A site for those learning to read Chinese. 

The information below is from the above site:


Welcome! You are here to review strategies for learning language. A “strategy” is a method or approach to learning. Applying different strategies may help you achieve success with improving your language skills. Learning strategies are organized below into five numbered categories. Click on the links to learn more about each category. Click on the Click to See Examples next to a learning strategy to see examples.

1. Getting information into your memory.

  • Make lists of vocabulary words, and read through them a couple times.
  • Remember a new word by what how it sounds.
  • Group new items by meaning or function, so that they are associated with each other and/or with a concept.
  • Connect new items to something they remind you of.
  • Take notes to clarify and create associations.
  • Group word sets by subcategory to add information that may help you remember.
  • Use images and pictures to create connection.
  • Take a set of words and phrases to build a story (alone or in a group with other learners).

2.  Getting information out of your memory

  • Find out information for yourself using inductive reasoning (going from specific to general).
  • Make and test hypotheses to add to your associations, network of meaning, and experience linkages.
Interaction with Others:
  • Interact with native speakers to create a rich network of tangible experiences.

3.  Managing your feelings

  • Get perspective on your situation.
  • Reframe your mistakes.
  • Manage stress.
  • Get away from a stressful learning task.
  • Find what you like.
  • Change what you don’t like.
  • Chunk big tasks into smaller ones.
  • Look at your successes.

4. Managing Your Learning

  • Set goals for learning.
  • Plan. Think about how to plan your learning.
  • Monitor. Keep an eye and ear on what you are doing and how well it seems to be working.
  • Evaluate. From time to time, take a more systematic view of what you’re doing.
  • Re-plan. Start the process again.

5. Making meaning by using the language

  • Analyze. Take information apart.
  • Synthesize. Put information together.
  • Experience the language. Use what you learn.
  • Negotiate meaning directly by means of phrases like ‘I don’t quite get what you mean,’ or ‘Do you actually mean to say that?,’ or ‘No, that isn’t what I meant.
  • Negotiate indirectly by evaluating others’ responses to what you say or write.
  • Use inferences and read between the lines.
  • Verify your guesses.
  • Compensate. Fill gaps in knowledge or experience.
  • Vary your strategies.
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1. Getting information into your memory.

These are the ways you make sure that information gets into your brain and stays there. A useful way to look at these techniques is to evaluate whether they are surface or deep strategies.
  • Surface strategies are those you use when you don’t need to make a major cognitive investment in what you are trying to remember. Surface strategies are usually not very helpful for remembering things for more than a short time.
  • Deep strategies are the ones you use to make linkages among what you are trying to learn and other things such as other concepts, images, sounds, and so on. The denser the network of links between the new item and other things, the more likely you are to remember the new item. Common deep strategies are:
    • Association: This is almost literally making links, directly.
    • Elaboration: This is an indirect way of making links, through adding more to what you are learning. Most elaboration consists of material that is more familiar to you than what you are learning.
      • Discovery: A special kind of elaboration is finding it out for yourself. This is something that inductive learners tend to do on their own, fairly naturally. At some mental level, the process of induction that they have used to figure out the new item and how it works, and the hypotheses they have made, tested, and may still have unresolved, all add to the associations and network of meaning and experience linkages.
      • Interaction with Others: Activities with others in the language you are learning are likely to create a very rich network of links, many of them very tangible and experiential-visual, auditory, situational, kinesthetic, olfactory, emotional.
Deep strategies do not happen automatically. You need to keep your eyes and ears open and think about what you are hearing or reading.
  • Play with new material.
  • Try it out.
  • See what happens if you change a form or use a synonym.
  • Ask native speakers if what you say means what you want it to say.
  • Focus on one or two things that you are interested in improving or learning, listen for them and their variants, and try them out.
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2. Getting information out of your memory.

