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Chinese Project Notes 2: Went Monolingual

Today, July 20, 2007, I crossed the Rubicon and went fully monolingual in Chinese. I do sometimes look up a Japanese word to find Chinese example sentences for it. So I guess this, makes me a mix between Steps 3 and 4 as outlined in this post on how to make the transition. As far as I’m concerned this counts as monolingual; any connection to anything but Chinese for Chinese quite tenuous.

Feelingswise it’s really liberating. Learning a language through another language is so mentally burdensome. It always seems like you’re doing translation in your head. From what I know of Japanese and English, I can confidently say that running a J-E translation in your head every time you want to say something is being recipe for これは is a disaster of Engrish proportionです . Plus there’s all the time and brain cycles spent (wasted) reading ABOUT your target language instead of actually USING it. After all, I’m not in this game to discuss or analyze Chinese, I’m in this game to become the best durn Chinese user since that other guy. If that analysis is IN Chinese, well and good — otherwise, as Ludacris might say: “move, beach! get out the way” [dang, if my sisters read this blog, they’d have a stern word or two for me…].

As for the number of sentences I do per day, I’m not worrying too much about that. I was initially doing 100 per day, because I wanted to be a trailblazer like Wan Zafran. However, it took too long per sentence, and hate to admit weakness, but I haven’t quite built up the mental strength to go for 100 Chinese-Chinese sentences in one day (Chinese-Japanese and Japanese-Japanese would be fine…but even though the quantity would be higher, I think the quality of doing Chinese-Chinese is greater — ultimately, the lack of a crutch (Japanese) is making me use my own “muscles” more). Earlier in my life, this would have led to me feeling bad or even giving up altogether, but that would be silly.

  17 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 2: Went Monolingual

  1. Glenn
    July 23, 2007 at 18:51


  2. khatzumoto
    July 23, 2007 at 18:54


  3. Glenn
    July 23, 2007 at 20:35



  4. khatzumoto
    July 23, 2007 at 20:44


  5. Luke
    July 24, 2007 at 20:20

    I have to say that you’re a GENIUS! I was sucking at my language degree, well, not sucking completely, but learning grammar and translating word by word etc. This is what the teacher told us to do! Now that I have found your site, I’ve been following your methods. I’ve learnt all the kanji and completely overtaken all my classmates. I’ve also applied it to some European languages I’m studying as well and have come on leaps and bounds and am now able to use technical language accurately and know that I’ve got it right! However, when I tell my classmates and teachers about this method they tell me I’m stupid and it’s a waste of time, won’t work and limits my ability to form sentences…! They give lots of excuses for why I know so much, “photographic memory” being the main one. I have a question! Have you ever come across people (especially teachers and students) that ridicule your methods without even trying them?!

  6. khatzumoto
    July 24, 2007 at 23:15

    >Have you ever come across people (especially teachers and students) that ridicule your methods without even trying them?!

    TONS! Lots of criticism. The main excuses I heard were:
    (1) “it’s just your personality/it takes a specific (detail-oriented) personality to learn Japanese”. Appeal to personality. This is complete BS, if the typos on this blog are anything to go by, I can’t be that detail-oriented.
    (2) Maybe it works for you, but “that’s just YOUR way of learning things”. Funny, especially coming from teachers and TAs, who are trying to force THEIR way of learning things onto everyone else.
    (3) Whether it works or not is not the point. The point is to obey class policies. This is my least favorite one.

    In the end, for my own confidence and sanity, I had to seal myself away from those people in my own little world. Ultimately, the only thing that was worth it, the only thing that could possibly prove them wrong was to get fluent and Japanese…As it turns out, I don’t care what they think any more; it doesn’t matter; I can use Japanese quite freely, end of story. Results are what count, not the discussion.

    A lot of the crap you are hearing sounds like what they told Heisig back in the day. It reminds of something Einstein (I think it was him?) said about scientific truth. First they deny as bollocks, then they say it might be true in some cases, and then it itself becomes “the new inviolable truth”.

    Anyway, I’m really glad to hear you are progressing well. All the best to you in the future. Keep on keeping on :D.

