Learning Mandarin and Windows Vista

Some readers will know that I’ve been learning Mandarin lately. It’s been really interesting. Most people assume I want to do it because my wife Mai is of Chinese Vietnamese heritage. No such luck as her family speak Tieu Chow, a dialect spoken mainly in part of Vietnam, part of Cambodia and part of Southern China.

One in four children born in the world today speak Chinese. I’ve always heard it was really hard but have decided to tackle it anyway.

I’ve enabled my Windows Vista system for Chinese input as I’m determined to learn to write as well as read. The way the Chinese input works in Vista is quite fascinating and I’ll post a bunch of details on that another day.

I thought I’d document the methods I’ve been using. First I tried a number of CD-based systems. I haven’t found any of them very useful. They’re all sort of ok but I don’t think any of the ones I’ve tried does a great job.

From info I got on the RD mailing list, I heard about ChinesePod. Now I can’t wait to get my daily dose of Ken and Jenny, direct from ShangHai. They post a daily podcast about ten minutes in length that covers some basic aspect of common speech. It’s excellent as is the way they break it down and describe it. They have different podcasts for different levels of study: Newbie, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

I talked Mai into learning as well and we (well maybe mostly I) decided to get a real kick along by attending a class. We did the summer intensive class at Red Crane in Collins St. in Melbourne. Red 1 is a class that normally runs for 10 weeks with 2 hours per week. For the summer intensive class, you attend for 5 nights, they do 2 classes per night and you attend twice per week. So in just two and a half weeks, you’ve done the 10 week first level. Again, this was an excellent class. I’m trying to work out how I can now fit Red 2 into my schedule.

I am truly surprised how much we’ve learned already and listening to ChinesePod has simply accelerated that. Both are highly recommended !



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