Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mandarin I ALESN Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 Last Class of the Year! Summary, Notes, Homework

Hi Everyone,

Hope that you all had a great Christmas! I will keep this brief because I need to get back to some work I am doing.


Last Thursday night's class covered the vocabulary and dialogue for Lesson 2 Dialogue 2: Asking About Someone's Family.
  • We discussed that JI3 can either be a question word asking How much or How Many?, or it can refer to "several" of some noun, using ji3 + measure word + noun. There was some confusion about this second usage, so I hope that I was able to clarify for anyone who might have been confused by the dual meanings of this new vocabulary word.
  • Kou3 as a measure word specifically for family members -- NOT for people in general. For people in general, we use GE. Kou3 literally means "mouth," and is used to count family members or members of the household as in, "mouths to feed."
  • LIANG3 when counting 2 of some noun, any noun. Liang3 + measure word + noun. There is a separate, different word for the concept of the number 2 when counting but not referring to how much of or how many of a certain noun. We will clarify this further in future classes. 
  • HE2 and for nouns: noun A HE2 noun B. HE2 is not used to connect verb phrases. I mentioned this in class, but the concept is a bit abstract until we see it in action in future dialogue or exercise examples in class.
  • DOU1 for both or all: it goes between the subject and the verb, as opposed to other places in the sentence. DO NOT confuse where this word goes in a Chinese sentence by thinking of English language word order. We will review this more in the new year.
  • Of course, there were other vocabulary word (17 in all, including a new proper name of a new character in the book), but I think these are the most important points to keep in mind.
From here, we repeated the dialogue multiple times. Esther was not in class to help us, and I know that a few students had specific questions about mouth shapes when saying certain syllables, so we definitely missed Esther demonstrating these for us.

I was very pleased to see that several of you are really taking the mouth and tongue placements/ alignments so seriously, which we began to learn during the pronunciation intro portion of the course 2 months ago. It really IS true that if you shape your mouth properly and make your tongue have the proper alignment inside your mouth, the "foreign" sounds of spoken Mandarin will become easier and easier, more and more natural as time goes on, until you will simply pronounce each syllable "properly," within that window of acceptability that we are always talking about in class. Many thanks to those students who are putting in a good effort to be aware of this when reciting the dialogues!


A little bit of study every day or every other day is all you need at this point in order to make progress in this class. You don't need to spend hours each day studying Chinese -- though if you do, you will certainly make a lot of progress; I can vouch for this first hand, because I obsessively studied Cantonese and Mandarin for at lest 1-2 hours a day 6-7 days a week for the first 2 years or so studying each language/dialect.

BUT, just a little bit each day or every other day is fine for right now -- as long as you do THE RIGHT STUDYING.

By this, I mean to focus on listening comprehension, on fixing whatever you personally cannot yet pronounce properly regarding the syllables and especially THE TONES, and to just have fun with it. 

20 minutes a day watching the videos that go with the book, which I asked you all to download for free over 2 months ago. 15 minutes a day making flashcards on index cards or on an app in your phone and then reviewing the textbook vocabulary words. 30 minutes a few times a week browsing Youtube for interesting "beginner Mandarin" videos about topics that personally interest you -- maybe food or shopping or visiting China or Taiwan.

Just enjoy the process and make it FUN!


 Your homework between now and our first class of 2018 is simply to review the vocabulary and dialogues covered so far, memorizing anything that you haven't already learned.

Work on any pronunciation or tones issues that YOU PERSONALLY have discovered you suck at. 

Make a list, an actual bullet point / itemized "shopping list" of each of the initial consonant, simple or compound final, or combined syllable pronunciation issues you have been experiencing, as well as any tones issues specific to you (you confuse or mix up your 1 and 4 tones, for example, which many if not most of you are doing right now, as mentioned by Jeremy 2 weeks ago). Make this list and keep it handy on your phone or by your desk or on a post it not in your textbook, so that there is never any guesswork regarding what you need to study or practice -- especially if you find yourself limited for time on a given day or during a given week.



Everything else can take a backseat for the moment, if you still haven't gotten your four tones, for example. If you still cannot say the ZH CH SH R line of the bo po mo fo table properly, then THAT is what you need to spend the most time working on -- not memorizing the Mandarin Chinese word for photograph, which you will grossly mispronounce whenever you try to say it because your ZH initial consonant sound is so horrible.

So, all of you, figure out what each of you most needs to work on and come to next class prepared with an itemized list. I want to go around the class and have some of you read from your lists, so that all of you can FEEL the comradery, knowing that you all share certain common things that everyone needs to most work on. To make it fair, I will prepare my own list for my own Chinese studies as well, and will be happy to share it with everyone if you are interested.


These videos will really help everyone to understand and memorize the dialogues going forward. It is one thing to read them in class, to translate them in class. It is an entirely different thing to see the dialogues acted out on your TV or computer screen (or phone or tablet).

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and see everyone in 2018!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Brendan for your great and effective teaching!! Hope you have a happy 2018!


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