For many online studiers of Japanese, the blog AJATT (All Japanese All The Time), is a household word. Its progenitor, Khazumoto, espouses an idea of language acquisition that works extremely well for the impatient (like me). Rather than concentrate on text books, classes, teachers, and other boring stuff, use as few “actual” learning materials as possible. Instead, focus one’s attention on media meant for native speakers that one would enjoy regardless of language, convert all one’s regular activities (such as software/website interface) into the target language, and rely as little on translation as possible. His website offers many resources for the learner of Japanese, and I highly recommend it. I, however, am learning Chinese.
Thus, I give you: ACATT, All Chinese, All The Time. In less than five months, I was able to read about 1000 characters (though I still cannot write more than six), understand basic premises of conversation as well as television shows, and read simple blogs with relative ease. I’d even began reading simply-written short stories. I’ve yet to meet the person who studied Chinese in a classroom that’s advanced half as quickly as I have. And I wasn’t even doing all Chinese all the time, really, more like all Chinese MOST of the time (ACMOTT). Just imagine what a little more diligence could attain!
First, I must admit, that I’m focusing more on ACMOTT than ACATT, simply because due to my schedule, but I guarantee that this is the absolute fastest way to learn Chinese, period. Here’s what I use:
Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar by Claudia Ross & Jing-heng Sheng Ma
Read perhaps a few chapters per week, then assign weeks purely for review
Anki – an online flash card system, or SMS, to learn 汉字 characters
download the New Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi to learn useful vocab
http://www.beelinetv.com to watch Chinese television
http://www.zein.se/patrick/3000char.html to learn characters in order of usefulness
nciku.com as a dictionary and reference guide (BUT BE CAREFUL! A LOT of the example sentences you find are not very useful or not very standard! I learned this the hard way…)
chinaSMACK – a lovely website about contemporary Chinese issues, has a lot of the Chinese blogosphere opinions with translations
sharedtalk.com – plenty of Chinese looking to improve their English, and many of them are willing teachers of Chinese for the interested learner like yourself!
And then just find blogs about subjects that interest you, and read them (at first) slowly and painfully until you get a grasp of language. I’m still in the slow and painful phase, but I’ve been extremely lax about studying Chinese in recent months. Learning Chinese doesn’t have to be a hard and unenjoyable process. Learn it quickly, easily, and have fun while doing it! And most of all, don’t let the Chinese have the satisfaction of thinking their language is too difficult to learn! I’ve been living in China for less than five weeks, and my ACMOTT preparation has made improving my listening skills amazingly fast. My coworkers often communicate with me solely in Chinese, and I’ve been asked how many years I’ve been studying. When I say, “Oh, a little less than seven months,” their jaws drop to the floor. “Oh, you must be a genius,” they say. You want to be called a genius, don’t you? Then get out there and study some Chinese – the FUN way!