(Not As) Lost in Translation: Beginning a Mandarin Chinese Study Routine
When I arrived to Chongqing, I decided to give myself eight weeks to adjust and settle into a routine. Until now, my priorities have been teaching, finding decent restaurants and grocery stores, maintaining my workout and reading schedules, and figuring out where things are located.
Now that my two-month reprieve is over, it’s time to get serious about learning Mandarin Chinese. I’ve flirted with the language for the past year or so, without making serious commitments to full-time study.
I’ve decided to start with small, manageable goals. (I’ve used this approach in other areas of my life, namely swimming and daily reading, and so far, it’s been successful.) So for the next 30 days, I’ve committed to completing at least one 30-minute Pimsleur audio lesson everyday. Eventually, I want to work up to 2-3 hours of daily speaking and writing practice, but for now, I’m focusing on mastering short dialogues.
Yesterday, I completed the first two lessons from the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese-Gold series, with good results. (When I bought some snacks from a local vendor, I used the target language without hesitating or translating in my head). Today, I completed two more dialogues, and then decided to mix things up by trying a 15-minute intermediate ChinesePod lesson. After being spoon-fed vocabulary and grammar for an hour and meticulously repeating phrases, I wanted to challenge myself with more advanced material. (Pimsleur might be a fantastic way to learn the nuts and bolts of a language, but the dialogues are boring. David Sedaris humorously demonstrates the pitfalls of the Pimsleur method in this essay in The New Yorker). Since I live in China, I regularly hear conversations that I can’t understand, so it only makes sense to practice listening to and picking out words from more advanced dialogues.
The intermediate lesson was about hot pot, which is a popular meal in Chongqing and therefore relevant to my daily life. In contrast to the Pimsleur lessons, I didn’t care about remembering every word in the conversation: I practiced the most important or interesting words, and spent the rest of the time focusing on imitating the speakers’ pronunciation and intonation. It was fun, not to mention a nice break from the dry Pimsleur dialogues.
After I finish the Pimsleur Gold series (30 lessons total), I plan to buy ChinesePod, PopUp Chinese, and Skritter (to learn characters) subscriptions.
If you have any resources you’d like to share, send me a message.