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Chinese Project Notes 6: Extinguishing the Despair of the Serial Beginner + Audio Splicing

The Despair of the Serial Beginner

So, I’m working on Chinese right now. All Chinese All The Time. Or, “Mostly Chinese Almost All the Time”. Something like that ;).

You may be aware of how I’ve had an intermittent relationship with Chinese. Starting for a bit, only to stop. So sometimes I wonder: “what’s so different about this time? Why am I going to succeed this time? What about all those other times?”. Well, I proved it with Japanese, so Chinese should be cake, right?

It is, kind of. But it isn’t, kind of. Japanese and Chinese are related, but they are still totally different languages. So again, I wonder: “what’s so different about this time? Why am I going to succeed this time?”. Because I am. Because I decided to succeed. And because there is no such thing as “Chinese”. There isn’t this single monolithic thing called “Chinese” that I am trying to swallow whole. There’s nothing but a finite (yes, there is an end) collection of sounds and symbols that any human being is capable of encoding and decoding. All you have to do is learn these sounds and symbols one at a time. Eventually, you get to the point where you can encode and decode them freely. This, we call fluency. But you never have to tackle it all at once. You never have to do anything superhuman. You never have to concern yourself with the whole. You just have to work on parts. Just be consistent. Just knock in those golf balls/sentences, day in, day out [I like to pretend that my sentences are balls and my cellphone is a club…weird]. Boom. Boom. Boom. The “language” — the whole — will take care of itself, you never have to see or worry about it. All you have to see is this character, this sentence, this moment. That’s all. Quit worrying, quit thinking, quit hoping, quit wondering. Just do. Here. Today. Now. This one. I don’t know if I wrote this for you or for myself. And I know it repeats a lot of what I’ve said before. Oh, well :D.

Sometimes, I also worry about my Chinese pronunciation. I don’t think it’s bad…it isn’t. But, does it sound indistinguishable from a Chinese person? That, I don’t know. But I realized that the solution to that is just to hear more Chinese, and pay attention to it. There’s no magic to sounding like a native speaker — it’s just acting. It’s just doing an impression while keeping a straight face.

Splitting Audio for Aural Snacking

In a previous project notes post, I mentioned that I would rip the audio from DVDs in order to make a radio play-like experience. What hit me at the time I was doing this with Japanese was how long these were. I mean, you rip a DVD, and a typical movie runs 90 minutes, that means you have a 90-minute mp3. I never did anything about this back then; it wasn’t that big a problem. However, now with Chinese, I noticed that I almost never listen to my mp3 player for 90 minutes straight [not because of Chinese itself, but because my daily routine has changed]. This created a situation where I would hear the beginning of something a ton of times, but I almost never got to hear the middle or end.

…Which is bad for three reasons: (1) it’s boring, (2) it’s boring and robs me of chances to get listening practice from the rest of the DVD and (3) it’s boring and often I ended up avoiding listening to the movies in favor of music. The solution that I came up with was to split the 90-minute mp3 file into what is, for me, the perfect chunk: equal parts of approximately 3 minutes and 30 seconds — the canonical length of a pop song. I then put these audio clips on random shuffle. It’s fun, because of the variety [it’s kind of like…”aural snacking” on bite-size chunks of fun, like that cocktail party food with the toothpicks and all the different cheeses and stuff, whatever you call it]; you don’t have to make this commitment to listening to the whole movie from start to finish, but you get to enjoy it in pieces that are long enough to provide great listening practice, short enough that you can’t get bored, and spread out evenly across the entire movie so that you get to hear dialogue from every part of the film even if you don’t invest a full 90+ minutes. Anyway, not earth-shaking, but a fun hack, I think.

There is a completely free program available that does that splitting (an mp3 splitter) here: I looked for a free Japanese one, but to no avail.

  24 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 6: Extinguishing the Despair of the Serial Beginner + Audio Splicing

  1. quendidil
    September 8, 2007 at 16:52

    You can try using Audacity too, it has support for Japanese and both character sets of Chinese

  2. Savara
    September 8, 2007 at 18:17

    I still haven’t found an audio rip thing that works with bigger files (150 mb and bigger), or that works with actual DVDs… (For now I just use media-convert.com for random anime eps that have smaller file sizes and more… random things.) (Yeah I saw the other post, but couldn’t find a version that worked, and I’m a poor student so can’t buy anything at the moment)

  3. quendidil
    September 8, 2007 at 20:30

    Google VobSub, you can rip the audio tracks from most video file formats (.avi, .mkv, .ogm etc) to wav, and then you can use Audacity to cut out the silences and compress it. I shrunk a 1.2gb audio file from Vampire Hunter:D to about 83mb using this.

