Foreign Language Sentence Learning – Day 13

Here is today’s overview of the current language project. Yesterday, I made the jump from concentrating on vocabulary to learning sentences. As a guide, I personally had a vocabulary of approximately 300 characters when doing this, and I did it because memorising vocabulary in isolation was becoming boring. Still, 300 characters is not enough, so I am still learning characters using the same method I utilised in week one. With most language learning projects, you’ll get a feel for when to start moving on, but it shouldn’t be later than about 500 words into your learning.

Foreign Language Sentence Learning Method for Today.

Today, my learning is structured around four steps. I’ll go into more detail below, but this is something that applies not just to Mandarin, but to any other foreign language you might want to learn. We must remember that language is a blend of speaking, writing, reading and listening. Getting to the point where you’re good at that is a mixture of learning, controlled practice and free practice.

Foreign Language Sentence Learning: Listening to Sentences

We’ve got the Teach Yourself, Colloquial or program of your choice audio dialogues to listen to. As you know if you’ve been reading along, I’ve got all the notes from Pimsleur as well. We’re going to listen to these intently, and if necessary, check your IPA notes so you know how to correctly sound each syllable. Listen to these until the rhythm is drilled into your brain.

Foreign Language Sentence Learning: Drilling Sentences

This is not the fun part. Remember the part above where I told you to listen until it was drilled in? Now, you’re going to write it out until it’s drilled in. If if takes ten times, great. If it takes a hundred, it takes a hundred. You have to get to the point where if somebody held a gun to your head and said, “What’s this sentence?” You’d be able to write it out or say it aloud immediately.

Foreign Language Sentence Learning: Building Sentences

This is the free practice part. It’s no good to simply learn these things academically. You have to use them to create something neww. Nobody opens a box of lego and marvels at the bricks. But it only takes going to Lego-Land to see what amazing things those bricks can build. You must do the same with your sentences. It should be fun. Where’s the cat? How’s the cat? How’s the fish? Keep going.

Foreign Language Sentence Learning: Recording and Playing Back Sentences

If you’ve got a dictaphone app on your phone, use it. You need to say the sentences aloud, and check them against the recordings that you were listening to in step one. You don’t need to keep these recordings, just use them until you get the sounds correct. Imagine as you listen to yourself that you are the native speaker, and tell yourself how to do it better next time. Keep going until you feel like you can’t do any better.

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