Tag Archive: learning

Back to Basics

I had to take a break from Chinese. I continued to watch Chinese films and the CCTV channels regularly while dedicating my soul to GMAT revision. As it turns out, I took the exam and failed miserably. I will therefore be retaking the GMAT in July/August and will go back to my Chinese lessons.

I realise that I have a a wealth of information and a wide range of material to choose from for my Chinese learning. However, I discovered that nothing makes me more confident than starting a book and finishing it. That is what I intend to do with my ‘METHODE 90 Chinois’ for beginners book on learning Chinese for French speakers. There are exactly 90 lessons in this book of which I have finished 15 chapters, but that was over 3 months ago. My task for the month of June is to review all my lessons, and reach chapter 45 by end of July.

That said, my task for this weekend is to draw up a timetable in which I will divide my day among active GMAT studies (Verbal and Quantitative), work, Chinese and I am adding Spanish to the mix. My Spanish book is the ‘METHODE 90 espagnol’ for beginners for French speakers.

My task for the month of June 2012 is to finish:

  • all 8 MGMAT books
  • go through the forums on GMATCLUB.com <– not exploiting this resource is one of the main reasons for failing.
  • 20 chapters in the Chinese book
  • > 20 chapters in the Spanish book

My goal is to develop a routine and change my learning method. I opted for a learning method that is similar to Spaced Learning. I must emphasise that the most import aspect in learning anything is keeping to a schedule that has an end and a beginning. There is no point in spending hours learning something, it could prove to be counterproductive. In my case, I know that I spent too many long hours learning and not enough on recalling and then applying. Today, I am doing things differently and the GMATCLUB.com is a very inspiring site.

For those living on the African continent with access to DSTV, we now have eight Chinese speaking channels instead of three. Isn’t that great??? My family though does not appreciate the beauty of the Mandarin language 🙂 I think it is a form of torture to them… ha!



In response to Richard’s question:

“Here’s the 1,000 dollar question: if you had to learn Hausa or Igbo, what resources would you use if you weren’t living in Nigeria?”

My answer will also include Yoruba, the third official language of Nigeria.

For both Igbo and Yoruba, there is a large community of Nigerians in the USA, UK and France. Igbos are fervent Christians and mainly Catholics while Yorubas are Christians and Muslims (50/50). Therefore, find those churches or mosques and be a part of the religious community and in time you will find someone happy to teach you Igbo or Yoruba.

If you are a student at university or you live close to a student campus, chances are there will be a Nigerian society group. You can definitely check them out and you may just find Hausas in the group.

Hausas are predominantly muslims and as a foreign born and bred Nigerian, I was only aware of one Hausa girl in my boarding school history (10 years). A rare event that is becoming more and more common today. When you meet Nigerians in Western states, chances are that the majority will be Igbo, Yoruba or half Hausa but like I said things are changing. Dubai should be an interesting place to meet all three ethnic groups! Remember that as a man, it would be best to seek out male Hausas and as a woman seek out female Hausas to be on the safe side. 🙂

My other advice is to watch Nollywood films and they are available in Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, you will learn a lot about the culture  but it would be best to have a basic grasp of the language because the subtitles will provoke tears of laughter and distract you from what is actually happening in the film.

If I had to rate the languages by accessibility, Igbo and Yoruba are on a par, while Hausa will demand a lot more effort if you want to meet Hausas and interact with them.

Apart from church or films, I really don’t know how one goes about learning these languages.

There are lessons you could take at the SOAS university in London, UK. They have Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo evening courses. INALCO university in Paris, France also offers lessons but only for degree seeking kids. There must be the equivalent in the USA, I am thinking Georgetown university, Cleveland State university,  Texas university and UCLA. I know that Atlanta has a crazy number of Nigerians living, working and studying there and you will definitely find someone.

Livemocha or any such site could be the next step, there is potential. Since the speakers of these languages are to be found in Africa, the internet penetration rate is low, this means you might not find many XXX speakers on the internet let alone on Livemocha.

In conclusion, these languages are difficult primarily because a lot of the self-learning resources available for Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa may not be as satisfactory as what is available for learning Japanese, French or Russian. This is unfortunate but it is the reality for now.

I hope I answered your question 🙂

Fulani-Hausa girl

Jump into it and hang on because everything you do counts


I am two months into my one year journey and I am going strong. I am not discouraged in any way and I cannot go a day without hearing Chinese or writing Hanzi.

I was browsing the internet and I came across an article entitled: ‘How to learn a foreign language?’ I remember reading many similar posts in the past on this matter and my only observation was: the time spent reading such articles could have been invested in learning the language of my choice. There is no magic bullet. Just like it takes at least 28 days for the concrete foundation of a building to cure, it also takes time for you to adapt to your new language. This may be 10 days for some or 90 days for others. Who cares, just start.