  4. September 8, 2007 at 20:54

    I’m slightly surprised that you never ripped it using the DVD chapters as different tracks. Ok, so they’ll be longer than three and a half minutes but at least a chapter won’t start part way through a conversation!!

  5. Tony
    September 8, 2007 at 21:44

    Hey, this is unrelated to audio and Japanese, but it is related to Chinese, and it’s just for you. www.flash512.com/fullscreen.php?fname=20070800/0821/room.swf

    I don’t know what it’s about since there are a ton of kanji, but on antimoon it said one of the things they did was play Monkey Island and this is some kind of game in Chinese (strongly making that assumption here, I don’t know what the difference is between Cantonese and Mandarin or which one you’re learning…or if they’re written the same way but pronounced differently etc.) where you go looking for stuff. My friend sent it to me and said “Use your kanji skills!” But mine aren’t for this one.

  6. Tony
    September 8, 2007 at 21:46

    Here’s another idea that I had before when you wrote the post about acting — I took Hana Yori Dango and broke it down into sections where only Don Myouji was talking so I could listen to his parts over and over since that’s who I wanted to imitate. It works out well since the subtitles are exact and I don’t have an overwhelming amount to go through at a time. If you’re breaking it up into these smaller sections and listening it’ll be easier to remember/take out those things you want to copy.

  7. scout
    September 9, 2007 at 00:45

    Does anyone have another download link for the MP3 Splitter referenced in the post? The link on that page doesn’t work for me — www.8op.com can’t be found. (There doesn’t seem to be a DNS entry for it.)

    I also considered picking someone from 花より男子 to imitate. I personally ruled out 道明寺 because his Japanese is purposefully odd in a lot of places. Sadly, a lot of the stuff I have where there are characters I’d like to imitate are animated. So that doesn’t work out well for looking at mouth shape, etc.

  8. khatzumoto
    September 9, 2007 at 00:46

    Hey Matt,

    Actually, that never occurred to me, LOL! Maybe partly because back in the day, I didn’t exactly own DVDs, if you catch my drift.. Anyway, chapters is a really good idea.

  9. Tony
    September 9, 2007 at 08:36

    The url for the mp3 splitter should be : www.codevisions.de/mp3splitter/readme.html
    so I’m not sure why it’s redirecting you to www.8op.com?

    I thought about that when I was thinking about using 道明寺 as well, but since I’m not using everything he says, and it’s pretty clear when he makes a mistake since someone corrects him (in the English subbed version I’ve got it also says what the mistake is and explains it), so I didn’t think there was so much of a problem. If you’re looking to use him as an actor, I don’t know how the subs are, but you could try 君はペット。

  10. David
    September 9, 2007 at 15:41

    Scout,

    you could try downloading it directly from the author’s homepage:

    www.codevisions.de/ (the link can be found at the very top of the page)

  11. scout
    September 9, 2007 at 16:38

    Thanks! It looks like I’ll have to convert some of my VBR files to constant bitrate files if I want to use that program to split them up.

    Tony, I guess I was always nervous that 道明寺’s speech irregularities weren’t limited to the obvious ones where people call him out on it. Certainly telling people that you’ll ぶっ殺す them if they don’t answer your phone call is rather uncommon, IMHO. Gokusen also comes to mind as another great series 松本潤 is in, however that’s also got pretty non-standard sounding speech. (BTW, the Japanese subs for 花より男子 use dots next to the various words that 道明寺 messes up, as well as next to the corrected word.)

    For those who have begun speaking, do you find that it’s painfully slow in the beginning? I think I can generally make good, grammatical sentences when speaking, but that usually involves long pauses between the various bits of the sentence. I’m generally formulating sentences directly in Japanese in my mind, but it takes a while to piece things together. It’s probably slow to the point where native speakers would not find it fun to listen to for more than a few minutes. I can speak faster, but that generally involves tripping over words and saying things which are ungrammatical, hence my general decision to slow down. Is going this slow a sign that I still shouldn’t be trying to output things, or more just a sign that I need to do it more to work on my fluency?

