How do I Study Chinese 1: Cramming Chinese

If I want to feel good about the title of this blog, I might as well write a few posts outlining my philosophy for studying Chinese. I am one of many Chinese students that feel that the traditional 19th Century classroom approach to studying Chinese and the accompanying toolbox of "worksheets" and "memorization tables" are hopelessly outdated. I'm going to spend some time outlining the many mainstream and non-mainstream approaches to learning that I subscribe to, but first, since we're all procrastinators at heart, I wanted to talk about my own self-created approach to exam-cram-studying Chinese characters and words.

I call it the fold method. You need but two things: a diary sized notebook and a pen or pencil (though pens make for good teachers, they keep us honest about our mistakes).

  1. Identify the characters you need to learn and write them in two spaced out columns, one for characters and one for the English translation. If you feel you need pinyin, write the pinyin in the English column. Make sure to a lot at a time (min 40 new or forgotten words) Ok! You're ready to begin! First give your vocab a once over aloud.
  2. Recognition. Fold over the page from the right so that you cover the English translation/pinyin. Go through the list trying to remember the word in question. If you can't remember it, skip it until you're done the page. Feel comfortable with recognizing the characters? On to step number 3.
  3. Memorization. Fold the inset of the previous page in your notebook just over the characters, keeping the English/pinyin column exposed. On the back of that page (left side), try and write the characters from the English translation. Again, skip the characters you don't know.
  4. Correction. It's very important not to learn to write characters the wrong way. Check each word and character against the right hand page. If it's wrong, rewrite it correctly on the left, if you didn't know it, write it out twice.
  5. Fold over or rip out the left side's answers and repeat the process until you feel comfortable with the vocabulary.

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