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 19, 2012 at 7:16am

Interesting distinction, Kevin and Jon, between what could be called Kevin's "top-down" approach and Jon's "bottom-up" one. Especially for older people like me, learning lists of vocabulary seems harder. But when I followed Jon's suggestion and began using Skritter the other day, I'm making much better progress. Maybe focusing on the Hanzi characters gives me the context or visualization that I seem to need. Both of your comments are very helpful.

Comment by jono1001 on July 19, 2012 at 5:41am

You have made a good point Kevin. It is important to learn new words and vocabulary in context. So your learning strategy is sound. However, it doesn't work for everyone. What I have found for me is the reverse. I learn the list of vocabulary first and then attempt to read the text without a dictionary. As I use the NPCR series (compulsory Uni. text) I find it better than the reverse.  

Anyone else have a good learning methodology ?

Comment by Kevin Lewis on July 17, 2012 at 9:33am

Maybe I'm old fashioned but I often like to find a text around my level- be it a text book or a child's story- and then just read it, look up the new words- write em out a few times, and then keep reading. I find learning in context helps me remember and also know how to use em.


Comment by Carey Giudici on July 15, 2012 at 6:30pm

Thanks! I'll check it out today.

Comment by jono1001 on July 15, 2012 at 11:41am

For serious fast tracking of Hanzi, vocabulary, tones, stroke order etcetera, you should try Skritter It has made a big difference to how quickly I can learn and retain vocabulary.  I really wish I had found it earlier.  For details on how I am using it read it here --> Skritter + Wacom = Faster Hanzi Learning

Comment by sikora on July 11, 2012 at 6:02am

I'm with you on the top-down approach.  When first starting out, I think that it is important to have a play-list memorized, easy and flexible grammar patterns that work in a variety of situations, so that you can improvise with the language easily.  I covered this idea in 20 Questions to Basic Fluency here on SMC.  It is a bit more like a discrete item list, but I think it gives the beginner some much needed stability, and confidence, in a language that is notoriously difficult to get a handle on. 

If you are beyond the basic level, then I suggest writing out a short bio about yourself: profession, family, likes, dislikes, where you live, travels, daily routine, etc., and then have a native speaker (perhaps a friend on this site) correct it.   The reason for this is that you are most likely to remember things about yourself, so things like vocabulary, grammar and characters will hold more meaning for you, and you will be learning top down.  I hope this helps!  Let me know what you think.

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