In the past, I was all about Supermemo and other memory techniques for "burning" Chinese into my brain. Supermemo is very effective and I think that it's helped me a lot get to the intermediate-ish level of Chinese that I'm at. But Supermemo used as a primary method of learning a language lacks a lot. Focusing on vocabulary and reading instead of listening and speaking eventually caught up with me. I was to a point where I knew hundreds upon hundreds of characters but could have only the most basic of conversations.
Frustrated, I focused more on one-on-one classes and eventually really expanded myself with my Chinese. I got to a very conversational level of Chinese. Not incredibly proficient, but I could do a wide array of things with the language. Focusing on listening and speaking helped me tons.
Things were going great and I was making serious strides and then... Qian and I moved away from China to America. I stopped studying for several weeks after the move. Eventually, I got reinvigorated with Supermemo and studied pretty well for a while. I wasn't able to continue an any one-on-one classes though. And without the listening and speaking practice, the studying of characters tapered off after several weeks. I stopped Supermemo months ago.
People reading this who know my living situation must surely be thinking, "Mark, have lessons with your Chinese wife for God's sake!" Yes, Qian is Chinese. And add on to that that she is a Chinese teacher of all things! But it's not that simple. Qian and I talk some, but we've never been able to have a productive teacher/student relationship. I can't explain why, but it doesn't work. In lieu of formal classes, she and I have made efforts to move our conversations over to Chinese, but it, too, has had limited success. Again, I can't explain why. It just hasn't worked.
In more recent months, watching Chinese TV shows has been a good way for me to keep up a steady exposure to Chinese language. But watching TV with Qian is not necessarily a great way for me to learn anything. It's good for listening practice, but if I have any trouble she just explains things to me and I hardly ever write anything down or stop to focus on a certain grammar point. And I have plenty of trouble trying to watch a Chinese TV with my Chinese level.
I've been at a a crossroads in recent months. I still have desire to learn Chinese, but have been frustrated with studying via textbook/Supermemo, watching Chinese TV, and annoying Qian about speaking Chinese. All the while, I've certainly been forgetting a lot of what I'd learned over the past few years by not using any of it in the US of A.
Everything changed for the better for me recently, though. I found popupchinese.com.
After listening to another excellent Sinica podcast hosted by popupchinese.com a few weeks ago, I actually checked out the rest of the site. I found a vast library of podcasts/language lessons for learning Chinese. The lessons ranged from absolute beginner to a level that I'm sure I'll never ever achieve. I was captivated by the high-quality and free content given to anyone who cares to download it.
The best thing about popupchinese is that the lessons are hilarious and twisted on top of being relevant. The host of most of the podcasts, Brendan, has a unique sense of humor. The lessons are consistently full of win. Some of my favorite lessons recent lessons are as follows:
- A father telling his daughter that her childhood has been a sham and that her mother and brother are not her biological family members.The Popup lessons, both the dialogs and the explanations by the teachers, Brendan and Echo, are entertaining and the language in them is very useful. So basically the opposite of using the conventional textbooks that have guided my first couple years of studying Chinese.
- A father cooking his son's pet rabbit.
- And an honest cabbie telling a foreigner how terrible his Chinese is.
I'm finding the elementary lessons to be great review and the intermediate lessons full of new information. I have a notebook for new grammar structures, vocab, etc. and am trying to listen for a few minutes a day.
I recommend anyone interested in learning Chinese to go check out the site. The lessons start at the most basic of basic. You can listen to any of the lessons for free. If you really like the site, you can sign up for membership at really quite reasonable rates. I haven't decided whether I'm going to sign up for membership. Seeing that I haven't given them a dime yet and I really like what they're doing, I figured the least I could do is to try direct some traffic their way from my little blog.
We'll see whether I can continue on with Popup Chinese. For the moment, at least, it is helping me immensely in my life-long challenge that is learning Chinese more proficiently.