Friday, March 09, 2007

ChinesePod booklet: Release candidate 1

Okay so the booklet is now out of beta and into Release candidate!
I've made a much nicer version using PDF.

If you’re printing this PDF with Windows, make sure to select “Page Scaling = None” on the print options when you print.

This format has 8 pages.

Page one: Dialogue in Chinese characters only.
To be used for those who want full proficiency with their character reading.
Page two: Pinyin and English translation.
The flip side to page one if you need a quick reminder.
Page three: All the main dialogue vocabulary.
Try and make your own sentences using the the vocabulary.
Page four: Translation and pinyin for above.
The flip side providing you with a bit of extra help, or for those with no interest in characters.
Page five: Dialogue with characters and pinyin.
For beginners to get used to seeing characters while being able to read the pinyin.
Page six: The additional vocabulary from the website (thanks Connie!)
Page seven and eight are left blank for you to write notes or new sentences. You may want to make a new dialogue using Connie's vocabulary.

Folding instructions:
1. Fold page in half short edge to short edge.
2. Cut along the dotted line.
3. Fold page in half a second time, short edge to short edge.
4. Unfold completely and fold long edge to long edge.
5. squash the open diamond formed by the cut together making your booklet.
6. Fix any folds to make your booklet nice and flat.

Release Candidate 1 can be downloaded here.
**UPDATE** Release Candidate 2 can be downloaded here. Fixes orientation of text on pages.
Review version of the Newbie lesson can be found here.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Technology as a learning tool:

First an admission. I am addicted to technology! From where I am sitting there are 3 computers including one laptop (all on and doing various things), A Nintendo DS, A MP3 player, a VOIP phone, a mobile phone, a digital camera and HardDrive video camera. Looking at that list I'm quite disappointed that it is so short, as it's only the things I could bring with me to China and a few things I bought here.

With my love of technology I of course actively seek out ways to learn that make the most of it. I read books on my Nintendo DS and could also run flashcards on it though I haven't tried it yet. Of course I listen to lessons and books on the mp3 player. I take pictures of menus and signs so that I can learn the words. I video some of the strange variety shows, though I admit that It is rare that I understand anything of what is said. Of course the two phones are used to communicate in Chinese. The list of things I do on my computers in regard to Chinese learning would be far too long for this post!

So has all this technology helped me learn. Of course! Has it given me a complete solution to learn Chinese? That would be a no. I love going out and walking around it's about the only thing that makes me forget my addiction. Put me in a house with a computer and it's inevitable that I will gravitate towards it unless alcohol is on offer. So what's missing with all this technology? in a word Portability. Even my Nintendo DS isn't as portable as I would like. In my mind the most portable thing has been around for thousands of year. A piece of paper. The problem with paper is the time trade-off, anything to do with paper takes a bit of time to prepare. Space efficiency when you use hand writing is also a drawback. So we come in a circle. All my modern technology has it's draw backs but so does my piece of paper. Combining the two you can reduce the impact these drawbacks have on your learning. I've uploaded a example of my solution (as is the modern fad I'm releasing it while in beta) here. Hope you like it there are 2 formats. I've just applied this to the newbie lesson My keys are missing so give me some feedback on what you think.

Instructions are:
1. Print.
2. Cut around the thick outside border .
3. Cut along the dotted line.
4. fold in half lengthways then fold in half again.

For this to work you need to know ahead of time which lessons you want to do. You could easily carry several of these in your pocket to reduce that problem. The format could also be expanded to larger lessons either by making a 6 or 8 section booklet or duplex printing (double sided).

One note Is that I am never going to try and make this using MS Word ever again! but I think for the beta it will be the easiest to print out for people.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Big Review Lesson Update

Okay well I signed up to a new school for my visa and spent this week settling in and getting everything sorted out. Unfortunately all this bother means I didn't get time to do the things I wanted with my review lessons. Sorry to anyone who actually uses them. They are now up-to date.

A few extra things changed as well:
Review lessons now all have fixed ID3 tag info so you should now see the word (review) after the name so you can tell what it is. Any other problems with these please tell me

Changed the format around as some of the lesson names were to long to have download review link on the right. This will also be good when I get around to putting those dialogue only files up as well (googlepages only gives me so much space).

