Yesterday, I passed rather a milestone – I have now learnt more than 2000 characters!
I have not spoken a great deal about my learning Chinese, except for the occasional moments of frustration or amusing anecdotes. But, it does consume an enormous part of my free time here in Taiwan.
Six hours tutoring after work each work – strategically placed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 o’clock – plus about four hours again at the weekend, have slowly but surely raised my Chinese skills to a level at which I could perhaps compete with a five year old. A very stupid five year old.
I have been here for more than two years now and I can conclusivly say that learning Chinese has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is ridiculous. And I am positive that if if you were designing a language system, this would absolutely not be the way to do it. And yet… billions do. Amazing.
The other weapon / toy in my armoury is my trusty Palm. I went for 18 months with my old Sony Clie, and recently upgraded to a much cooler Tungsten T3 – with Bluetooth and higher resolution. On this is a piece of software called Supermemo, and into this I place all my vocabulary, including that from the text books. It gives me daily tests and turns the tedious process of learning thousands of characters into something more akin to a computer game, its algorithm intelligently learning which characters I am good (or more likely bad) at. Some relentlessly return every day, and will be tested again in over two years time!
So, every day over breakfast I am doing flashcards as I eat. Usually, I will have about 70 cards in total, but from the first book (about 950 words) I now get tested on about 10 per day – pretty cool. Furthermore, I have added almost 500 of my own characters – mainly related to work, design … bike, babes and beer.
The geek factor – but we all know how much we love stats in sports. Same here.
An example flash card, showing the answer.