Resources or Techniques for both Learning (and Remembering) Chinese words

For two months I've been fortunate to live in Wuxi, Jiangsu. It is big enough to have a convenient and reasonably priced Mandarin school. At my age, learners face some special challenges--loss of short-term memory a major one.


Decades ago I taught myself enough spoken and written Japanese while living there to become pretty much bilingual. Happily remember enough Kanji to be able to correctly answer most HSK level 1 questions. But I need to get smarter now about how I learn and remember the conversational language.



I'm a "top-down" guy, so trying to remember lots of vocab and grammar and patch it together into conversations doesn't work as well as memorizing some standard conversations etc. to give me a basic structure, then substituting new words and building from there.


Does anyone have any good resources or techniques (other than this site of course) to help me move ahead more quickly with my studies?  Or suggest a good way to make this site an even more valuable learning tool?


Thanks heaps, and let me know if I can help with your writing/editing/proofreading.


This post was originally published on the Study More Chinese Blog

(photo credit IvanWalsh)

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Comment by Carey Giudici on July 30, 2012 at 9:18pm

And if I could do that, it would mean I was 25 again :)

Comment by Ma Ji Ya on July 30, 2012 at 9:16pm

哈哈,if I could remember all the words that I have already forgotten again, I would be able to speak Chinese fluently. 加油

Comment by Carey Giudici on July 30, 2012 at 1:55pm

Thanks, Kevin and Ji Ya. If you could hear me giggling every time I remember something I thought I'd forgotten, you'd know how much fun this language journey is for me. And all of you at SMC just make it that much more fun ...

Comment by Ma Ji Ya on July 30, 2012 at 12:51pm

I agree with you Kevin. The fun factor is a very important element in learning. People shouldn't forget that.

Comment by Kevin Lewis on July 30, 2012 at 12:47pm

The important thing is to enjoy what you are doing! Happy learning!

Comment by Carey Giudici on July 30, 2012 at 8:04am

Thanks to everyone for all the good comments. Advice about writing my profile information out and the intro to Skritter have been especially helpful. I'm making pretty good progress and having a ball. I downloaded the Pleco app onto my Android phone and got the hang of their great OCR feature, which makes it possible to read articles in Chinese and practice my population. Any other suggestions or experiences will be greatly appreciated.

Comment by Ma Ji Ya on July 19, 2012 at 8:06pm

Hi, thank you for your explanations. I seem to be a bottom-up person, since I always notice the details first. It means, I see the trees in their mightiness, before I notice the wood.I will try out skritter, too. Let's see, what the out-come is. I will tell later about it.

Comment by Carey Giudici on July 19, 2012 at 5:27pm

Sorry if my comment was confusing. Here's what Wikipedia says about top-down vs. bottom-up, if you're interested: 

"In practice, they can be seen as a style of thinking and teaching. In many cases top-down is used as a synonym of analysis or decomposition, and bottom-up of synthesis." Here's the link to the full Wiki piece:

If you like to start with the "big picture" and identify structure  you're likely to be more of a top-down person. If you prefer to dive right into details, you may belong to the "bottom-up"  club. Of course most of us use some combination of the two, so it's really just an interesting idea.

By the way, I liked Memrise too, but had some difficulties. Earlier in this thread Jono suggested I try Skritter. I did and like it even better than Memrise. There's a link to that site in one of Jono's earlier posts. Good luck!

Comment by Ma Ji Ya on July 19, 2012 at 1:53pm

Hi, can anyone explain me what the "top-down" and "bottom-up"approach is? I'm also an elder semester and I have been learning Chinese for a bit over one and a half year. I'm determined to learn 5 words a day. I made some progress in reading the hanzi, but I still have huge difficulties to understand the spoken language. I'm fond of Memrise. I learn a lot with it.  Thanks for all your comments, because I find them informative and inspiring.

Comment by Kevin Lewis on July 19, 2012 at 12:13pm

Yes its true that everybody learns in their own way. I guess the important thing is to try some different approaches until you find the best one for yourself!

I'm glad our comments are useful! :)

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