漢語是一個很特殊的語言").

If I could go back and do anything differently, it would be to do a lot more work with audio. Shadowing, chorusing, etc. is essential. Memorize long sentences by breaking the sentence into chunks and repeating it along with the recording over and over until you can say it from memory exactly like the recording. I mean intonation, rhythm, tones (obviously), even the speakers accent if it differs from your own. I have sentences that I memorized 8 months ago, that I can still spit out exactly like the audio recording despite not having listened to it since then. I didn't do nearly enough of this kind of thing though, which I believe is part of why I have a hard time speaking fluidly and naturally. I have (finally) developed a rock-solid accent though, and regularly get mistaken for someone who must have grown up in Taiwan with missionary parents. But then once I make a mistake in word choice or grammar the jig is up.

On to the next topic. I have to admit, Taiwanese TV shows are usually painful to watch. I do watch a fair amount of 康熙來了, which, despite the absurdity of the show, contains a huge volume of idiomatic, unscripted, natural Taiwanese Mandarin. They have a new episode every day, and they all get posted on YouTube, which means they're easy to use for sentence mining. I also occasionally watch 智勝鮮師, which is usually somewhat entertaining and contains a lot of 台語-accented Mandarin (which is what Taiwanese people mean when they say 台灣國語, not Taiwanese Mandarin, which is just 國語). I can't get into the sappy idol dramas though, and I haven't found much else that's tolerable. There are a few movies I've watched and enjoyed (那些年,我們一起追的女孩 and 海角七號), so hopefully there are more decent ones out there. I've more or less kept away from Mainland media until now, but I may branch out soon now that I've gotten my accent to an acceptable place.

Out of curiosity, where in Germany are you studying Chinese? I have a few friends at various universities in Germany doing Chinese literature and linguistics.
1 person has voted this message useful



BloodyChinese
Diglot
Newbie
Germany
Joined 1771 days ago

39 posts - 22 votes
Speaks: German*, EnglishC2
Studies: Mandarin, Korean

 
 Message 4 of 41
07 February 2013 at 5:23pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, I thought about that a lot. I love Taiwan. I'm just studying in Germany because it is currently cheap to do so. Fyi, it's the newly designed "Modern China" BA program at the University of Würzburg I am enrolled in. The program isn't bad; they have good teachers there that make sure your pronunciation is correct and they are helpful in many ways when they don't keep you busy with silly exercises and exams. But, as you may know, university helps you avoid the most basic mistakes, but doesn't help you get anywhere near fluent proficiency if that is what you want.

The problem here is that the program requires me to stay in Beijing for a year later on. Not that this is bad(well, my lungs are not going to thank me for this one) but because of this situation, the university is utterly focused on simplified characters and skips Classical Chinese. Originally, this was one of the reasons why I came here to study, as I like the idea of focusing on the actual language first before I get bogged down in Classical Literature(which I am interested in; I just want to get conversation skills down before I explore advanced reading material).

However, I've realised that knowledge of Classical Chinese is actually really helpful when you try to read works written in Literary Chinese. Or even just to properly understand some of the 成语 we are learning right now.

The downside to this program is that I have to learn the traditional characters myself and that the BA program here is too focused on economy for my liking(I am interested in ancient China, not in emulating my greedy relatives in Taiwan)

Since I am required to do my year abroad in Beijing, I need to find other ways to learn 国语. Right now, this is where my mother comes in since her pronunciation and choice of words is excellent. The only issue is that it still feels bloody weird to talk to her in Chinese after talking to her in either English or Swabian German for two decades. Ah well, the problems of heritage speakers.

I still feel that she's actually going to be of great help once I get to the level where I can freely express myself. The problem at University is that we're already translating pretty complex texts, but don't focus nearly as much on actual conversations. They do teach 口语 here, but that is only available for students in their final year here. As with many things, it is too little too late for my taste.

I went over the questions I've asked you in my last post. I asked these questions in an almost delirious state, considering it is currently exam week over here :P

I actually know the solution to my current problem already, but thanks for taking the time to answer. I've totally forgotten about Chinese Pod. I am at a point where I know enough grammar patterns and basic vocab to assimilate new words pretty quickly. Chinese Pod has lots of lessons that should at least assist me in getting to the immediate level. It might just be what I need to do right now, considering that I want to work on my listening comprehension and do lots of shadowing. Also, I've been procrastinating on working through the PAVC series for a long time now.

