A Year of Chinese Mandarin…

This year Language learners Journal Founder Trisha Dunbar will be focusing on Chinese Mandarin. Although there are a number of different Chinese dialects including Cantonese and Shanghaiese. Mandarin is the most spoken language in the would with 1,000,000,000+ speakers and rising. It forms part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

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Learning Chinese Mandarin means that you will be using both the right and left sides of the brain!

The language has four tones, plus a neutral one. Getting the tones right is an important factor…

… it can make all the difference between referring to your mother as a or ( – meaning a horse)!

A language without an alphabet!

Chinese has no alphabet! It is made up of a series of characters.

To help western society better understand there is the Pinyin system. This helps to spell out the sounds of Chinese using Roman letters. It is used as a helpful written aid to guide Chinese pronunciation.

You can follow Trisha’s journey from a false beginner to HSK 2 and beyond on Twitter and Facebook or Check the Mandarin Board on Pinterest.

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10 reasons to learn Mandarin Chinese

  1. Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. If you can speak it then you can communicate with nearly a billion people worldwide!
  2. China is an economic superpower and a major trade point.
  3. China has a fascinating and rich history and culture.
  4. It is easier than you think! There are no verbs, plurals, tenses, subject-verb agreement, OR conjugations.
  5. Chinese could be regarded as one of the most logical languages in the world!
  6. Speaking and reading in Mandarin Chinese is a great workout for the brain as it uses both the left and right hemispheres!
  7. The Chinese love to hear Westerns ‘attempt’ to speak their language and can be very supportive in helping you learn.
  8. Traveling or doing business abroad? As well as China, Mandarin is spoken in countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Philippines and Mongolia.
  9. Make new friends! Learning Mandarin gives you access to communicate with many people and connect on a deeper level, not just in Asia but across the world! Almost every major Western city has a growing Chinese community within it. Being able to communicate with those in your neighborhood and exchange students at your local university will help to connect communities, as well as foster lifelong friendships.
  10. Self-development. Being proficient in Mandarin will certainly boost your CV and make you stand out among against the many other applicants. Even if you don’t actively need the language for work it shows that you have commitment, focus and an understanding of another culture.

Recommended Resources

Here are my most highly recommended resources for learning Mandarin Chinese. The resources below have played a crucial role to my own learning of this beautiful language.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step;  Chinese: 千里之行,始於足下; pinyin: Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐyú zú xià.”

Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Italki – is an excellent resource and one that I regularly use to help me learn languages via Skype lessons. These lessons offer flexibility that fits perfectly into my busy lifestyle. Lessons can vary in price but start from about $5 for a 30 minute session. Register using this link to receive an additional $10 in credits after you have complete your first paid lesson!

uTalkuTalk is one my favourite resources for learning languages. It uses verbal, visual and fun exercises to teach languages increases your chance of success. Their tried and tested products work by stimulating both sides of the brain at the same time – the visual memory (right brain) and verbal (left side). This dual-coding improves recall and learning dramatically. Adding fun to the mix helps release the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine which keeps you motivated and improves memory recall. A fabulous free alternative is LingoHut.

Easy Peasy Chinese –This book and audio CD (Amazon) is a fabulous resource for beginners and will help you get to grips with speaking, writing and understanding the basics of the language in no time.

The Chineasy Range – An excellent resource for visual language learners. From books to flashcards and even board games. I have used this range to teach my own family Chinese. check out the full range on Amazon.

HelloChinese – Learn Chinese via this awesome app which is similar to Duolingo. There is a paid element, but the free content will enable you to grasp the basics via gamification methods. Although I don’t recommend using this app alone as it is not a replacement for real conversations. It is however a welcome and fun boost to vocabulary and learning the sounds of Chinese.

Learning Chinese? Let us know in the comments section below what resources you are currently using.

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#AYearofMandarin

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10 Surprising Benefits of Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles in Language Learning

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Word searches and crosswords may not be on the forefront of the mind when it comes to language learning resources, but the ability to solve these puzzles require several skills that will be most useful when it comes to language learning.

Arthur Wynn a journalist from Liverpool is credited as being the inventor of the first crossword puzzle which was published in the ‘New York World‘ in 1913. Whilst Norman Gilbat published the first word search in the ‘Selenby Digest’, Oklahoma in the late 1960s. Although much earlier Pedro Ocon de Oro had created ‘Sopas de letras’ (Soup of Letters).

