What will change the most in Chinese Language Learning in the next 5-10 years?

It's prediction time... What do you think will change the most in learning Chinese in the next 5-10 years? It can be anything and there's no wrong answer, just what do you think?

It could be related to things like...

  • New web / mobile applications
  • Different testing methodology
  • More foreigners learning impacts the teaching methods
  • Foreigners learning from a younger age
  • Changes to pinyin / character system
  • Others...?

Feel free to reply in English or Chinese.

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This is a provocative question and I've been thinking about it for a while now.  It's just so hard to predict the future!  Here are my two picks:

  1. tech kills the textbook
  2. speaking with natives online becomes more productive

1. One of the most fantastic things about technology is that it can be responsive to an individual's needs.  I think that as time goes on, the linear format of textbooks will become obsolete.  Technology will be able to guide a learner through the process much more effectively.  

2. I think the real power of the internet still lies in its most fundamental use: the ability to connect people.  I've never met any of you in real life, yet here we all are, sharing ideas, giving suggestions, helping each other out.  It's really very touching.  You can click off this page and talk to someone in China right now if you wanted to practice your Chinese.  But, for some reason, that's not always so easy.  I've found that online language exchange (at least for me and I'm guessing for most native English speakers) isn't usually a good use of time: connections are bad, language abilities vary, conversations fall flat.  English speakers usually find themselves teaching English as opposed to practicing the language they want to learn.  This is especially true for beginners.  So, I think in the future there will be a standardized way to approach online language exchange that will make the experience more productive for both people, regardless of ability level.   

I think it's not just about learning Chinese. With new tech and new discovery in science, it'll be easier to learn a new language than old times. Of course, you need to invest a LOT of time in learning any language. But science does help. For example, Ebbinghaus discovered this Forgetting Curve. It helps people to remember things. For learning language, a big part is to remember. With new tech, all the smart phones, tablet PC, so you can use APP and study at any time. With online community, you study with other people, it can motivate you too.

Also when people now all realized how benefit to know more languages, they will put it on the next generation too. And learning a new language is MUCH easier for kids than adults. So these kids spend much less time to master another language than adults. When these kids grow up, they'll bring a world with better communication. Generation after generation I believe the World Village will come true~

Is there a good study somewhere which outlines how we know that kids spend less time learning than adults?

I hear this all the time, but I wonder whether if you take language progress of a full time study adult versus a child, would they make more progress in one year?  Why does it take children so many years to be able to read the newspaper (in any language) if that is the case?

I think it's more about listening and speaking, like to sense this language. I was reading this:


Does it mean if you start early enough, can take both languages as your first language?

Yeah, sure. I had a friend in Memphis who was a Native American although his mother was Greek. He joined the service and was stationed in Korea, where he met his wife. They returned to the States and had a kid. The Korean and Greek grandmother, both moved in to help raise the kid. BTW neither of them could speak English. Up until the kid was four, she spoke jibberish and my friend was really worried until one day, she started speaking Korean to the Korean grandmother; Greek to the Greek grandmother and English to my friend. Kinda cool.

Ohhhh this is really cool~~

That is a good question. I'm not familiar with any studies about that in particular, but I do know that the prevalent idea is that second language acquisition is a lot more like first language than previously thought. 

It's probably very difficult to compare the two with any kind of accuracy.  Kids are full time language learners, 24-7, with no opportunity to quit and decide on some other hobby.  This is almost never the case with an adult learning a second language.  Conversely, adults have the edge when it comes to reading and writing because of previous experience and fine motor control.  

My own thought is that if it were possible to compare, with accuracy,  the time it takes a child to learn a language to an adult, the results would be similar.  Of course, it's impossible to recreate the mental state and environment that a child is learning in for an adult: adults are likely to be more inhibited, have less exposure to the language and more interference from their first language.  But overall, I think the process in more similar than different.

Big topic.  Here are some thoughts and examples of emerging technologies that are exploring these areas actively.

1. Live vocabularies - you won't just use an SRS to go through textbooks, but your SRS will know what you know and will guide your study to lessons that will expand your vocabulary in an i+1 manner (extending you just past what you know).  Textbooks will become obsolete - at least in a linear, chapter by chapter form.  Your SRS will be able to find sentences, paragraphs, videos and more for you to read, all by itself (LWT, FluentU)

2. Remote feedback and lessons - Skype, video/audio recording (both teachers and learners) and rapid online feedback will mean your teacher can be anywhere anytime, and you can submit your homework via multiple means.   Your teacher will know your Live Vocabulary progress and can explain & correct your progress according to what you've explored on your own (italki, Chinesepod Tasks)

3. Better computer assisted learning for listening and speaking - today we get most of our technology to assist with reading, but you could get coached on recognizing or producing tones correctly, repeating parts of speech, or even comprehension and response using a voice recording/playback/comparison (ChinesePod record/playback feature,  TipTapTones)  

4. Gamification - the power of addictive technology will be unleashed- watching TV that teaches you as it goes, games that require learning as you go, learning tools that challenge and reward and rank against friends to release dopamine and keep you coming back for more (AJATT Neutrino)

5. Memory - better use of adult learning oriented memorization techniques (visualization, emotional connection, etc) will start to change learners perceptions on what is possible for them to learn and how they should use their study time.  (Read: Moonwalking with Einstein)  

6. Touch Character Drawing - Learning to write characters (not pinyin) will come back in as it's made easier to learn and easier to input on ubiquitous touch devices (Skritter)

7. Free Online Video Classes - Four years of university course-ware online for nothing from brand name universities (Khan Academy).

As iPads, Tablets and Kindles, etc improve so will language books that will become interactive in look up, translation, pronunciation and feedback.  Desktop computer language resources will also improve since most mobile devices already have Desktop computer "readers".  OCR will improve as will speech recognition software.  At some time in the future there is a good chance due to globalization that all languages will adopt a 26+ character set with tone marked vowels and all languages will appear " pinyin - like " including European languages even if an expanded set of Latin letters and Arabic numbers are chosen.  Vietnamese is an example of an extended Latin alphabet with tonal marks.

At some point there will be, simply because there has to be, a new generation of grammar books based on a reworking of grammar.

At the moment a high percentage of what is thrust a us gives us verbs, adjectives, sentences, etc., European terms all, and Chinese shoved and bent nto the shapes these categories require.

It's not wrong, just half baked and rather silly.


I don't know if anyone mentioned this but I think the most important change for me is I no longer need to learn how to write Chinese characters thanks to the availability of typing programs that convert pinyin to hanzi. That will reduce the time needed to "learn" the language at least by half. Handwriting is out for most languages but this is especially helpful for learners of Chinese. One still needs to recognize the characters though.

Hey Anh Gau Pham,

I agree that this is potentially a big time saver.  But for me, I found that I  could only get so far with visually identifying hanzi.  I needed to remember all the subtle details that distinguish similar characters from one another, for example, 特 as in 特别 and 持 as in 保持.  For me, the easiest way to do this is to make myself write the character from memory.  Otherwise, I find that when I'm reading I get easily confused and I spend too much time looking up the character, which I'm likely to forget anyway.  Do you have a different experience with learning Mandarin?     


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