But yeah, Taiwan. Miss it very much.


Edited by BloodyChinese on 07 February 2013 at 5:32pm



iawia
Bilingual Pentaglot
Newbie
Taiwan
Joined 1996 days ago

35 posts - 20 votes
Speaks: EnglishC2, Mandarin*, Taiwanese*, Cantonese, Spanish
Studies: Thai, Japanese

 
 Message 5 of 41
08 February 2013 at 5:35pm | IP Logged 
Hello OneEye
Quite the introduction! I'm native Taiwanese and I'm quite impressed by your achievements
so far!
Well I can't really offer you any useful advice, since you seem to get everything in
perfect order. Oh, and I perfectly agree with you on the quality of Taiwanese TV shows,
and your observations on Taiwanese.
Well, I began reading classical Chinese from a young age. There are these so called 讀經
班 in which young children recite and memorize classic poems and texts. Classic
literature was also required in the curriculum, and because of the encouragement from my
Chinese teachers, I read more than my classmates. 三民書局does indeed publish excellent
books, but I guess that every article requires quite some effort.
Anyway, good luck on you studies!



OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4257 days ago

520 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 6 of 41
08 February 2013 at 6:00pm | IP Logged 
Even though I only started this log 2 days ago, I'm going to go ahead and do my first weekly update. I'll be out of town for the next few days (heading to 墾丁 at the southern tip of Taiwan for Chinese New Year), so I figured I'd do it before I go.

Chinese

OK, so I didn't add much new material to my Anki deck this week, I didn't do much reading, and I didn't cover any new material in 從精讀到泛讀. I basically just reviewed, and talked to people a lot, which is still OK I guess. I'll be bringing 《流星·蝴蝶·劍》 to Kenting with me, and intend to read it on the 4 hour trip there and back, as well as some in the hostel each night. The trip should be a fun way to practice speaking, especially since the accent in the south tends to be a bit harder to understand.

Japanese

I've finally finished the first "week" of Assimil. That's the furthest I've ever gotten in that particular book, though of course it was made easier by the work I did in 《大家學標準日本語》 recently. I'm really irritated by the slowness of the audio, and I'm considering hiring a native Japanese speaker to record the dialogues at a more natural pace. Either way, I'll be sticking with this course, if only because it will be nice to see what my ability is like after finishing an Assimil course (I've gotten about halfway through New French With Ease and maybe 20 lessons into German Without Toil, both a few years ago and now very rusty).

I've spent a little bit of time in the "Basic Grammar" section of Tae Kim's Grammar Guide. I'll probably read through this section here and there to keep the stuff fresh in my mind. I find that if I learn grammar simply to understand how things work in the language (which is precisely how grammar is supposed to be used), rather than using it as a set of rules to be followed when speaking, it works much better. Better than no grammar at all, which I know is a popular rallying cry with some. Anyway, once I run into new grammar in Assimil or Shadowing that I don't understand, I'll move on to the next section, "Essential Grammar."

I also spent time each day shadowing Unit 1, Section 2 of "Shadowing." This course is seriously awesome, and I'd recommend it (or its more advanced sequel) to any student of Japanese. A linguist/polyglot friend of mine got so excited about it when I showed it to him that he went straight to the bookstore to pick it up. It's a perfect companion for Assimil. Indeed, it's very Assimil-like in that it presents short dialogues, with the target language on one page and the base languages (English, Chinese, and Korean) on the facing page. It doesn't offer much in the way of grammatical explanations or anything else though. The real gold lies in the fact that the recording is at a natural pace. Anyway, I think I'll be doing about one "Section" per week from this book.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about finally buckling down with Japanese. I love this language and culture so much. My best friends in Taiwan have all been Japanese, not Taiwanese or European/American, and my trip to Tokyo in December was the best trip I've ever taken, partly because I was able to spend some time with those friends who have already moved back. Truth be told I'd love to spend a year or two in Japan before starting my PhD, but that will depend on my wife's ability to get a job there (though she is a very talented music teacher/choir director, so there's a chance). Anyway, some of my favorite movies are Japanese, so I can't wait to get to the point that I'm able to watch them and understand.