  7. Jerry
    July 25, 2007 at 02:07

    After lurking here for a few months, I have to step forward and congratulate you on your achievements and on this excellent site. I watch it daily and refer back to it regularly for inspiration and advice. Usually, with a little searching, I can find my answers somewhere in this blog.

    I have only really been learning Japanese for about two months. Using this method, I’m astounded at what I can actually understand at this point. Sure, it’s miles away from being anything meaningful…. yet. Still, I think it’s a lot more than what I could’ve achieved in another method.

    I did have a leg up on the kanji, though, since I learned Chinese many years ago and have kept it up. (Probably because my wife is from Taiwan!) Now, having said that, I’m amazed that you are going monolingual in Chinese so soon. That’s just a a testament to your hard work and the effectiveness of this method. Way to go!

    Anyway, I’ve been working with some Japanese soap operas with Chinese subtitles. It’s a great way to practice both languages. But my sentence mining at this point is pitifully small. Well, I mention this to you since you are undertaking Chinese study. These types of soap operas would probably help you. Their like Chinese flashcards with Japanese pronunciations.

    Good luck and keep up the great work!

  8. Jim
    July 25, 2007 at 03:41

    You sound pretty fluent in Chinese already! How did you accomplish that?

  9. July 25, 2007 at 09:20

    I’m using the version in English of Heisig’s book so I can relate a little to your laddering experience. I still have a lot of Kanji to go before I can even consider going monolingual but I hope to get there sooner or later.

    @Luke: I’m not sure why people have ingrained in their brains that the only way to learn a language is through blood, tears, sweat and lots of rote memorization. I guess that it’s because that self teaching methods require a lot of personal effort and willpower and most people are not willing to do what’s necessary to achieve results. They use slower and more comforting methods. People who don’t follow them are seen as geniuses or as people who have an ‘unfair’ advantage over them, like photographic memory. Actually, the only advantage we have over them is that we dared to try something different and we stuck with it.

  10. July 25, 2007 at 12:42

    Really interesting reading about your learning a whole new language (and not an easy language at that). Maybe you should think about starting another site documenting your learning Chinese. Then, when you’re fluent, people can go back and read step-by-step about your learning process. =D

    Look forward to hearing more as I want to learn Chinese after Japanese!

  11. Jerry
    July 25, 2007 at 13:06

    How I got fluent in Chinese…. I did it the hard-headed way many years ago. I bought language tapes, readers, dictionaries,etc. I never took a class, though. I moved to Taiwan right out of college and lived there for nearly two years. I met a girl and we’ve been married 15 years. So, 15 years of practice! (Though my wife’s English is 100x better than my Chinese — further proof that good, constant input helps build language skills.)

    Of course, when I lived in Taiwan I had a lot of time to watch Chinese TV. All their programming is with subtitles. So I was getting input with written confirmation constantly — even the dreaded news broadcasts. I used to watch Taiwanese shows just to get the reading practice — since I couldn’t understand a word of Taiwanese but the written language is all the same. It was like free but merciless flash cards.

    Even after all these years of getting input (now mostly from my wife or her TV shows) I still believe the methods being discussed here could help me improve. I’m probably not as good as I could be after all this time. But I want to focus as much time on Japanese right now, especially since I’m on the cusp of actually understanding a complete sentence or two when I’m watching Japanese shows!

  12. Qin Shi Huangdi
    August 8, 2007 at 03:40

    Congratulations on making the plunge! Hopefully I’ll be in the same boat before too much longer. All Mandarin All The Time.

    I’m curious, have you found any really good online Chinese monolingual dictionaries?

  13. Bill Butler
    September 10, 2007 at 14:28

    Just a quick note, thanking you for providing this
    resource on the net. I’m currently a student of
    Chinese at a private school in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Totally frustrated with what has to be methodology from the middle ages, I’ve taken to crusing the net looking for ideas. Your site seems to be the best I’ve found so far. Looking forward to “translating” your method into Chinese acquisition. By the way do you intend to establish a


  14. Yun
    November 25, 2007 at 16:31

    seconding Qin Shi Huangdi’s question.. have you found any good online Chinese monolingual dictionaries?

  15. Yun
    November 25, 2007 at 16:33

    nvm, found ur blog about it sorry

  16. aspiring
    June 29, 2013 at 06:58


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