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Chinese Project Notes 3: Environment-Building + The Laddering Method Reloaded

So, the Chinese Project is going really well. I made another shopping trip to my favorite Taiwanese online bookstore. These are new members of my Chinese media collection (except for 玩具總動員/Toy Story, which is an older member):

So, most of what I have are comic books and Disney/Pixar DVDs in Chinese. I also have Chinese-dubbed Powerpuff Girls, because I love that show; the dialogue is hilarious; the animation is top-notch minimalist and…and yeah. It’s a good show. McCracken and Tartakovsky are unsung geniuses; as far as I am aware, their work was the only thing in American TV animation worth watching during that dark age after both Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles had ended. Am I comparing Dexter’s Lab to Gargoyles? Yes.

I’ve already watched 玩具總動員/Toy Story about 10 times, I looped that “I’ll make a man of you/男子漢” song in 花木蘭/Mulan until people (Momoko) started making death threats. This is what I mean about having fun things to read and watch — you can learn a ton of words and sentences and have fun at the same time. I’ve been singing 男子漢 all night — I’ve even made up a version called 「孫小龍」 (my cat’s Chinese name…long story, but he was “hunting” and doing other manly (that’s sexist…lionesses hunt all the time…anyway) things, so it seemed more than appropriate).

Yes, that’s another personal development book at the bottom. I feel kind of embarassed buying stuff like that, like “what’s the matter, Khatzumoto — you need wittle help becwoming a bwetter pwerson?”, but…whatever, I guess. Actually, if you ever do get the chance, Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog is a really good time management book. Short, sweet, no BS, straight to the point. Speaking of BS, there are of course a lot of shady people in the PD industry. I think part of the problem is that many people treat personal development with a fervor that is essentially religious; they’re looking for a religion — they’re looking for something that is good and true all the time and that they need only believe and obey in order to be happy. The problem is that the PD industry is very much a human endeavour, so it does require you to have your brain turned on and your BS radar working at full capacity. On the other hand, I think it’s immature — literally — a sign of underdeveloped thinking to say that “the PD industry has problems, therefore we should ignore it completely” — very much a baby-and-bathwater way of doing it. Some of its good, a lot of it sucks, and you have to pick out the good — the good authors, the good parts of the good authors’ books, and stuff. I don’t know…That particular PD book in the picture, by the way, has some people in it who are full of crap, so I wouldn’t recommend to you unless you’re happy separating wheat from chaff.

Also, in the past week, I realized that my ability to create a foreign-language environment is…too powerful. I was finding myself going for long stretches of time without ever using Japanese; this had no short-term effect, but I worry that it could stunt my Japanese growth in the long term. I don’t “need” to know any more Japanese than I do now — I can function as an adult — but why not go beyond that, I think? Why not keep building a massive vocabulary? So, in the interests of maintaining and expanding use of Japanese, I am scaling back my use of monolingual Chinese dictionaries — I am going back to using the laddering method, with Japanese as a base language for Chinese. Interestingly enough, though, my sojourn with Chinese monolingual dictionaries has given me a lot of confidence in using them, and sometimes when I’m unhappy with a certain Japanese definition, I refer to a C-C dictionary.

  12 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 3: Environment-Building + The Laddering Method Reloaded

  1. August 11, 2007 at 00:44

    Wow, interesting to see your collection.

    Could you just remind us what your level of Mandarin is at the moment. How much of those videos would you understand without subtitles? Are you able to have a conversation in Chinese? Thanks.

  2. khatzumoto
    August 11, 2007 at 07:26

    >How much of those videos would you understand without subtitles?
    This is kind of a tough question to answer, but I’ll just give estimates. By the way, I’m assuming you mean Chinese subs, since I don’t use any foreign subs whatsoever. Since I’ve seen almost all those videos in either English or Japanese like a million times over (I have sizeable tracts of dialogue of the Japanese Toy Story (TS) unintentionally memorized; Powerpuff Girls (PPG) is also a victim of my repeat viewings on Cartoon Network), my understanding is essentially 100%. But of course, if I actually had to depend only on my present Chinese, I would not be able to follow the plot–10%-25% at best and probably less…much less. Since I know what’s happening in those videos, I can just focus on sentence-mining–I don’t have to figure out anything; I don’t get confused about what’s happening: I know WHAT people are saying, all I need to find out is HOW.

    By the way, WITH subs my understanding jumps to like 25-40%. Since I know a lot of Chinese characters, subs really raise my game if they’re turned on.

    Anyway, these numbers are suuuuuuper fuzzy. Sometimes I understand a whole line of dialogue, sometimes I’m totally lost, sometimes I infer stuff later on (I do a lot of inferring)…it really varies. Suffice it to say that I’m still a Chinese language baby, which is precisely why I’m busting my butt so hard.
    >Are you able to have a conversation in Chinese?
    A basic “conversation” about my family structure and the price of fruit in Japan, yes. A job interview? Politics? Even computer science? Not yet. Also, if the person speaks a slurring northen dialect, my ear is still not well trained for that yet.

    Speaking of conversations, the other day, I telephoned a Taiwanese newspaper about getting a subscription from Japan…With electronic dictionary firmly in hand, I was able to fake my way through it, but I had the operator repeat herself quite a few times. Also, I found that I had this “lag” as I attempted to process what she way saying, it took me what seemed like several seconds to be like “oh she’s saying X-Y-Z”. As it is, I avoid random speaking and writing and focus on input; I do parrot funny dialogue that I hear in movies and what-not…especially PPG and TS: “別作夢!!!”.

    Speaking of faking your way through it–a lot of times, just pretending/thinking you understand something actually helps you understand it.

  3. khatzumoto
    August 11, 2007 at 07:37

    By the way, keep in mind that I watch these movies repeatedly. And then I rip the audio from the DVD, put it onto my mp3 player and listen to the movies like a radio play (but where I can picture every scene). Each time I re-watch, my understanding grows, I pick up something new.

  4. David
    August 15, 2007 at 01:11

    Hi Khatzumoto,

    While learning Chinese, did you already come aross this one software called PPLive? It’s basically a P2P Internet Television Network, featuring lots of Chinese channels, including one showing Disney films at 24/7!

    More about this here:

  5. khatzumoto
    August 15, 2007 at 01:32

    Thanks! I downloaded the software once but it didn’t work on my compy…I’ll try one more time…

  6. GZ
    September 2, 2007 at 01:26

    Hey Khatzumoto,

    I’m curious to know if these videos tend to include the option to view simplified character subtitles (my chosen script of study). Unfortunately for me, the mainland isn’t quite the cultural exporter that Taiwan and HK are…

  7. khatzumoto
    September 2, 2007 at 10:24

    Negative. All fanti.

  8. GZ
    September 4, 2007 at 03:12

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  9. Yun
    November 23, 2007 at 14:15

    i was thinking of using to order some movies since they have simplified characters. this might be a dumb question, but do you think I will need a specific player that can play Chinese DVDs, or will my american DVD player or laptop DVD player suffice?

  10. khatzumoto
    November 24, 2007 at 16:13

    You’ll need a new, region-free DVD player. Or a program like “DVD Region+CSS Free” to make your laptop region-free…

  11. Ernesto
    May 15, 2009 at 12:13

    omg…The Secret
    Ajatt now has a new meaning

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