I still spend more time on other things than learning Chinese but I have set a few daily goals. The difficulty I encounter is ensuring I accomplish my daily goals and not ensuring I learn Chinese.   What do I mean by this? Well sometimes, I don’t want to pick up my Chinese book or listen to Chinese lessons but I train myself to do so. Sometimes I pick up the books and I start reading and learning and I just won’t stop. So I train myself to set the time and stop once I have done my two hours of Chinese. My two hours of daily Chinese can be divided into 30 minute sessions. The essential thing is that I get my two hours of lessons per day because this is approximately the time it takes to accomplish my Chinese tasks. Sometimes I finish earlier than planned, so what do I do? Well I let go and stop.

As you can see, my greatest hurdle is discipline. Seen from this angle, I think I am embarking on a journey that will make me into a more efficient being, a journey that should boost my confidence and the way I perform.

As an individual, I would describe myself as somewhat disorganised, full of energy, a list maker and time traveller (I often day dream and I like to do so). That is my nature and I embrace it. What I am doing is trying to find a way to use these traits to my advantage. I know that when I am at my best, learning is easy as ABC. When I am at my lowest, I am struggling with myself. Just like you would not force a child to do what s/he does not want to do and instead you adapt, I am learning to do exactly that with myself. I am only human…

The Language Learning Lab investigates how infants learn from statistical regularities in the language they hear and the nature of what they learn.

The Language Learning Lab investigates how infants learn from statistical regularities in the language they hear and the nature of what they learn.

My real goal is to always make the time to learn my languages, always have the ability to adapt my routine to my life. Therefore the trial and error period I am going through is not a waste of my time. From what I understand, it is the time I need to build the foundation for a lifetime of personal satisfaction.

I am certain that in the future, I’ll be able to apply this acquired discipline and time management skill to learning another language, the violin, to ride a camel and the list goes on.

Yes, this learning experience is turning out to be a lesson in life

So Confucius what is your take?

Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”



Previous post

Next post


In a nutshell:  An activity that is time consuming (learning Chinese) is different from an activity that is hard (can’t think of one right now).


The greatest frustration for me with learning Chinese is that there are four different skills to master:

  1. Reading
  2. Listening
  3. Speaking
  4. Writing

Listening, this skill exists in all languages. So what is the problem? The problem is there are sooooo many accents out there. If you find a radio station or TV channel that you are comfortable with then stick to it for awhile. When you are ready change channels and you will soon discover that you are hearing Chinese but it is not the Chinese you have been training yourself for. Adaptation is key and patience is vital.

Reading is in my opinion the most straightforward activity. By reading I mean sight reading and not translating. Chinese is like learning music, you learn the building blocks and within minutes the Hanzi start smiling at you and that creates the ‘ah ha!’ moment. I feel the most rewarding activity is the reading. The time you put into learning characters quickly translates into reading possibilities. Then you build on this little by little. Learning characters becomes less and less time consuming but it is quickly replaced by learning words which are more demanding than individual characters.

Speaking, well that’s a different kettle of fish. I am starting to think that speaking Chinese is not the same thing as speaking Spanish, not that I thought they were the same, I am just trying to show you how optimistic I was.  Within a couple of weeks of learning Spanish you can string a variety of sentences to say the same thing. In Chinese I am still stuck with one or two versions of a particular sentence, I just don’t know how to be creative with Mandarin. It may help that my native languages are not related in any way to Chinese. One could argue that English and Mandarin have similar word order, the similarities for now stop there.

Writing is closely linked to Reading. The more I work on deconstructing a word and taking my time on this ‘time consuming’ aspect of Mandarin learning, the easier it is to recall characters, then words, then sentences. It is also important to practise what the French call ‘dictée’. We use to do this once or twice weekly in my French primary school. Our French literature teacher would select several passages from a book we were studying, for example ‘Le petit Nicolas’. She would read it aloud and we would write it down. At the end of the exercise we submitted it to her/him or our classmate for correction.

Did this exercise help? In French it helped improve my spelling and grammar and gave me a solid foundation. Could this help in Chinese? I think so, I think a little bit of dictée on a weekly basis may keep the language forgetting monster at bay.

Q. What do you think?

Reasons why your child should not be learning Chinese.

I think that before buying Chinese language lessons for your child, who I am assuming is not of Chinese descent, parents should set the example and study Chinese too and show interest in the culture.

San Zi Jing


I was looking for Chinese language texts to read as a way to learn and understand characters as well as pick up some culture.

I found the San Zi Jing

‘The San Zi Jing was written in the 13th century to instruct children in the basics of Confucian principles, history, philosophy, and to brain wash them into working hard and striving to do their best. It is attributed to Wang Yinlin ( 1223-1296), a noted scholar of the Song dynasty. It was used as we use Grimm or perhaps the Little Golden Books; as a basic primer for pre-literate children’.

What is it about?

‘The San Zi Jing provided a chain of culture and knowledge that linked centuries of children. The children most often learned the San Zi Jing before they could even read a character. Even if the child did not become a scholar, they knew the basics of the culture and were instructed in filial piety, the need to work hard, and a respect for the classics. Even today, children in China read and learn from the San Zi Jing’.

The translation, hanzi and pinyin are all available. I don’t know how I’ll use this resource but it seems like something to do to train my reading skills. My tailored lessons train my comprehension skills, I now need to find something to train my speaking skills on a regular basis. I am thinking that I should sit down and find a long term Chinese language exchange partner. Will see how that goes.