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Learning Mandarin

I've never really learned to speak a language beyond the Philippine languages I grew up with (Ilocano, Tagalog, Ifugao, and yes, English). We were required in the Philippines to take 12 credits of Spanish in college (presumably to honor the Philippnes' cultural ties to Spain) but most Filipinos don't really speak Spanish. We had some language tutoring in Sinhalese in Sri Lanka but I never went beyond Ayubowan and Nama mokadda. Same with Urdu in Pakistan and Arabic in Iraq. Once I figured I can do my work and get around just fine with good old English, out went the language learning. But it is a shame to keep putting aside these opportunities to become more engaged with people through their language, so at 53, I'm determined to give my brain cells some exercise in learning Mandarin! 

I've started with the following basic lessons, even before we moved to China:

  • Mandarin Lessons by the Peace Corps - I've downloaded the 15 audio lessons (mp3, 1 to 14 minutes long) and uploaded these into my iPhone for mobile listening. Also downloaded a transcript of the audio lessons from a separate site (PDF). Not the greatest recordings but were useful in getting me started. 
  • Chinese for Beginners by Peking University - a MOOC on Coursera (can be taken free of charge or pay $49 to get a certificate). I was able to download the videos, audios and other materials from the site. I find videos more effective as opposed to only audio files.
  • BBC Chinese Language Lessons

These lessons made more sense when I joined my husband's one-on-one hour-long Mandarin lessons with a language tutor. I've had six hours of these lessons so far and will have more later. I'm seeing language learning as like putting Lego blocks together. I need a break to figure things out on my own after learning a set of basic blocks, before moving on with more complex configurations.

Free online video lessons that I've found of good quality:

I use the following tools to check my pronunciation and grammar and to put together dialogs that I can use to practice speaking in real-life situations.

Translators/Converters by:

Grammar guides by:

Pinyin charts by:

Dictionaries by:

For recording myself or other voices and for sending these to another person, I use the WeChat app on my iPhone and on my laptop.

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