The front page will change soon as well as it's pretty ugly right now. What I mainly wanted to do is people to be able to quickly see what has been uploaded since their last visit.

I've got one extra idea that I'm working on. Old school portability. You'll see what I mean when I get the formatting sorted out but it's all about taking your Lessons on the road with as little inconvenience as possible. If anyone from ChinesePod actually watches this space I think this might be something that you'll want to look into.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The most depressing film clip I have ever watched.

Yes this post is learning Chinese related. Recently I've been going to KTV's for a bit of fun. I get the lyrics off Bidu and convert them into pinyin and give it a bit of a shot. This is one song my friends like to sing and for some reason I find this so depressing that it's hard for me to stay in the room.

It's from Taiwan. The song itself wouldn't be particularly depressing but the realness of film clip is. It doesn't just seem to be a storey outside of the song as most film clips are. Anyway watch it and see.

youtube here

and youtube that has been subbed into English here





Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quick rundown of the *new* process.

Okay the new process that I'm using with ChinesePod is as follows.

1. Listen to the dialogue *3
While doing this the first time I focus on the words I know and try and extrapolate the meanings of the words I don't.
2. Listen to the dialogue *3 again.
This time I try and transcribe the entire podcast into Pinyin.
3. I then change the words I know from the dialogue into Chinese characters. I write a list guessing the meaning of the words I didn't know I also list the words I have no idea what the meaning is.
4. I move on to the translations of each sentence while looking at my two lists, making corrections and filling in those damn blanks as I go. I also of course give myself a nice tick for the things I'd got right.
5. Now on to the word by word breakdown for a final correction of the words.
6. At this point I'm able to write out the whole dialogue in characters (sometimes I have to look up from the English meaning if I got the pinyin wrong). I also write out a final list with character pin yin and meaning. I put the words I couldn't work out at the top of this list then those which I had guessed incorrectly then those which I'd been able to figure out correctly (my thinking is that these are the one I knew subconsciously either that or they were really obvious). I'll review this list a few times during the day.
7. Now that I have the dialogue in characters I'll listen to it again maybe 2-3 times while reading the transcript (each time being a set of three dialogues so 6-9 times in total). If I'm feeling particularly comfortable with it I'll try and read it out loud at the same pace or faster than the speaker.
8. Fast forward to the next day first I'll try and read the dialogue from my transcript to see how many of the characters I've remembered (or forgotten to be slightly more accurate). ANything I'm unsure on I'll look at my word list for.
9. Last step is I'll write the lesson number on a calender for one week in the future to review and see how good my retention is.

Well that's it in a nutshell. It's not quite a twelve step program but I'm a functional Chineseaholic so I don't really need that. I haven't had a lesson to do the week after review for but I'm thinking that if there are particular words I've forgotten that I'll flashcard them to aid with my retention and I'll revisit the lesson in a weeks time.

I'm also thinking that a month after the first review I'll listen to the dialogues before I go to sleep. I'm thinking that I should be able to do a lesson a day this way I don't think I'll go for a full 7 days a week though... maybe 6 and a rest day.

The differences between this and my old method are
1. There is a lot more repetition of the dialogue.
2. I've replaced flashcards with word lists which I find much more useful. Something I'm going to experiment with is writing the character on one side then the pinyin and definition on the other side. I find that this is a much more time efficient way as the word lists are more portable. I've also played with the idea that I might include a sentence (maybe even the one from the dialogue) using the word as I did with my flashcards.
3. The process is much more regimented where as my previous efforts were fairly haphazard I'll see if this works out better for me or if I'll loosen up how I do things. One of the reasons I'm not listening to the whole podcast from the start is something Ken mentioned in his blog about uncertainty. I also find that if I listen to the podcast the whole way through first off my mind gets lazy... knowing that the answer is just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

新年快乐 Happy new year!

