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Ownage in Taiwan: A Success Story of AJATT with Mandarin Chinese

The success story series continues. I don’t know about you guys, but these stories are really inspiring me. They really get me going. You may or may not find this hard to believe, but I sometimes doubt myself. I wonder whether the whole Japanese thing wasn’t just a random fluke. Yeah, crazy, huh? I guess it’s a natural consequence of having a somewhat slightly open mind and being exposed to people with differing opinions. Still, between these success stories, and other successful learners I run into every so often, there’s a lot to confirm what you see here. Dang, I need to go brush my teeth. While I’m doing that, you read Ivan the Terrible‘s (still en route) success story.

Ask, and you shall receive!


A (partial) success story, 為了提高別人的士氣! Though as applied to Mandarin rather than Japanese.

I’ve been studying Mandarin for a long time. Well…’studying’ belongs in parentheses, I think. Huge amounts of time were lost due to procrastination, poor study methods, and simple disinterest. I started my language study the way a lot of people do: listen to language tapes or podcasts a half hour or an hour a day, practice writing a few characters every now and then, then set the language aside until tomorrow while I go off to play an English language game or watch an English language movie. ‘Language learning as daily chore’ about sums it up, and the result was I treated it precisely like I treat most chores:  put it off as long as possible and feel relief when it’s finally out of the way. A missed day wasn’t a rarity at all, and by the time I finished the third and final set of Pimsleur Mandarin CDs my Mandarin was still awful.

So I devoted more time. I bumped up the number of ChinesePod podcasts I listened to a day. I set aside two hours every night to studying characters (Heisig-less character study, which meant I found myself studying the same characters again more than a few times). I amassed gigantic piles of hanzi flashcards. Still, I felt something close to despair whenever I looked at a Chinese Wikipedia page. There seemed to be simply so much there that learning the language to any kind of fluency in any reasonable time frame would be impossible. I found myself on the verge of just abandoning the whole idea and taking on an ‘easy’ western language more than once. A westerner, learning Mandarin to fluency? Reading the two billion and one characters necessary for fluency just like a native? Saying a long sentence and hitting every tone right? Pfftt. The whole idea was hubris from the start.

A funny thing happened while I was browsing the forums at ‘How to Learn Any Language’, however. Someone put up a link to your web site, asking for opinions. At that time, I knew next to nothing about Japanese and had no intention of ever studying it, but I checked out the web site out of curiosity. I was more than a little skeptical about the claims (18 months to fluency? Who does he think he’s fooling?), but the more articles I read, the more excited about the whole concept I became. Even if the results weren’t true, my methods at the time were going nowhere. Besides, it isn’t like constant exposure could hurt my language ability. So I filled up my iPod with Mandarin language music and podcasts, ditched anything in English, and off I went.

At first, I have to admit maintaining the environment was tough for me. The siren call of English language YouTube had a bad tendency to lure me off the path, in those moments when the longing for words I could understand was particularly strong. The method itself is also a bit rougher for Mandarin, given that you have to learn thousands of more hanzi than the student of Japanese, and without a ready-made Heisig book to guide you step by step. I had to use the Heisig method for myself, starting from scrap and making up my own stories and keywords as I went using the character tree at and a couple of character dictionaries I had lying around the house.

Nevertheless, the logic of the method becomes extremely obvious the farther you go. I used to wonder what possible use it could be to constantly listen to things in a language when you haven’t learned any of the words you’re hearing yet. The answer now is clear: you get used to it. Even when you don’t understand every word, the mind begins to accept these strange sounds you’re hearing day in and day out. They stop being foreign and start becoming the simple background of everyday life.

The greatest problem I once faced in Mandarin was that my mind kind of….rejected the words. Chinese was an hour or so a day, not much more. Every word had to be painstakingly drilled in order for it to stay there, and often ended up being forgotten anyway. It was like the immune system of the mind would leap on the new, obviously-not-English word like a foreign bacteria and chew it to pieces before it ever had a chance to stay in my long-term memory. Why couldn’t my mind simply accept a new Chinese word with the same ease it accepts new English words?

