Learning Chinese

Why?

Background

In 2015, one of my former professors at MIT asked me to go to Singapore to represent MIT in a two-week long robotics competition. The most interesting part wasn't the robots, but rather that the competition was held entirely in English. Except for a handful of us, every competitor's primary language was not English. Japanese, Thai, Arabic, French, Korean, and Chinese could all be heard.

Shortly after the event began it became apparent that this was not a robotics competition at all, but rather an English-speaking competition. Regardless of an engineer's skill, lack of ability to communicate with their teammates proved devastating. Explaining why the electronics are on fire is hard when you don't know the word for "polarity", and impossible if you can't say "backwards" or "wrong".

This was deeply humbling. I knew next to nothing in any language other than the English I've been speaking every day since shortly after birth.

Over the remainder of that year, that experience crystallized into a resolve to learn one language: Chinese.

Why (Mandarin) Chinese?

How are you learning?

This changes as I change and improve in ability.

tools

In 2016 I used spaced repetition software (Memrise, Pleco) extensively for memorizing characters.

books

I have a copybook (字帖) of 千字文. I have a pretty good kid's science book called 青少年科学百科全书 Young People's Encyclopedia of Science.

listening

For grammar: mimicking speakers on podcasts to gain intuition for sentence structure. For leisure: TV, documentaries

mindset

Where are you now?

About HSK 3

Some good advice I recieved

Visualize. A 40 year old Hong Kong born American told me that to translate from one language to another is too slow.

Too slow; don't translate

The associations must point directly from concept to language.

Straight from concept to verbalization