Mandarin in Four Weeks: The Project Update

It’s been a few days since I last updated. Luckily, things have been progressing with my Mandarin learning. I’m almost at the one month point in my mission, and I’ve achieved a reasonable amount. I’ll go into that shortly.
Firstly, I feel as though I should comment on the amount of time I’m spending on my project: It’s not a huge amount. At other times, I’d even call myself lazy. Still, life gets in the way of one’s plans. The fact is, that my progress is not some phenomenal work of hours per day – I spend less than an hour on average on learning Mandarin. So, the amount of Mandarin in four weeks I’ve learned is attainable to everyone who has a spare hour a day and follows a method similar to the one I’ve used.

Mandarin in Four Weeks: What’s happened since the last update?

Since the last update, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Schaum’s Outline of Mandarin Grammar. I had some time to kill, so I thumbed through it in a book shop. I think that so far it’s excellent, but I’ll expound on it later in a seperate review.
My first month’s goal was to write a letter to a Chinese friend of mine. I’m planning that out this evening. I’d like to be able to write it without consulting a dictionary or grammar guide, but as it’s a real communication, that’s not going to happen. Sure, I could write a letter saying, “How are you? I speak and understand a little Chinese. What have you been doing?” That isn’t what I want to achieve though. I want to actually use the language.

Mandarin in Four Weeks: What’s the Process now?

I’m working on grammar. I actually enjoy grammar. Language learning is like a journey. Learning grammar is like learning to drive a car: It’s complicated, but logical. It takes time to learn, but it makes your journey an order of magnitude shorter than if you ignore it.
I think in general people should jump into grammar a lot earlier than they do. I think that people are scared of exceptions to the rule. If people forgot about those exceptions and just concentrated on the rule, they’d progress more quickly.

Mandarin in Four Weeks: A Weekly Breakdown of the process.

I’ve written the (somewhat daily) logs to keep everyone who reads in the loop, but to recap, this is the general structure my learning has taken:
Week One: Words and Pronunciation
Week Two: Words and Sentences
Week Three: Sentences
Week Four: Sentences and Grammar.

Mandarin in Four Weeks: What’s in store for the next month?

I’ll send off my letter, and then start to move into writing as correspondence, or at least use a service like Lang-8.
I need to work on pronunciation. My speaking is falling behind. This isn’t for laziness or forgetfulness. I’ve been concentrating on getting my reading and writing comprehension up, because then I will be able to read about how to speak and listen. But still, the balance needs redressing this month.
Essentially, Month one is all intake. Month two will be mostly intake with an eye to communicate. Month three (let’s see – this is subject to change) will probably be the time I move to output and exchange as my primary means of learning the language, with extensive reading thrown in for good measure.

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