Because (of course) Chinese was an hour or so a day, not much more. As soon as conceivably possible, the mind must learn to treat the language as an old friend to be welcomed rather than a foreign intruder to be expunged. And the only way to make this happen is…wait for it….constant exposure to the target language.

Though it took me awhile to fully embrace the idea (I used to tag the English definition to every word I added to the SRS, worried that I would misunderstand if I stuck purely to Chinese), the monolingual dictionary is also an immeasurable help. Using one, you begin to understand two things:

1) There is a whole lot to learn. Much more than anyone can reasonably expect to pick up taking a language class a few hours a week. Learning a language to fluency simply cannot be a part-time project; there are a lot of objects and concepts in the word, a very large proportion of which must be mastered if you want to be fluent, so you must be able to approach it with passion for long periods of time. And, in order to do that, you must enjoy studying it. Anyone who views language learning as a matter of ‘willpower’ is taking the wrong view; you must find yourself in a position, as I have on occasion, where you are stuck doing something that isn’t in Chinese for a few hours and really wanting to go back and do a few more sentences/watch another Mandarin movie/play another Mandarin game. When you have to use willpower to avoid studying your language (because your boss at the Taiwanese 補習班 (cram school) doesn’t approve of the English teacher speaking in Mandarin all day, for example), you’ll know you’re on the right track.

2) There isn’t really all that much to learn. Yes, a paradox, but a good one. Put simply, the more words you pick out from the monolingual dictionary, the more you see the same words cropping up over and over. A language is like a jigsaw puzzle; at first, you don’t even know where to begin, but as each piece/word/grammar idea drops into place, the whole becomes more and more obvious and easier to understand. Always keep in mind as you go that this is not an unending road; so long as you keep adding sentences to your SRS, there will eventually come a day when you stumble across a long, intricate definition and find you understand every word of it. How soon that day comes depends on how high you manage to keep your enthusiasm, and how high you keep your enthusiasm depends on how much you enjoy what you are doing.

Today, I live in Taichung, Taiwan. I’m not yet fluent, by any means, but getting closer every day. I have my characters and sentences separated into two Anki decks: the former is now up to 3500 characters and the latter up to 3000 sentences. Ripped audio from the Mandarin dubbed versions of The Incredibles (超人特攻隊), Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, but to me it’s 魔法公主), alongside any number of songs and Taiwanese TV shows. When I find myself delayed, I always have a Mandarin book or 漫畫 handy (presently sentence-mining my way through Animal Farm; 所有動物生來平等,但有些動物比其他動物更平等!). When I get the chance, I end up playing the Mandarin version of Civilization IV (文明帝國四).*

Everyday conversation is rarely a problem. English speakers who have been here for years typically turn to me to translate Chinese characters for them. My computer uses a Traditional Chinese version of windows, which becomes easier to use by the day. I cannot yet hold a meaningful debate on particle physics, perhaps, but…eh, I can’t in English either.

What is my chief difficulty now? Containing my anxiousness to start Japanese. I never intended to study it before, but constant exposure to AJATT, KanjiClinic, Heisig, etc. has had an effect. I have learned to stop worrying and love the knji, and besides, it will feel good to finally know how all those little squiggly ‘hiragana’ things I keep seeing are pronounced.

* Antimoon mentions playing adventure games like Secret of Monkey Island in English, and if you’re studying Chinese, I cannot recommend enough picking up this game. Not only will you be bombarded with new vocabulary, complete with lots of helpful pictures, but it comes with it’s own internal 中文 encyclopedia for you to check that vocabulary as you play. I usually turn off the music and listen to a Mandarin movie soundtrack. Just wonderful in every way. Skip the expansions, though; no 中文 versions available.

That’s his story :) . If you’ve had success with the methods discussed on this website, please email me about it! I can put it up here and it’ll inspire other people — including me — and you’ll save me some writing!

  26 comments for “Ownage in Taiwan: A Success Story of AJATT with Mandarin Chinese

  1. Clint
    August 5, 2008 at 01:17

    Love it! The jigsaw puzzle analogy in particular is brilliant… thanks for posting!

