Monday, March 9, 2015

How I Study a Language

Today I'm going to write about how I study Chinese through language exchange. I've been studied it for almost 2 years, since I moved to Taiwan. And it was my first challenge to learn a language without taking any classes.

I found that all successful language learners (like Benny of FI3M, Olly of IWTYAL, Timothy of Polyglotpal, and many other wondeful polyglots!!) learn languages by theirselves. They inspired me a lot, and made me notice that I also love languages. The most impressive word they gave me was:

Languages cannot to be taught, they can only be learnt.

So, if you're going to start learning Japanese or any other languages but you can't find appropreate classes near your house, don't feel disappointed. It's OK, you can learn it by yourself! :)

Before Language Exchange

I said I started to learn Chinese since I moved to Taiwan, but actually I had 3 weeks before coming. I went to a libruary and borrowed the simplest book which introduces very basic Chinese grammer and phrases. I know some people would say that it's no good to start from learning grammer, but it worked for me. It was interesting to me to know how Chinese language is composed.

Simultaneously, I subscribed some Youtube channels which provide free lessons for beginners. I recommend Yangyang's lessons if you also want to start learning Chinese. ;)

I listened to an audio phrase book before sleep, and while sleeping. It helped me a lot to get used to the rythm of Chinese language. You know, it's really important to know how it sounds because Chinese is a "tone language". "Ma" with high pitched voice and "Ma" with low pitched voice have totally different meanings!

I found a website that you can download free audio files. I downloaded Persian from this website by the way. It's pretty nice. :)
→  50 Languages

Japanese language is not so severe about pronunciation compared to Chinese, though some words are bit hard for foreigners to distinguish. (おばさん/obasan/ and おばあさん/obaasan/ are the totally different words!)

Found a Language Exchange Partner

→ How to find a language exchange partner

You have to speak it if you want to be able to speak a language. It's true. Though I listened to the audio files almost everyday, my pronunciation was awfully terrible. I tried to speak the words I learnt but it always didn't make sense to my language exchange partner. She was patient and severe (in a good way!), so that I could train myself to improve my pronunciation.

If you want to learn a language by yourself, it'd be better to have someone who lets you output what you've learnt and corrects it. I've heard a lot of Japanese people say "I'll find someone to talk with... after I became good enough to speak". That's why they still can't speak it, and they'd never became "good enough". You know what I mean?

The First Step For Language Exchange

When we learn a language, we'd start with greetings and self-introduction.
→ Self introduction in Japanese
OK, then what should I talk though I don't have enough words in my vocabulary? Well, in my case, I tried to use the words and phrases that I learnt from a book or a Youtube lesson. So my "input" was always for "output". I mean, I was always thinking what to talk by using those new words when I study.

I tried to speak in Chinese as much as possible. It is my policy not to use English even if it takes a long time to tell her what I want to say. The more I struggle with, the more unforgettable it becomes. I hardly forget the words I learnt in that situation. (I never forget the word "towel" in Chinese!)

Here's some Japanese phrases for the first step language exchange! :)
Basic phrases for language exchange
Basic phrases for language exchange (2)

Start Practice Writing

After I knew how to type Chinese on my laptop, I started to post some entries on I wrote things that related to myself, not just boring example sentences with the words I learnt. I got many corrections, and I used these corrected sentences when I talked with my language exchange partners. I also wrote about what I talked in language exchange. So I wrote/spoke/read the same words and phrases again and again.
Fortunately, I had more than one partner, so I could practice speaking same things more than once. :)

Here's the post I wrote about Lang-8 and how to type Japanese on your laptop.
 How to type Japanese

How It Went?

I took an exam called TOCFL (Taiwan's national standardized test) last year. It was a bit hard to read a long sentences, but I could pass it at B2 level. Thanks to my all language exchange partners, I could reach upper-intermidiate level in a year. It's not as cool as those famous polyglots who get B2 level within half a year, but it meant a lot to me. :)

Now I still keep in touch with these language exchange partners. They're my best friends!

Well, that's all for today! I want to know how you study languages. :)
Please let me know by leaving a comment!

*Japanese Word of the Day*
/gengo-koukan no paatonaa boshuu-chuu/
Looking for a language exchange partner!

*言語(げんご)/gengo/ a language
*交換(こうかん)/koukan/ exchanging
 → 交換する/koukan suru/ to exchange

/pointo wo keihin to koukan shita/
I redeemed my points for some rewards.

*ポイント(ぽいんと) /pointo/ a point
*景品(けいひん)/keihin/ a reward

*パートナー(ぱーとなー)/paatonaa/ a partner

*募集(ぼしゅう)/boshuu/ an invitation, an advertisement, a recruitment
 → 募集する /boshuu suru/ to recruit, to look for
 → 募集中(ぼしゅうちゅう)/boshuu chuu/ now hiring, looking for

/koibito boshuu-chuu desu/
I'm available. I'm looking for a girlfriend/boyfriend.


  1. 最近スペイン語を学ぼうとしているので、楽しく読ませてもらいましたよ^^

    1. Thank you for your comment, HIRO san!

  2. スペイン語での日記、道のりは長いなぁ~。^^ 最近、挨拶のフレーズを覚えた程度です。。今日は仕事で「ちりとり」の単語を教えて貰ったんですけど、事務所に戻った頃には忘れていました。(笑)

    1. ちりとり、ですか。仕事で登場する単語としては意外な気がしますが(笑)
      英語、スペイン語をマスターしたらぜひ次は中国語を!これで話者数の多い言語トップ3は網羅~ ^m^!!


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