By the 1980s educational establishments worldwide had adopted word searches and crossword puzzles to boost vocabulary and spelling. Crossword puzzles are a form of active learning which engages more with materials than passive learning

  1. Vocabulary Building – This one is a no brainer really, but the amount of people who don’t really think about the usefulness of puzzle books and fast vocabulary building means it has made this list!
  2. Reasoning Skills – Puzzles not only get you thinking in that language but also get’s you using those reasoning skills too, this is an all important step for fluency.
  3. Spelling – Correctly deciphering a crossword also requires exact spelling, which for some students may mean practicing those dictionary skills! In relation to word searches it’s reviewing the word.
  4. Identify and understanding terms used – puzzles are great for all levels and can help build the pace from which you identify and understand key terms.
  5. Differentiations between similar words or phrases – Puzzles can really help with learning the differentiations between similar words. Which could make all the difference to saying ‘year’ or calling someone an ‘ass’ in Spanish! I’ve made this mistake…don’t go there!
  6. Reviewing Vocabulary – fun way to go over old material and test learning.
  7. Promoting ‘Active Learning‘ which engages the reader with the material more efficiently than passive learning.
  8. Great aid for visual learners who tend to have strong puzzle solving skills and feel greater satisfaction when completing them.
  9. Fab for auditory learners too that prefer step-by-step reasoning, therefore they also benefit from the sequential steps of completing a crossword.
  10. Kinesthetics learners enjoy the multi-task strategies require to solve crosswords so beneficial to all learning types.
Italian, Word Search, Puzzle, Crossword

Word Search Puzzle Books from
Scriveremo Publishing.

Although puzzles have proven to be a valuable tool in language learning I wouldn’t recommend them alone. I use them as a fun way to consolidate my knowledge of language and help build vocabulary.

References:

Radadiya, D. “Word Search”. Word Search. Net.  
Bellis, Mary. “The History of Crossword Puzzles”. About.com.

February 2019 Language Goals: The Romance Month

February is the month of romance, therefore, I have decided to brush up on my Spanish. After my short break from language learning in December and January, as of February I plan to re-focus on Mandarin Chinese.

Don’t forget that 2019 is also the internal year of indigenous languages!

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To help keep me motivated I’ll be posting my Chinese Mandarin and Spanish progress in the #15x100Challenge. It’s a motivational community aimed at a creating a more mindful approach to achieving goals by focusing on just 1 thing a day, for a minimum 15 minutes over a 100 day period.

My Language Goals for February

My goal for February is to reactivate my basic vocabulary of Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. I’ll be working through a beginners course on Memrise and completing my Duolingo tree in Spanish. I also plan to use simple crosswords and word search puzzle books to actively engage in reviewing vocabulary.

Memrise is a rather addictive resource and luckily I have found both a Spanish and Mandarin course that are well organised with audio throughout. This month I’ll also be boosting my vocabulary for free with LingoHut to get back on track with Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

Spanish

I want to get back to at least  B1 conversational level in Spanish and work towards my HSK level 1 in Mandarin… So that I can feel more confident when talking to native speakers. I am a false-beginner in both Spanish and Mandarin; having learnt the languages on and off over the last few years.  I have a basic understanding of the grammar and somewhere buried in the back of my head is an awesome vocabulary list that needs to be reawakened!

Public accountability of taking part in language challenges really helps my motivational levels and this year I plan to get involved in a few of them!

Scriveremo Publishing have a series of puzzle books that will help actively engage with the language learning materials and I’ll be using these to improve my Spanish.

Anglo-Romani, Gaelic and Irish

As it is the international year of Indigenous languages I don’t want to neglect our very own indigenous languages in the UK. So I plan to go back to my ancestral roots this month with Anglo-Romani (Romany Gypsy). As well as exploring Gaelic and Irish. I have created a Pinterest board for Anglo-Romani.

Chinese Mandarin 

Mandarin is the main language that I will be studying this year. Learning a foreign language isn’t easy. I feel the best way to truly learn is to actively speak and listen to the language as much as possible. Therefore I have booked a package on Italki so I can get as much tutoring in as possible. I plan on 2/45 minute tutorials a week.

Italki is an excellent resource and one that I regularly use to help me learn languages via Skype lessons. These lessons offer flexibility that fits perfectly into my busy lifestyle. Lessons can vary in price but start from about $5 for a 30 minute session. Register using this link to receive an additional $10 in credits after you have complete your first paid lesson!

The Power of Accountability

Throughout February my Spanish and Mandarin study time will be held accountable by being in a language challenge and my desire to stay at the top of my Memrise and Duolingo leaderboards!  My public pledge to study a language for at least 15 minutes per day, everyday has certainly helped my motivational levels.

What languages are you studying this month and will you be taking part in the indigenous language challenge in 2019?


#CleartheList is a goal setting network of dedicated language learners. I have to say I really enjoy reading the other blogs and I am inspired deeply by the dedication of the #CleartheList community. I would like to say a big thank you to the hosts Lindsay (Lindsay Does Languages) and Shannon Kennedy (Eurolinguiste). The aim of Clear the List is to set and share your language learning goals for any given month and then obviously try your best to achieve them by the end of it!

Mandarin Resources that I’ll be using in February.