  2. mjaynec
    August 5, 2008 at 04:58

    This was the inspiration I needed to get my butt back in gear. I’m loving the success stories, and one day I’ll have one to email to you!

  3. Chiro-kun
    August 5, 2008 at 10:56

    Way to go Ivan the Terrible!
    I’m a Monkey Island fan too 🙂

  4. vgambit
    August 5, 2008 at 14:25

    The issue I’m having is that “language learning is a chore” mentality. Most of the time when I’m doing something fun, it would not be fun if it were in a language I do not understand. Driving takes up a large amount of time, as I have to drive for about 3 hours total on any day I have class. Lately, I have taken up listening to English audiobooks of classic novels such as Ender’s Game. The books are so much fun, time seems to move quickly (as it does during most fun things).

    I have tried downloading Japanese podcasts, but I can’t really find any interesting ones. The links you provided either download *incredibly* slowly, or are simply too tedious to click through to download each link to my ipod. Is there any way to come to a compromise between listening to audiobooks and listening to Japanese, or must the environment be as completely encompassing as possible? I have tried it, but it is just not fun, so I lose the motivation to keep it up quickly.

    And the SRS? I want to use it, but at the same time I don’t want to use it. Even when I sit and try to force myself to get through some kanji, I just get bored. There are lots of video games out that I’d like to enjoy but would find a great amount of difficulty doing so thanks to the language barrier (Mother 3, Namco X Capcom, Tales of Innocence).

  5. Ivan the Terrible
    August 5, 2008 at 14:52

    >Way to go Ivan the Terrible!
    > I’m a Monkey Island fan too

    Oh, yeah. Growing up, I played those games constantly. Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, etc.; I understand perfectly how they could be amazingly useful for studying English.

    Unfortunately, the way I typed the above was a bit confusing. I was trying to append a note about Civilization IV at the bottom. So far as I know, they don’t have a 中文 version of Monkey Island. God, I wish they did, especially since by now it would be dirt cheap, but there’s a frustrating tendency to find a game you really want to play only to flip the box and find the dreaded words on the back: 語言表達方式: 英文游戲﹐中文手冊. (Basically, ‘Language display: English gameplay, Chinese manual.)

    I’ve been a computer gamer for a long time, so to me the five characters 繁體中文版 (Traditional Chinese edition) on a game box are like a bell to Pavlov’s dog. Those are the minority, though, and I’ve more than once felt myself near to being driven away from the immersion environment by the realization that I STILL haven’t played Mass Effect and they don’t have a Mandarin version available. It’s just sitting there at the store, taunting me with it’s Chinese manual and English gameplay. 殘酷極了! *sob*

  6. Ivan the Terrible
    August 5, 2008 at 15:41

    > The issue I’m having is that “language learning is a chore” mentality. Most of the time when I’m doing something fun, it would not be fun if it were in a language I do not understand.

    This probably isn’t of much use to you, since you’re talking about audiobooks, but during the initial period I found the best way to overcome the ‘boredom through language incomprehension’ was to watch movies that were extremely visually oriented. For example, I used the movie 英雄 (Hero); lots of flashy sword fights, lots of pretty colors, more than enough to distract me from the fact that what they were saying was (at the time) mostly non-sensical.

    Nowadays, some of the dialogue from that movie is embedded permanently in my mind from hearing it so often.

    你們記住。秦國的箭再強。可以破我們的城﹐滅我們的國! 可亡不了趙國的字﹗

    • Dan
      July 23, 2011 at 02:59

      Quite some time since this post has been put out, but still inspiring nonetheless.
      I am just starting out on my mandarin journey-in light of a job I’m taking in Taiwan and am in need of some advice.

      In the beginning stages of input, how important is Taiwanese Mandarin (Guoyu) over standard mainland mandarin? Putonghua and Guoyu have notable word differences-computer, bicycle etc..- but how numerous are they? Also notable is accent and the lack of strong consonants in Taiwanese-mandarin. Is word and accent difference enough to require focus on Guoyu if I will be in Taiwan and wanting to learn Guoyu? I guess it boils down to me being afraid of confusing (or delaying) my learning process through studying two different strains of Mandarin-Does this concern have any merit or am I being too particular?