Once you have gotten something into longer term memory (see Getting Information into your memory), it will not do you any good unless you can retrieve it from storage. There are two main ways that people retrieve what they have learned, recognition and recall. Recognition is normally easier than recall, because for the former, you only have to make a yes/no choice (this is or is not the thing I’m looking for). For recall, you have to dredge it up with relatively little cuing from memory.
  • Recognition: This is what happens when you see or hear an item you have learned and say (at least) ‘this is familiar’ or (more extensive memory) ‘yes, I know this and exactly what it means.’
    • Multiple choice items in learning activities and tests take advantage of recognition to take away some of the effort that would be involved in recall so that more can go into doing something with the item, even if it is only selecting it from a list.
    • Retrieval in reading and listening is usually recognition. The item is provided on the page or in the listening passage or conversation, and your primary tasks are to remember that you have it in your inventory and interpret it as appropriate to the context in which it occurs.
  • Recall: Recall is calling something back from your mental storage area so that you can use it for production, either in speaking or writing. Your network of links that was created when you learned the item (and which gets richer every time you hear, read, or use it), is your best path back to the item. Thus, the more associations and elaborations you have for an item, the more quickly it will come back for you to use. For example:
    • You want to describe the route to take by car to go shopping. Your language has several different verbs for kinds of motion, and you need to select and use the correct one for this situation. Perhaps you have learned them by associating a simple picture with each verb. Then, if the verb does not come immediately to mind, you will bring up an image, which may trigger the word.
The techniques you have used to get the item into memory will be the key to retrieving them. The more links in the memory network the item has, the more the paths you can use to track your way back to it. So if you forget one path, you have alternatives. If you have made associations with something you already know, you will start from the more familiar thing. If you have elaborated, you may start from the added material to get to the new material.
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3. Managing your feelings

When you are learning something new, your feelings can make a big difference to how effectively you use your abilities. When you are anxious, you may lose capacity. Conversely, feeling motivated and able to accomplish a task can make the whole process come more easily. The sets of feelings for this purpose are:
  • Anxiety: This is fear: of failure, of looking bad, of disappointing a teacher or yourself, etc. It can eat up your ability to take in, retrieve, and use the language you are learning, because so many of your resources are devoted to self-protection. You may find yourself avoiding useful learning because of the potential (perceived) threat to your sense of well-being. Here are some of the things you can do to manage your anxiety and stress:
    • Get perspective: Get some distance from your situation. See yourself in the light of next year, or five years from now. Will this be so important then?
    • Reframe: Turn your lemons into lemonade. For example, when you make mistakes, keep in mind that if you aren’t making mistakes, you are probably playing it too safe and may not be learning much. That’s much more productive than beating yourself up for not remembering.
    • Manage stress: Notice what happens when you start getting stressed out. Do you begin to have a short fuse? Do you shut down? Learn these signs, and when they begin to show up, be prepared to take steps to reduce the stress. Talk with a friend. One of the most important ways to manage stress is to …
    • Get away from it: If you are in a class, a short bathroom break may do it. In other cases, you may need a weekend or more. Take a study break and so something you enjoy. (You can also use this as a reward for accomplishing a task you set yourself.)
  • Motivation: This is the desire to do something, because there is a reward or punishment (extrinsic motivation) or because it makes you feel good to do it (intrinsic motivation). Motivation is a powerful force for or against learning. If you are motivated, you will put up with more of the frustration that is inevitable in learning something new, especially something as complex and seemingly endless as a new language. If you lack motivation, you are likely to give up faster and take fewer learning risks.
  • Self-efficacy: This is the sense you have that you can accomplish a task. Something like the power of suggestion, it changes your point of view of setbacks. (Everyone has setbacks when learning something new.) If you don’t have a good sense of self efficacy, you may attribute setbacks to being ‘no good at this.’ On the other hand, if you do think you can do it, setbacks will seem like temporary obstacles to be overcome, and you will think of ways to do that. For example:
    • Chunk: If the task seems overwhelming, break it down into pieces you think you can accomplish. Instead of trying to learn all the noun cases for recall and production (speaking and writing), start with recognition, and try for one or two for production. If a reading passage is very long, first see what you can get out of the first and last paragraphs. Success breeds more success.
    • Look at your successes: There’s nothing like taking a look at what you were trying to learn at an earlier stage of your learning, e.g., a few weeks or months ago. Notice how easy it sounds. That’s what it will be like later, when you come back to what is giving you trouble now.
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4. Managing your learning

