Sunday, October 9, 2011

中文 - Week 1 (New Practical Chinese Reader 1)

Welcome to my Weekly Mandarin Journal which chronicles my weekly activities in learning the language. The book I am using is the New Practical Chinese Reader 1 by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press. It would be nice if you could buy a copy of the book so we can study together and you could have access to the vocabulary lists and dialogues included in the CD. I bought my copy at the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Manila Professional Schools here in Makati. I am going to document my learning of Chinese Characters, a whole week would be dedicated for the Chinese characters involved in each chapter. I will not be providing pinyin, instead just refer to the video for the pronunciation. This is not a Mandarin language learning program and I am no teacher. This is a personalized journal of my Mandarin language journey, and the target audience would be other students of Mandarin, beginners if possible. If you are an advanced learner, kindly give us tips and correct some of the errors we are bound to make, especially with the tone. Your feedback is important to us since books could not teach all. Let’s start! But before we do please watch the video after or while reading, it’s meant to complement the content of this blog article. If you watch just the video and not read, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. Volume 1 of the book has 14 lessons. I only study Monday to Friday, two weeks for each lesson, which means it will take us 140 days or 28 weeks to finish the whole book. Target end date is April 13, 2012.

MONDAY: Lesson One - 你好
Today was all about greetings. I decided to just listen to the dialogue over and over again to focus on the way it is pronounced. I’ve realized that my previous Mandarin learning experiences have not been effective because I was always in a rush and I did not really pay attention to my pronunciation, which is important because tones are hard to learn! So today, in the video, I just read the dialogue. I hope someone could tell me if I read them right. I just followed what I heard on the CD. Basic greetings? 你好 is “Hello!” Actually, it literally means, “You good?” to which you answer the same way meaning “You good!” Either way it is a form of greeting and most likely to be the first set expression you’ll ever learn to say. If you add that little particle it becomes a question. According to the book, this expression is used to greet someone you have not seen for a long time. The answer is a simple 我很好 which means to say “I am well.” This is usually followed by 你呢? which roughly translates to “And you?” instead of repeating the whole question. You could then reply with 也很好 replacing the “I” with “also” since it is already known in the context that you are talking about yourself.

TUESDAY: Lesson One - 你好
Today is all about tones. I just read the words in the vocab list over and over again in the video. I wish my efforts won’t be in vain considering how I suck at this. I blame these tones for my slow progress in this language! Hahaha. There is no need to spell anything out here since most of the words are repeated ad nauseam in the video with their respective meanings. If constant repetition is the answer, then I am willing to do it so I could master these tones!

WEDNESDAY: Lesson One - 你好
I studied the notes today. It is basically just a review and nothing much. Since the video is for the practice of pronunciation and tones, let us just discuss the notes here where the key expressions are always displayed. For this chapter we have four. We’ve already met 你好 which is the most common greeting that roughly translates to “Hello”. 你好吗 is more of a question used when you have not seen someone for quite some time. 你呢?is “and you?” while 也很好 means “I am also fine!” So what really happened today was just a review of Monday’s lesson.

THURSDAY: Lesson One - 你好
Today I did the exercises. There were three. Easy ones. This is chapter one. And this is my third time to read this book. It gets more complicated, I promise. Difficult! Anyway, chapter one is very basic and the words to memorize are very few and most of them are repeated in various expressions. However, starting chapter two there would be more new words. Scary. I think practice pays off in the end, specially for a tonal language like Mandarin.

FRIDAY: Lesson One - 你好
Tone Sandhi! If the dipping tone (the one which when I use my head follows, haha) is followed by another dipping tone, the first one becomes a high tone. I guess it is just apt for it to be that way since it would be a roller coaster in your tongue if you have to go up and down in such short intervals! The grammar section was easier and very short. It just tells you that a sentence in Mandarin has two sections, a subject and a predicate. The word order is similar to that of English, which is mostly Subject-Verb-Object. Yahoo, no declensions! But there are tones... Damn.

See you on next weekend! For next week I would still be covering lesson one but it would be on writing Chinese Characters. Get your pens or brushes ready! The goal is to pass the lowest level of the HSK in September 2012! =)

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