      Much thanks in advance!

  7. August 5, 2008 at 21:39

    vgambit: sounds like you need a kick in the butt if a story like that isn’t gonna inspire you to overcome your “obstacles”.

    if you can’t handle 3 hours a day listening to mostly incomprehensible language, then maybe you aren’t ready to live in another language. Try 7 or so hours of forced immersion and not understanding anything! (Yeah it was my stupid fault for coming to Japan not knowing the language.) Still, I could have gone to my apartment and wrapped myself in the warmth of English-language internet, but I said, “No, I’d like some more Japanese please.”

    Sure, you can say that my being in Japan provided me with real motivation to learn the language. But that’s just because you seem to be living in some alternate universe where listening to English in your car is an option! That’s not even the issue. The issue is how are you going get to a point where you can understand and enjoy what you are listening to! AJATT is one way to get there. If you haven’t found the will to overcome your language barrier, it’s because you haven’t made it imperative. In your mind, it’s still a choice. When your life is in Japanese, your studies become a must. When you do your studies, your Japanese life gets easier.

    If you’re still at the beginning and not understanding, it is important to seek out input that you can understand. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to stuff you don’t understand. The mind is powerful and picks up so much without you even working. So if incomprehensible stuff is all that’s available, then listen. If you must concentrate on some other activity (SRS, homework/work in English, making dinner) you should still have this playing in the background because your subconscious mind is still working its magic. If you’re worried about being bored by it in the car, then pick things with interesting voices, with music, with theatrical sounds, etc. (I like having JUNK Podcast that Khatzumoto mentioned on in the background. They are funny and I enjoy it even though I only understand maybe 5% of it.) When you’re driving along listening to this stuff that you don’t understand, have fun imitating the intonations and emotions you hear. If you hear a word you know, repeat it out loud. You should be interacting with your audio.

    Now, it’s very true that comprehensible input will go a lot further a lot faster. It’s just hard to find, especially right at the beginning. I suggest visiting They have some good stuff for starting out. It’s still beta for Japanese, but it’s a start for some beginner audio. It’s just that the topics aren’t always that interesting. Scour the internets for beginners podcasts. Ivan’s advice isn’t so irrelevant either. Who says you can’t rip the audio from movies you know in English? It will provide instant entertainment. Do you what you have to!

    All that said, someone needs to give me a kick in the pants because I have yet to go 100% Japanese. (I keep visiting this site, for instance.) I live in Japan and I still lead maybe a 50-75% English life. It just happens that my passions are second/foreign language acquisition and education. I could (and just about do) read about linguistics and teaching every day. I decided (mostly subconsciously) that it would be too hard to turn that part of my life (reading teaching blogs/message boards/news/scientific articles/etc) into AJATT. So I haven’t. But reading about your “problem” has shown me how pathetic my excuses are.

  8. wenhailin
    August 5, 2008 at 22:11

    Hey Ivan, how much of the news can you understand? I am not sure what they have in Taiwan, but I have been watching 新闻联播 every day for a few months now, and still struggle a lot. But it is getting easier, now I catch a lot more of what is said…still think they talk waaayyyy too fast though!

    Oh, and about the monodics, which one(s) do you use? I just noticed today that now has 3 dictionary databases they use, and one of them is monolingual, and really quite good. Check it out!

  9. Ivan the Terrible
    August 5, 2008 at 22:17

    >Who says you can’t rip the audio from movies you know in English? It will provide instant entertainment.

    Yes, that’s even better advice. vgambit, listen to the dubbed versions of stuff you already know in English! Rip the audio onto an ipod or whatever and just walk around listening to it; you’ll know roughly what’s going on, and the experience will be considerably easier to get used to.

    Just make sure it’s something that’s fun to watch and listen to without necessarily understanding every word. My Dinner with Andre might lack the prequisite amount of things blowing up and people hacking each other into pieces.

    On that note, you Japanese learners are lucky! It sounds like you have plenty to choose from in the dubbing department, but so far as I can see, very little foreign outside of animated movies and shows ends up being dubbed in Mandarin. Therefore, I’ve pretty much been steadily buying up the catalogue of Pixar and Miyazaki films. I’d kill to be able to buy the Star Wars OT in Mandarin, but no go.

