First off: I'm taking July off blogging. bob and I have bought a house, and now we need to move into it, so I thought it was probably best to remove distractions for a while.
I'll be back on August 1st with the start of another dim sum month, since last year's went so well. My plan is to temporarily halt my concept posts, and instead post two dim sum dishes per week, along with the regular Wednesday character posts (which will move to Mondays for the month). I also plan to eat a lot of dim sum, preferably with lots of lovely people. If you're within reach of London during August, and you'd like to eat some dim sum with me, please get in touch!
I'm not saying anything new in today's post, but I want to highlight something that I think is really important for learning anything. That is, to keep plugging away at it. I have a lot of other commitments, but I still try to do something every day towards my goal of understanding things written in Chinese. Some days I get to spend an hour or two on this, other days less than ten minutes, but every little bit of contact with the language helps to cement my existing knowledge.
Here's what I try to do every day, though I don't always manage it:
- Transcribe something. A few lines from a menu, or a list of Chinese dish names from a cookbook. Anything that gets me looking at Chinese characters, figuring out what they are, and typing them into my computer.
- Five minutes or so on Skritter. I've posted about Skritter before; this is an online tool that lets you specify lists of Chinese characters that you'd like to learn to write, and uses spaced repetition theory to test you at the optimal time for remembering.
- Work through anything due on Anki. I've posted about Anki before as well; this is a flashcard program that again uses spaced repetition to work out when to test you. When I learn a new character or dish name, I enter it into Anki, and Anki takes care of making sure I don't forget it.
- Do some LiveMocha. I haven't posted about LiveMocha yet, but I will do at some point. It's a community-based language-learning site that gives you basic lessons in your chosen language, and lets you submit written and spoken exercises for assessment by native speakers. It's not at all useful for learning menu vocabulary, but I'm learning some very basic Mandarin grammar from it which I hope will eventually be useful in letting me read Chinese-language cookbooks and so on.
- Watch an episode of 天天飲食. This is a daily cookery programme shown on China Central Television; it's around 8 minutes long, in Mandarin, and subtitled in simplified Chinese characters. I find it helpful on multiple levels; it shows me how a particular dish is made, it shows me various preparation and cooking techniques, it gets me used to hearing the sounds of Mandarin, and it gets me used to seeing sentences of written Chinese. I can't get the channel here, but fans of the programme upload episodes on YouTube, and I watch it there.
If you've got any suggestions for anything else I should be doing, I'd love to hear them.