If you are learning Mandarin Chinese, check out this video interview Olly Richards from I Will Teach You a Language recorded last year. Olly is a great interviewer and even went to the trouble of getting a complete transcript made of the interview (available for free on his site). In the interview, we discuss: 1) My journey to learn Mandarin Chinese. 2) The ways in which Mandarin is actually an easy language. 3) How to best learn tones. 4) The myth that you need to move to China or Taiwan to learn Mandarin. 5) Differences between the Mandarin spoken in Mainland China and Taiwan. 6) The importance of chéngyǔ (成語, “idioms”), which are usually 4 characters in Chinese. 7) My top 3 resources for learning Mandarin Chinese. 8) More about what my Master Mandarin guide is and how it can help beginning and intermediate learners.
Benny Lewis, also known as the Irish Polyglot, is one of my heroes. Not only has he demonstrated that it’s possible to reach conversational fluency in a matter of months, not years as most believe, but he lives his life as a full-time traveler, language learner, and technomad, and has managed to build the most popular language learning blog on the planet along the way. Benny’s philosophy on self-guided immersion is right in line with my own, as exemplified in the following quote from his new book: “…where you are isn’t what decides whether or not you’ll be successful. Attitude beats latitude (and longitude) every time. It’s more about creating an immersion environment, exposing yourself to native speakers, and doing everything you can in that language.”
The season of giving is upon us! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Saturnalia, The Gregorian New Year, The Lunar New Year, or just TGIF, here are some gift ideas to help spread some love to those you know trying to learn a foreign language. And don’t forget to pamper yourself a bit, too: if you’ve diligently put in the study hours this year, reward yourself with a little something something. Or if you’ve struggled to stay the course, perhaps it’s time to try out some new methods and materials. Read on to see my top ten gift ideas for the language lovers in your life.
We have been conditioned by well-intentioned mothers to believe that television will “destroy our brains”. This might well be true if one spends their time watching “reality” TV shows that don’t actually reflect reality, the sensationalist 24-hour news cycle, and tasteless drivel that neither entertains nor educates. But if you watch television in Japanese, this otherwise time and brain-waisting activity can become a constructive form of language learning that even mommy should be able to get behind! To that end, here are my top ten favorite tools for streaming Japanese drama and anime series online:
Spaced Repetition Systems (or “SRS” for short) are flashcard programs designed to help you systematically learn new information—and retain old information—through intelligent review scheduling. Instead of wasting precious study time on information you already know, SRS apps like Anki allow you to focus most on new words, phrases, kanji, etc., or previously studied information that you have yet to commit to long-term memory. Read on to see how spaced repetition apps work and which SRS tools I recommend.
If you are learning Japanese and/or Mandarin Chinese and have an Android device, I highly recommend checking out Skritter’s new public beta app. As I mention in my review of Skritter, they offer one of the best tools for learning Chinese characters. Instead of traditional flashcards that just test passive recognition, the Skritter site and apps require that you actually write out the characters on the screen or using your mouse/trackpad. This “active recall” approach is far more effective than the self-gradings used in other spaced repetition apps. And best of all, in cases when you have no idea how to write a character, Skritter provides nifty stroke by stroke hints to help you along. If you haven’t tried Skritter yet, now would be a good time as you can get a 3-week trial instead of the 1 week they usually offer. The offer is valid for new accounts activated before August 31, 2014.