One of the things teachers often do for students is they organize their learning for them. They provide a syllabus, have lesson plans, and assign homework. If you don’t have a teacher, you have to do this for yourself. In fact, even if you do have a teacher, you need to do quite a lot of this yourself, because no teacher can structure learning ideally for all of his or her learners. Managing your own learning is also called ‘self-regulation,’ and research suggests that it is a key to successful learning. Furthermore, the more you can regulate yourself, the more you can keep learning when you leave the classroom, and the more effectively you can work while you have a teacher. Managing your learning involves a four-step cycle:
  • Setting goals: Decide what you want to get out of your learning. It’s better if you can be fairly specific; for example, it’s not very helpful to say ‘I want to learn Spanish.’ Instead, it would be better to say, ‘I want to learn Spanish in order to negotiate contracts for Embassy housing.’ At an even more detailed level, you might say, ‘I want to learn how you express these ideas about contracts in Spanish.’
  • Planning: Now that you know what you want to do, think about how you are going to do it. Do you need to get more information (e.g., grammar, or how you greet a business contact, or how long to make social small talk before getting down to business)? What are the possible steps you can take to get what you need? What are your resources (textbooks, helpful native speakers, grammars, dictionaries, the Internet, etc.)? What sequence do you think will be helpful to you in using these lists?
  • Monitoring: Keep an eye and ear on what you are doing and how well it seems to be working. Notice how you feel, so you can keep motivation up and anxiety under control. If you seem to be going off track, change course. It might help to keep a learning journal that serves as a kind of conversation with yourself.
  • Evaluating: From time to time, take a more systematic view of what you’re doing. What seems to be working well? Does it always work? When does it and when does it not? What isn’t worth the time and energy it costs you? Is there a different way to do it? Do your activities fit in with your goals? What’s worth keeping, what should be changed, and what should be dropped? Are there some new things you can try?
  • Replanning (start process again): Think again about how you are going to go about your changed plan. Set up sequences of activities or revise existing ones, if you need sequences. Then go and try it and go through the same cycle, over and over again.
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5. Making meaning by using the language

Making meaning is another way to refer to making sense of things. The sense may be of language structure (which has a major impact on meaning), of the content of a listening passage, or of things you hear and say in conversation, for example. Making meaning is in fact what it means to actuallyuse language.
While you are ‘making meaning,’ you are also ‘getting it in’ and ‘getting it back.’ Language use provides all sorts of opportunities to get exposure to language items, make linkages between them and other things, recognize them when you hear or see them again, and try to use them. There are a great many things that come under making meaning; these are some common examples:
  • Analysis: Take it apart. What are the bits and pieces? How do they fit together? What changes can you make and still have something that makes sense to a speaker of the language? How do those changes shift the meaning? Break up words into prefixes, roots, and suffixes. What are the interchangeable parts of a sentence? What is the sequence of a narrative story structure?
  • Synthesis: Put it together. Make up sentences, using material you are learning. Put together stories. Write a sequel to a new item you have read (make it up). Combine new and old material into something completely new.
  • Experience: Use it. Look and listen. What happens when you try something? If it’s causing misunderstanding, figure out what’s wrong (ask a native speaker if you can) and try to fix it. Are you always conveying what you want to indicate? Are you getting what a speaker or author is trying to say?
  • Negotiating meaning: An important aspect of using language is the negotiation that takes place to clarify meaning. Even among native speakers, meaning is negotiated all the time: ‘I don’t quite get what you mean,’ or ‘Do you actually mean to say that�,’ or ‘No, that isn’t what I meant.’ As a non-native learner of a foreign language, you will be negotiating meaning all the time, but directly by means of phrases like the ones above, or indirectly by evaluating the responses you get to what you say or write.
  • Inferencing: Sometimes you have to figure out meaning that isn’t stated directly. What are the cues that indicate that someone is saying something indirectly? (For example, in English, we often talk about ‘our friend’ when we don’t want others to know who is the subject of our conversation.) What are the words that indicate emotion, how someone feels about what they are talking about. They might not say outright that they are angry, but they might well cast their descriptions of something in negative terms, or attribute ill will to a person they are angry with. Another term for making inferences is ‘reading between the lines’: that is, picking up something that is unsaid directly but possibly implicit in what is said or written. Keep in mind that an inference is a guess and is therefore subject to verification.
  • Compensation: Compensation strategies are usually ways to fill gaps in knowledge or experience. For example, if you don’t know a word, find one that is similar in meaning, look for another way to express your idea, or use a general, ‘whatchamacallit’ type of word. If you are listening to material that is full of language you don’t know, listen for the things you do know, make educated guesses, and ignore the details.
  • Varying your strategies: If you keep doing the same things over and over to learn, you may find them becoming stale, and you may be missing out on some good techniques that would make your learning more effective.
    • One good way to find new strategies is to look up the ones that are suggested for learning preferences opposite to yours. So for example, if you prefer to learn by looking at the big picture first, try starting with the specifics and work up. That might give you a new picture of what you are working on.
    • Most of the time in LangNet, you are working through a sequence of preparatory activities to help you get everything from a text or passage. Try pulling up a content object and reading it with no preparation at all. Do it first without a dictionary, then go back and read in more detail. How much can you get? If you do this from time to time, you’ll get better at it.
    • Observe or talk to other learners. Are they doing something you’d like to try?