Classical Chinese

I read about half of the 三字經, which is easy enough to read in just a few minutes, but I'm going through each line, learning about whatever cultural reference it may contain. After this I'm moving on to the 孝經. It's also very short, so it shouldn't take much time at all. I'm putting this stuff into Anki as an experiment, and I'm probably going to do the same with 大學 and 中庸 when I get to them later this month. The idea is that if I review each line in Anki over a long period, then when I come across references to these books in my other reading, I'll recognize them easily. At the very least, it will be good to be very familiar with 四書. If this works out, I may make it into a long-term project, also using things more relevant to my field, such as 詩經,楚辭,尚書,春秋, etc.

Taiwanese

I learned the first lesson of Harvard Taiwanese 101 pretty thoroughly. My friends tell me the audio is weird, sort of like TTS, but like I said above it's the only decent book I know of that teaches a Taipak/Taipei accent. Anyway, there are only 11 lessons with actual content in the book, the rest being divided between pronunciation and songs. I'll probably do one lesson per week as long as I can sustain that, but I'll probably slow down eventually when the dialogues get longer.

If I knew more than just a few phrases of Taiwanese, my trip to Kenting would be a great opportunity to practice. As it is, I'll use my few phrases and probably try to learn a few more from people here and there, and just have fun with it. The ability to spit out even a few words of Taiwanese can make for a great conversation starter.



OK, so that's it for this week. Next week won't contain a lot of studying due to the holiday. My wife has the whole week off, so once we're back from Kenting I'll be spending time with her. I hope to get at least a bit of language work done, even if I don't get much 聲韻學 reading done.

Until then.

Edited by OneEye on 08 February 2013 at 6:02pm



OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4257 days ago

520 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 7 of 41
08 February 2013 at 6:20pm | IP Logged 
BloodyChinese,

I wouldn't worry too much about the fact that you're going to Beijing instead of Taipei. Either way, you should tackle the language with everything you have while you're there, and you can adapt your accent and usage later. I have a Korean friend who moved to Taipei to study for a year after having reached a very high level (old HSK 11) in China. She had a mainland accent when she moved here, like 兒化 which I found really cute (or maybe I just found her really cute), but within a few months she sounded like she had only studied in Taiwan. Of course, she really worked at adapting her accent to her new home, but the moral of the story is that it doesn't matter so much where you learn you Chinese, as long as you learn it. You can change your accent later if you wish. Similarly, I don't think it matters so much whether you learn simplified or traditional first, as much as it matters that you learn one of them. My reading in simplified is slower than in traditional, but it isn't too much of a problem, and I haven't even devoted any effort to learning simplified. I'm sure once I read a few books in simplified (some of which are on my list for this year), I'll be fine.

As far as Classical Chinese, I'm completely self-taught in that, so there's no read you can't be too, if that's what you want. I used Michael Fuller's An Introduction to Literary Chinese, followed by Harold Shadick's A First Course in Literary Chinese, which got me to the point that I was able to participate in a reading group last summer that mainly selected texts from the 古文觀止. I remember 王羲之's 蘭亭集序, which was our first text, being a real struggle, but I've found that with 文言文, struggling through a difficult text really pays off. The rest of the texts didn't seem so difficult after that, though I sure they would have been if not for having already gone through something of similar difficulty.


iawia,

Thanks for the kind words. Hopefully this year has great things in store for all of my languages!

Edited by OneEye on 08 February 2013 at 6:21pm



OneEye
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4257 days ago

520 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, Taiwanese, German, French

 
 Message 8 of 41
17 February 2013 at 4:05pm | IP Logged 
A little late on my second update, but there's not much to tell anyway. I spent 4 days in Kenting for Chinese New Year and the rest of the week was mostly spent hanging out with friends that came into Taipei to visit. Not much studying. I did 3 lessons in Assimil Japanese and kept up with my flashcards fairly well.

I read a paper by 裘錫圭 (one of the top philologists and palaeographers of the past few decades) recently called "On the Methods of Studying Ancient Chinese Script" which was very helpful in providing guidance for preparing for the MA program. He specifically encourages would-be palaeographers to study 左傳 intensively, in order to become comfortable with Zhou-dynasty writing. I'm taking his advice to heart, so this week I'll be picking up a copy of the 左傳 with classical commentary so I can get started on it, thus replacing 四書. This will be tough, as I find 左傳 much more difficult to read than 孟子 or 論語, but it will be good for me. Later, since I plan on specializing in 戰國文字, I'll read 戰國策.

Hopefully I'll have a better update next week.

Edited by OneEye on 17 February 2013 at 4:07pm




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