Building a 'learning habit' and Memrise. (Flashcard based language learning.)

Hey everyone!

I want to share my thoughts and some tips I've picked up during my own Chinese learning experience.
I haven't contributed to this site in a long time, the last time I did, I was plodding through language study on my own living in Brighton, UK (2010/2011). Now I am living in Beijing, China.

I have found that the best way to learn Chinese is to build a habit. You need to stick with your learning process until it becomes a routine, a habit. Something that you do a little or a lot of, everyday. 
I am guilty of it myself, sitting on Chinese blogs (like now), moaning about studying, complaining about it not sinking in, having discussions and debates over word uses, getting distracted by this website, then this book, and then a different BETTER website and a different BETTER book! 

Simply for me,  the only way you are going to learn Chinese, is to use it, and create a habit. Not through amassing a ton of different techniques and talking about them. 

I haven't posted in a long time, and I want to post now because I am excited about a resource I found awhile back and have recently stuck with. It is a language learning website called Memrise. It has really reinforced my belief about picking a set amount of resources and sticking with them.
I'm sure you have all head about it before. It is a flashcard based learning platform for many languages including Chinese mandarin. It is based on you owning and growing your own word garden.

You plant some words, harvest them , then water them. Learn, revise, review. The website helps get those characters, pinyin and sounds into your long term memory, it tests your memory and then let's you know when you should next study them again (Watering). The better you get at answering the correct questions, the less you will be tested on a word. Some words don't pop up for months, but don't worry, you surprise yourself with how great your recall is. You can also add your own memes (Pictures, sayings, graphics to help you make an association with the word to remember it.) or collect ready made ones.

Memrise's teaching pattern is unlike anything I have ever used. I have incorporated it into my daily life, and it has become my habit, not a passing fancy or light hobby. I have email notifications to let me know when it is time to harvest (revise) my newly planted words, and when it is time to water (review) the old ones. 

I cannot explain the difference this has made in my day to day life here in Beijing. After my first week of using Memrise, I was able to order a ton of food, not get lost, and actually feel like an adult human being out here. 

They are still working on improvements, but the creators listen and work hand in hand with the site users, they still use numbers for tones, but i'm sure this will change in the near future, and it is worth putting up with. There are useful busy forums, and the community is brilliant. 

Oh also... IT'S FREE.

That's all from me now :) Thank's for listening to my excited ramble.

Jay

P.s. By all means go on blogs, share knowledge and discuss! But don't always count that as your study time! Interaction and exploration of the language and it's resources is incredibly important, but it can also be used as an excuse to not actually do any study and put new words into your brain. 

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Comment by sikora on March 19, 2013 at 10:22pm

Great tip!  Habits are definitely key.  I've also wrestled with the amount of time I spend talking about Mandarin online as opposed to the time I actually spend learning Mandarin.  I'm a language teacher so I've got a bit of an excuse because I need to keep current with methods and technology.  But it has occurred to me that I could be a lot further along if I had simply just hunkered down with one textbook series from the beginning and stuck with it instead of jumping around online. 

But, I will say, for me, the online communities are wonderful.  I've never been to Asia and I only have a few acquaintances here in the States that speak Mandarin.  Self-study, especially when you're isolated from the culture, can start to seem pointless because you never use the language with anybody.  So, I think forming good study habits is essential.  But when it comes to learning languages, communication, even if you're just talking about the language, validates all your studying.  

 

Comment by Anh Gau Pham on March 19, 2013 at 11:09am

Very nice. Thank you Jade for this wonderful tip about Memrise. I have shared it with hundreds of my Facebook friends who appreciate the site as much as I do. I found out it's a creation with a Princeton connection, from which I graduated, so I am very proud. 

Comment by Sherri Harber on March 18, 2013 at 9:10pm
小玉- Very interesting! 我也学习memrise at your suggestion! It is an excellent resource and the points about habit forming are so true. I am now beating you by the way! Heh heh
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Comment by Brandon on March 14, 2013 at 6:43am

Hey Jade - Great post! I really think you make some important points, especially about the importance of habits. I think it's one of the most important pieces that many self-studying learners struggle with. Thanks for writing.

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