  12. khatzumoto
    September 9, 2007 at 17:07

    Tony

    Thanks for the link!
    Did it take you a long time to rip just that one character’s audio? How did you go about it?

  13. Tony
    September 9, 2007 at 22:31

    No problem Khatz.

    I didn’t rip everything which probably sped up the process a lot. I’ve got a program called “avi-mpeg-wmv-rm to mp3 converter” by Allok Soft that I use to get it into mp3 form in the first place which lets me watch a .avi and when I get to a part I want to rip I can say “ok start here and go for….10 seconds.” A free program that you could use after ripping the sound (if you don’t have that one but another way to do it and it only gives you the whole thing) is Audacity (for windows, but I think there’s a mac version) Then you look at the time on the .avi and match it up with the .mp3 time in audacity which lets you zoom in to rip a little chunk. Then you cut out the section you want, paste it into another window. From there, you can “export as .mp3” and you have it. I guess if you wanted to make just one string of the characters stuff you could keep pasting into the same .mp3 window (I’m not sure how to word it, but basically it would be like having 2 windows open, and continuing to paste into the new sound file window consecutively.) I hope this makes sense because I changed direction in the middle of rewriting it and switched everything around.

  14. Charles
    September 11, 2007 at 21:49

    I’m on a Mac. And like Khatz, my schedule doesn’t like 90 min of straight audio study. I found Fission www.rogueamoeba.com/fission/. Has anyone had any experience with this. It looks great but if I can get the job done for cheaper, I’m up for suggestions.
    Thanks,
    Charles

  15. Charles
    September 11, 2007 at 21:52

    Hi Folks,
    I’m on a Mac. Anyone had any experience with Fission? www.rogueamoeba.com/fission/

  16. Sam
    September 12, 2007 at 01:12

    I don’t know what software you use, but in iTunes, if you select ‘get info’ on a track, then ‘options’, then ‘remember playback position’ you can stop listening to your dvd audio then start again where you left off. This function also works on ipods I seem to remember.

  17. Charles
    September 12, 2007 at 09:55

    Thanks Sam. I’ll see what I can do.
    I apologize for the double post…

  18. James
    September 12, 2007 at 15:22

    Anyone know a free way to rip DVD to MP3?

  19. Tony
    September 12, 2007 at 17:13

    I think you have to convert the dvd to avi first. I found this site though: jp.burn-dvd-movie.com/dvd-audio-ripper/

    just did a google search for “rip dvd audio”
    also look for “any dvd converter”

  20. shaydwyrm
    October 24, 2007 at 18:07

    Hi Khatzumoto,

    Do you have any way of ripping audio from online news feeds, or any way of getting news digests in mp3 form? I think you mentioned looping the news all day at some point, but I can’t figure out how to do it…

  21. Nefarious-T
    November 16, 2007 at 08:01

    Remember those mini-disc recorders? They’re old technology now, but they work wonders for language study. You can rip any audio source (although it’s “ripped” in real time), but the best thing is that you can track an audio file wherever you are.

    I’m often listening to a movie I’ve ripped, and then i get to a sentence whose structure I’m unfamiliar with. So I just put a track mark at the end, and at the beginning–very easy to do on a subway, car, class, wherever–and loop it a few times. Then, once I’m bored with (i.e. have memorized) most of the movie, I can delete the longer passages that I know, and just keep the shorter passages whose structure I’m still learning.

  22. Nefarious-T
    November 16, 2007 at 08:02

    Only problem is that you can’t put it back on your computer very easily.

  23. Nefarious-T
    November 16, 2007 at 08:09

    Google Hi-MD for info on how to transfer MD recordings to PC easily.

  24. December 20, 2009 at 12:12

    Hey, I didnt see it here, but you can try Format Factory. It’s totally free, has a dvd ripper where you can change the audio/subtitle language settings, there is a video/audio merger, and you also can convert almost any video to audio as well.

    The only drawback: it seems that it cannot handle filenames in non-roman scripts, but the interface is able to go into many different languages.

    Peace|Joy|Love

    ~SPRTFGD~

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