❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞
Attitude towards learning Mandarin Chinese
When I was younger, whenever I had to go study my Chinese lessons I’d instantly become a philosopher.
It’s because I’d always be asking why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyy am I studying this over and over again. When I would forget whatever I learned (or memorized to be more accurate) faster than I could say “Yao Ming”.
I thought it was:
* Mind-numbingly borrrrrring
* Climb-Mt.Everest-level difficult and,
* 0% fun
And I believe a lot of people share this sentiment. We take the path of least resistance. We are naturally inclined to gravitate towards what is easy, relaxed, engaging, fun and friendly.
Is it any wonder then that one of the first website we go to when we are online is… you guessed it — Facebook!
Wouldn’t it be nice though to combine all these cool elements into language learning? Could you really imagine it? To actually WANT to learn Mandarin Chinese?
That day may have just arrived with LIVEMOCHA!
What is Livemocha?
Livemocha is informally regarded as the Facebook of language learning. It is the world’s largest online language learning community, offering free and paid online language courses
* in more than 30 languages
* to more than 11 million members
* from 196 countries around the world.
Watch a quick summary here:
Learning Chinese : from foe to friend
1. Livemocha provides a very student-friendly environment to learn a language
The various courses allows you to gently ease yourself into your comfort zone. You can learn at your own pace and are taught your language of choice not by teachers but by your friends!
2. It gives you a holistic approach to learning
Unlike traditional Chinese schools where memorization is the key passing, this site offers lessons and exercises that will hone your overall communication skill.
It covers reading, listening, speaking and writing which pretty much covers all the bases of communication unlike in the school setting where vocabulary and verbatim repetition of answers are emphasized.
3. You get reviewed by native Chinese speakers
This is one of the most useful feature of Livemocha. Writing and speaking exercises will be submitted for native speakers to assess and comment on. This alone accelerates your learning twice as fast as you get feedback within hours of submitting your exercise. Building on your mistakes will allow you to identify your tendencies and adjust to them accordingly.
More importantly Livemocha has a very friendly community, you won’t be embarrassed to make mistakes since each and everyone of the people there are students themselves. Who make the same or even worse mistakes than you do.
Livemocha : Reviews and comments from native speakers
4. Get to practice with a native speaker from your very own home
Personally, if you stripped this site bare and left this feature, Livemocha would still be worth it. If a Mandarin speaking environment is not available to you this is probably the next best thing.
You get to practice your all your Mandarin communication skills: writing, reading, speaking and listening live and in real time! It’s the closest you have to actually being in China or some other Mandarin speaking countries.This simulation is definitely priceless. It is definitely fun and engaging though could frustrating at times but definitely way better than listening to a boorrrrrring lecture and learning nothing.
Now this may be daunting at first, speaking to a native Chinese when I could barely “nice to meet you” without looking for a dictionary. But guess what, he is probably thinking the same thing.You will never be totally prepared for every word you may need in a conversation. The key here is to JUST START and adjust along the way. You build on every mistake and you will see the difference over time.
Livemocha : Choose your language parters
5. You are BOTH masters of your own languages
The really awesome thing about this language partner dynamic is the fact that this community thrives on mutual benefit. Unlike in traditional school, where there is a teacher and a student. In Livemocha, you play BOTH roles.
You guys take turns being a teacher and a student, which over time increases your comfort level with one another and allows you to explore more challenging words and sentences because of the established trust.
6. It’s cool to have friends all over the world
I used to think friends are limited by your geographical location. But the world is pretty much borderless now, I have friends from China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago to name a few. And it is pretty cool that our common language is not English but Mandarin.
More often than not, your friends in Livemocha will come from another country. Learning another culture, another perspective and another language broadens your horizon and makes you feel like a citizen not only of your country, but of the world.
Livemocha User Page
7. All these features are FREE!
Yes that’s right. The features I talked about are indeed free of charge.
There are paid services offered by Livemocha of course for the really serious and would like to take their learning a step further but these premium services are not yet offered for Mandarin Chinese as of this writing.
Nonetheless, the language partner alone is worth your time not to mention the free basic-intermediate course at your disposal.
Final tips and advice
* Take baby steps – If it has been years since you studied or used Mandarin don’t worry, take small steps. Do the basic courses first and build on them. The more you recall and relearn the better your confidence is going to be.
* Set a regular schedule – Consistency is the key. Do some coursework from even for just a few minutes a day.
I believe it’s better to do it 5-10 minutes daily than a 1-hour session once a week. Because it makes learning a part of your day and it allows you to build on it on a gradual and consistent basis.
* Open a QQ or Microsoft Messenger account – Chinese natives usually use these programs for instant messaging (IM). I often ask for their IMs so that if I do forget to logon Livemocha, I would still be alerted of their presence on the web and could chat with them on the spot.
* Just enjoy it! – There is nothing to lose. You are at the privacy of your own home with fellow learners thousand of miles away. Who knows, if word gets out and more and more people do it, you might have your very own Mandarin speaking community right in your neighborhood.
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