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Dashan's Language Learning

Dashan's Language Learning

Michael shares some thoughts on how a person can best learn a second language, by taking a look at how Dashan successfully learned Chinese.  

Hi, friends.  My name is Michael.  I’m currently in charge of the English Language Learning section on Zhengzhou Connections. Why am I interested in doing this column? I come up with the idea of providing language learning advice based on my own English learning experience. When I run across some language difficulties, I find it’s hard for me to solve them only by myself. So I often ask my foreign friends for help . Or in other words, they are my language learning assistants. I am very lucky to meet so many language learning assistants who make my English learning more enjoyable and effective than before. And I hope you can look this column as your language learning assistant, too . 


In today’s language tip, I’d like to take a look at some lessons we can learn from Dashan’s experience learning Chinese.  Here are Dashan’s own words on his language learning experience.


I studied Chinese for 4 years in my university in Canada.  I think one of the things my teacher did very well was to get away from traditional textbooks as soon as possible.  We used the standard textbooks for 2 years, because you have to learn Pinyin, you have to learn the basic characters, and basic grammar.  For those things, textbooks are the best, because they are very logical.  Everything is nicely arranged for you to learn in order.  But language itself is not like that.  In many ways, it’s not really a very scientific thing.  I think many people in China who study English make a mistake.  They try to use very scientific methods to study something that itself is very un-scientific.  So in the third year, my teacher just showed us short stories or newspaper articles or things from everyday life to learn.  Anyway, it’s very difficult at first, but I think the biggest advantage is that you can learn from authentic materials that way.  Textbooks are written by Chinese people for foreigners, while novels or newspapers are things that Chinese people write for themselves.  So the same thing, we [English speakers] will make textbooks for Chinese people probably differently from the way we would actually speak to native speakers.  So I think when you get to a certain level, it’s good to get away from the textbooks and just go to the real living language that people actually speak.


As we all know, Dashan is a successful language learner.  What helped him to master Mandarin, one of the world’s most difficult languages?  Here are some tips from his experience that might work for you too:


1.         Choose your learning materials well.  That means as a language learner, you must choose something based on how well it fits your language level, the quality of the material, and your purpose for learning a language.  Choosing a good learning material will facilitate your learning process.  Otherwise, you will meet a lot of difficulties which can discourage you if you have chosen bad learning materials.  Most of the time, however, I find that some of my students are learning something which is far beyond their level.  In my opinion, this is due to the fact that they overestimate their language ability .

What is the standard of a good learning material?  The most suitable language learning material must be neither too difficult nor too easy for you. If you are beginning to learn a second language, it’s proper to use standard textbooks which are written by famous linguists because they are well arranged with a logical order.


2.         Learning a language takes time. In order to attract the student’s attention, many English training schools in Zhengzhou advertise their so-called “most efficient” way to learn English.  I don’t mean you can’t improve your English at training schools.  My point though is that it is so ridiculous to have this idea that you can learn a second language overnight.  What’s more, instead of finishing one book, many students hurriedly move to another book. Even though they change to another book, their language proficiency stays the same. To make matters worse, some of my students have bought piles of English learning materials. But unfortunately, they just put the CDs or books somewhere in his or her room and never open them up. My suggestion for you is to be patient enough with yourself because learning a language takes time. 



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