Bit late but as it's New year here I won't be posting again until Friday. Sorry about the delay. I am however not being too lazy so don't go calling me 懒猪 lǎnzhū (LazyPig) or anything nasty like that! One thing I'm doing straight after I wrote three posts about how I study is I'm going to spend some time completely changing all of that (How completely depends on how well the new ideas work out). I'll be documenting this and the first thing to change will be how I listen to ChinesePod PodCasts. I'll be documenting how well I think this new system works an explanation will come on Friday after I've got the new process completely sorted out. One thing this means is that I will be producing an extra type of review lesson for Newbie and Elementary levels. I will be releasing a review lesson that only contains the dialogue as well as the current review lesson format.

Other things on the horizon:
1. Complete transcripts of ChinesePod Lessons so you can count how many times Ken calls Jenny Johnny. These are a byproduct of another project which I'm not going to elaberatoe on until the idea has progressed from (Note: These will be free I always intend for everything I do to be add supported though I might start up a donations link as well 要饭要饭... If that doesn't work then this might just end up as a blog all about me).
2. Flash card sets for all the books I own. (This is for all those studying Chinese who need to learn those 30 or so words per lesson per day.)
3. This is a big one.... PodCasts!!!! In the coming months I will begin to produce Chinese Learning PodCasts (expect a pilot version about end of April). They aren't going to be the greatest PodCasts in the world, but I'm hoping that they'll be useful. A few things that have been set-up for this is that they will be Chinese Language only, they will have native speakers, they will come with a transcript, they will be short... maybe only 5-10 minutes long. Something that is still up in the air is that they maybe based off ChinesePod topics. So they may be useful as either supplement or a stand alone thing. If I go ahead with the ChinesePod idea they will be a bit harder than the ChinesePod version but using mostly the same vocab. The idea behind this is to further reinforce and expand on what you learnt in a ChinesePod lesson. Anyway nothing like that is anywhere near set in stone and I'd welcome feedback from people on this one. What do you want in a PodCast?

Friday, February 16, 2007

My How and Why of language Learning PART 3 (final)

This will be the last post of my how and why.

One thing I mentioned as something I use for language learning is Bittorrent powerful little tool. This is a controversial yet extremely useful tool. I will admit that what I'm about to suggest may not be entirely legal where you are yet i don't think of it as entirely unethical. What do I use Bittorrent to download (apart from chinesePod archives) is Chinese Movies in mandarin often they can't be bought on DVA where you live or maybe they are still in the movies and definitely aren't going to come to a screen near you. You should be able to find them on any torrent search site. IMDB is a great way to find the names of these movies. A hint about these movies is to find ones that have a external subtitle file for English (if they have English subtitles at all) that way you can chose if you want to watch with or without subtitles. I would suggest to watch the movie a couple of times with subtitles then watch them without as many times as you can stand it. Another thing that you can get of course is TV shows... I would suggest you get ones that come from Taiwan though as they seem to be the best. Cantonese dubbed into mandarin is no fun to watch.

Now that I'm actually in China I don't need to use bittorrent for this (Which is why no links as they are mostly out of date). Not that here is anymore legal. I'm still trying to find a genuine store for things like collectors edition DVD's. (the best DVD I bought in china had an English review obviously taken from the Internet the reason it's the best is the review says the film isn't worth watching.

Just a few Tips: As you can tell I don't mind flash cards. Even if you really don't like them they can be useful if you have a few words that just will not stick in your brain. In this case just bite the bullet and flashcard them! It's a lot less painless than you think unless your trying to learn your 30 words a day from your Chinese textbook.
My Learning method is mostly about input and there are heaps of places you can get this. I also like a fair bit of reading input. Reading Chinese characters isn't that hard if you try and read a lot. Start with just reading simple dialogs and as your vocab increases find more and more difficult sources. If your reading material is digital use ZDT's annotator function so that if you forget a word a quick hover with the mouse will bring you back up to speed. You can move the separating bar down to hide the pinyin so you don't cheat as well.
I'll mention my Review lessons on more time as something I use a surprising amount of the time now that I'm creating them at a better quality level than I was before I'm going to start doing a 20-25 minute review session every night before I go to sleep. I'll listen to the reviews of the last 10 or so lessons I listened to I think it will help me.

My learning process is constantly changing and soon I'm going to be trying a more regiment aproch i'll document how this goes.