Last night, we began with a review of the initial and final sounds of Mandarin -- the Lego building blocks of the language, as detailed on pages 1, 2, and 6 of your book. Following this, we reviewed the tones chart and the exercises on pages 8 and 9. we then covered the various examples in the tables on pages 9, 10, and 11. PLEASE REVIEW THESE PAGES THIS WEEK.
Finally, we covered some classroom and survival phrases in Mandarin, to get the speaking juices flowing. We are finally in a position to begin Lesson 1 next week!
In recapping what we have covered so far, rather than re-invent the wheel, I am going to paste some links below to quite a few very detailed 2017 blog entries covering all of the pronunciation and tones material that we have learned so far. Please read the following blog entries and do your best to follow along, referencing any pages mentioned in your book:
(NOTE: The "Sheet/Shit Pronunciation Paradigm" is based on a dirty joke I shared with my classes last year, and can be found in an entry under the "Mispronouncing Mandarin" tab of the blog.)
Your homework for this week is to read and try your best to understand the material mentioned in the above referenced 2017 blog entries, and to review the textbook pages covered so far. If you have already purchased a DVD or downloaded a movie or bookmarked a Youtube video of a Disney movie or whatever in Mandarin, as I keep suggesting to you all, please start watching some of it in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles. It is best to watch the movie all the way through several times over the coming weeks and then to take one scene at a time and play and replay that scene until you start getting a feel for THE SOUNDS, TONES, and SPOKEN CADENCE of Chinese. I promise that this will help you as we go along this year -- and it will just make your learning experience more fun.
I was going to type some good insights at this point into my own personal learning process and learning history with Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), but I think I will save that for a separate, future blog entry, because I am pressed for time this morning and need to get back to my regular work.
Thanks very much for so many students taking my last email/blog entry so seriously and for stepping up your attendance to last night's class. It was good to see approximately twice as many students last night as the week before! I hope to see even more students next Monday, because we will finally be starting Lesson 1 Dialogue 1!
AS A REMINDER, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE DROPPED THIS CLASS. In the past, this would have been a very important concern, because we maintained a waiting list of over 100 people dying to get into our Mandarin classes as soon as someone sneezed, let alone thought of quitting. In past years, for every student who quit my class, 2 new ones would show up the next week and Mandarin I was literally filled to capacity (and a couple of times in October 2017 was standing room only). Because there is no waiting list this year, it is more for me to just keep track of who is still in the class and who has decided to drop -- most likely because you think I am an asshole, which is fine.
I am not really an asshole; I just like to weed out students who don't have a strong enough motivation to learn Chinese, so that we are left with a smaller core group for the rest of the year who will actually show up, participate, do the homework, and make every effort on each of their parts to never say things like "Whoa She May-Grow Ren" without any tones when trying to tell the class where you are from. This will make sense once we begin lesson 1 next week.
I was very lucky in the music business, my chosen field of interest, to have had a mentor (who unfortunately passed away in 2014) who was very no-nonsense, who didn't take shit off anyone, and who absolutely refused to be offended if it meant any kind of interference with her goals or plans. "I refuse to be offended" was actually her #1 motto in life when dealing with challenging people and situations.
There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you that you can't do something. You have to be strong enough to tell these people to go jump in a lake because you are determined to succeed anyway. I will never tell any of you that you can't learn Mandarin. There are severely mentally challenged individuals in China who cannot tie their own shoes and who have a problem swallowing their own saliva who can speak this language at its most basic level. I am CERTAIN that everyone of you has the potential to learn to speak effective Mandarin Chinese. The question is this:
IS YOUR MOTIVATION STRONG ENOUGH TO CARRY YOU PAST ALL OF THE (SOMETIMES MAJOR) HICKUPS ALONG THE PATH FROM ZERO TO BASIC CONVERSATIONAL ABILITY?
I will tell you that statistics show over a period of 8 or 9 years that I have been affiliated with ALESN that maybe 7 out of 10 beginner Chinese students quit our program at some point because their pronunciation sucks and no one understands what the hell they are trying to say when they attempt to speak to real Chinese people who don't know them. I am simply citing actual, factual statistics. YOU (and only YOU) can determine whether you want to buy into that statistic and quit, or whether you want to tell me to f@&% off because you are determined to learn and persevere and be able to speak this language -- because your motivation is THAT strong.
THAT is what I was attempting to communicate to you folks. The people who hopefully got this, who understood the core of my reason for telling you apparently discouraging bits of information right from the start, have determined for themselves that learning to speak effective, understandable basic Chinese really is THAT important to them -- and these are the students who have decided to stay in my class.
Those of you who were offended by my comments enough to quit studying Mandarin all together this semester (not because of your work schedule or because you would rather have a kinder teacher who will hold your hand in the Thursday night class or one of the Saturday classes) missed the point of my tough love approach. And that is ok.
I have learned in life to be specific if I want to achieve a specific goal. My specific goal for my Chinese classes this year is that a small, core group of students will learn effective, understandable pronunciation of basic words, phrases, sentences, and a general overview of basic grammar -- so that these specific students with a strong enough motivation to learn Chinese (NOT everyone on the 43 student email roster) will be able to have real conversations by June with real Chinese people they have never met before. If I am going to achieve this goal, I have to weed out students who don't have a strong enough motivation to achieve this goal.
If you have already weeded yourself out because you think I am a jerk, but your motivation to learn Chinese really is pure and strong, please consider returning to the class with a new determination not to be so sensitive to any one person's personality. I am not going to change my personality, but I can promise you all -- even students who have quit or who are considering quitting because you think I am an asshole -- that if you stick with this class and refuse to be offended and just move forward and put in a solid weekly effort, you will either achieve my goal for you or you will come very close. By June, you will be able to have a very basic conversation with a Chinese person you have never met before, discussing basic things about your life: where you live, your family, what time it is, etc.
There is no room in my style of teaching for overly shy students or overly sensitive students or students who allow themselves to quit studying a language because any one person on this planet might have offended them. I hope that this helps to clarify my teaching approach. The bottom line is that you will get out of my class what you put in. I will always have my opinions, but I promise each of you who decide to stick it out that I will do everything in my power each week to get you all saying things in Chinese THAT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE SAYING THINGS IN CHINESE.