It’s a week late, I know. It doesn’t make much sense for me to talk about my March goals at this point because they’ve changed so much recently. So I’ll talk about that instead.

I talked before about possibly using Thought and Society this term as one of my “side” texts. That is, on the side of what I do in class, though I really would make it my main text as far as priority goes. I started on the book, and I could have continued with it, but then a reader/friend (thanks EDITED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT!) hooked me up with a used copy of Talks on Chinese Culture (TOCC), which I had been looking for, along with the audio for Thought and Society. So I’ll be using TOCC, which is fairly easy for me right now but really useful, and then using Thought and Society next term.

I hope to do a post on TOCC in the near future, if I have time, but let me just say the book is outstanding. It’s supposed to be a similar level as Twenty Lectures on Chinese Culture (and I believe they’re based on the same original material), but there’s just so much more to TOCC. Each lecture in 20 Lectures is about 1.5-2 pages, while in TOCC they are 5-7 pages, and a smaller font to boot. In addition, TOCC contains two dialogues per chapter at about 3 pages each, so what you have is 11-13 pages of spoken Chinese material per chapter, and 12 chapters, rather than 20 chapters of 2 page lectures. Do the math. In addition, there’s an extensive appendix of sentence patterns used in each chapter, with 5 example sentences per pattern. Really great stuff.

I’m fortunate enough to have a friend who went through ICLP several years ago and ripped a bunch of the tapes (yes, tapes!) onto his computer and was willing to share them with me. So I now have the audio for TOCC and more, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

So with Classical Chinese, I used Literary Chinese for Advanced Beginners, up through Chapter 3, and part of Chapter 5. But I’m going to hold off on the rest for now. The definitions all being in Chinese is great for learning, but it takes the focus away from the 文言文 a little too much. I’ll come back to it once I’m better able to handle the definitions. In the meantime, I bought Shadick’s 文言文入門 A First Course in Literary Chinese. It seems decent enough, though I’ve heard that in Volumes II and III (grammar, vocab notes, commentary, etc.), Shadick tends to teach with the assumption that all Chinese that isn’t modern 白話 is the same. I don’t know if that’s how the book approaches it or not, but I do know there are more up-to-date intros to 文言文 out there.

For anyone using Shadick as your intro text, just bear in mind that the language evolved over time just like any language. I’m sure any good teacher will be sure to point the differences out (as an example, 是 was a demonstrative in classical usage, and didn’t become a copula until the Tang Dynasty).

Anyway, I’m just using the book as a reader, along with Pulleyblank’s Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar and some 文言文 dictionaries. I like that the book tends to contain longer passages than Fuller, and very few of the texts overlap (熊掌 by 孟子 is one). I’ll continue with this one this term, and maybe come back to LCFAB in the summer. The good thing is that LCFAB doesn’t overlap with Shadick at all, and I believe only has one text in common with Fuller. It also doesn’t overlap with 古文觀止, so I’ll be getting a good variety by reading all of these books.

I mentioned that I now have a bunch of audio material to work with. This is a huge thing for me. I’ve focused so much on reading, and my reading level really is pretty decent for now, but my speaking is still really lagging behind. I’ve been doing a lot of reading (in English) on how to improve this, along with talking to people I know who have outstanding spoken Chinese, both in everyday conversation and in academic settings. They’ve all emphasized the importance of intensive work with audio materials. And that’s what I’m shifting my focus to right now.

I’m really working with the audio for all my courses rather than using it as a secondary thing. My first term teacher here used to always say “聽CD!聽CD!聽CD!” and I’m starting to see why. She also said it’s important to shadow the material as many times as you can, so your mouth gets used to saying things right and it feels weird to say something wrong. Now I’m finally coming around to see the wisdom here. Muscle memory is also something Mike Cambpell (Glossika on YouTube) talks about a lot, especially if you watch him talk in Chinese about his method.

So rather than Newspaper I, I’ve switched to a more speech-focused book. It’s called New Radio Plays 新選廣播劇, a book used (again) at ICLP at the 400 (TOCC) level. It’s similar I guess to Mini Radio Plays 迷你廣播劇 at MTC, but the recordings are more natural-sounding conversation instead of these super-clear voice actors. So you really have to listen hard to catch all the mumbling, slurred, fast speech in these plays, unlike in Mini Radio Plays. The 12 plays are all about 10 minutes long, and each chapter has lots of sentence pattern practice at the end. I’m working especially hard on these sentence patterns in all of my books, because that’s what’s tripping me up the most right now in conversation.

I’ve ditched Chinese Customs and Traditions in favor of Chinese Moral Tales, which I also now have audio for. They’re both part of the same series, but the latter is a good bit easier. I’m using it for additional listening and reading practice, though since it’s so easy I’m able to go through a lesson or more per day. This is very much a low priority thing because I’m not learning much in the way of language here.

So, aside from Shadick, all of the books I’m currently using are speech-focused. Of course there’s reading practice involved too, but they’re all written in a very colloquial style. Next term I plan to take Newspaper I at MTC, so I’ll get some reading practice then, but for now I’m trying to really work on my conversational skills. I’ll be finding a language exchange soon, and I may hire a dedicated tutor over the summer to drill me on speech. We’ll see.

So the goals for April are:

Mini Radio Plays (class): we’ll probably finish Lesson 10
TOCC: Finish Lesson 6
New Radio Plays: Finish Lesson 3 (maybe 4)
Shadick: Who knows? As far as I can get through.
Chinese Moral Tales: should be able to finish.

I’m going to keep reading Harry Potter and other stuff. Harry Potter is mostly leisure at this point. There’s still plenty of new vocab, but most of it I just look up and move on.
OK, long post over!