    In other words, vgambit: reflect on how good you’ve got it in comparison!

  10. Ivan the Terrible
    August 5, 2008 at 22:47


    Not much, unfortunately. The news still regularly kicks the crap out of me. I can get a vague idea of what’s going on, but you’re right, they talk fast! Definitely an area I need to spend more time on.

    As for the monodics, I’ve been used the couple Khatzumoto had the courtesy to link to some time back.


    I use the kid’s dictionary for example sentences, since the adult dictionary has a tendency to draw it’s example sentences from 紅樓夢, 論語, 西遊記, etc., which are at least a few centuries out of date. They might illustrate the usage of the word, and I would like to read them someday, but I’m worried I might end up being like a Chinese guy who learns English primarily through constant exposure to Shakespeare; utterly hilarious to native speakers, but probably not at the cutting edge of modern spoken language.

    I haven’t used the dictionaries mostly because they’re in 簡體字. Though I’m definitely going to tackle simplified in the future, I’ve been told since the beginning that it’s much easier to master 簡體字 from 繁體字 than the reverse, and if you don’t master fanti you’re left cut off from the overwhelming bulk of pre-Mao Chinese history and culture. Well, that, and I am (for various reasons) an unrepentant fanti snob. After so much time looking at the traditional characters, simplified always looks….incomplete.

  11. hyij
    August 6, 2008 at 00:25

    The best mandarin monodic out there has to be: (在线新华字典). Everything’s done using 简体字 though.

  12. dmh
    August 6, 2008 at 01:11

    Try getting Assimil audio. It’s largely comprehensible from the beginning and once you’ve listened to all of it, the transition to more native like movie/tv dialog should be a lot less painful.

  13. wenhailin
    August 6, 2008 at 07:43

    I use those dictionaries too, but unfortunately I have always been taught in 简体字 so I don’t want to change (just yet). So with those 2 dictionaries I just convert them into simplified using a little firefox plugin called Tong Wen Tang. You could easily do the reverse with nciku, I find the definitions it uses are often easier than that kid’s dictionary, and they have loads more example sentences.

    With the movies, there is actually a lot more than just pixar ones. Just go to (Chinese version of Youtube) and search something like 欧美电影国语版. I have been watching Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club, Batman Begins and Spiderman, and also ripping the audio onto my PSP and just listening whenever.

    PS They have Star Wars dubbed…search for 星球大战国语版

  14. Ivan the Terrible
    August 6, 2008 at 16:34

    > I use those dictionaries too, but unfortunately I have always been taught in 简体字 so I don’t want to change (just yet).

    It’s mostly a formality, since the serious student of one will usually have to learn the other to some extent anyway. As much as I want to be able to read the Chinese classics, for example, it would also be really nice to not have to restrict my written communication to the tiny, tiny fraction of Chinese who still use fanti in everyday life.

    > You could easily do the reverse with nciku, I find the definitions it uses are often easier than that kid’s dictionary, and they have loads more example sentences.

    I remember having problems with translating before, probably related to those characters which are separate in fanti but which are combined for jianti, but you’re right, it shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ll give nciku a try!

    > With the movies, there is actually a lot more than just pixar ones. Just go to (Chinese version of Youtube) and search something like 欧美电影国语版. I have been watching Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club, Batman Begins and Spiderman, and also ripping the audio onto my PSP and just listening whenever.

    I love you.

    God, all this time, and it wasn’t the Chinese as a whole being screwed over in the dubbing department; it was just the Taiwanese! You can’t find ANYTHING dubbed here unless children are expected to be it’s major audience.

    Life is good.

    *begins the downloading spree of a lifetime*

  15. wenhailin
    August 6, 2008 at 18:55

    Hehehe, glad you enjoyed that tip. You may have a bit of trouble actually downloading the clips though, because Youku has been rather clever about how the encode the flv files. They actually split the video into 7 min flv files, so you can’t just use a firefox addon like DownloadHelper and get the whole video – all you will get is the first 7 minutes!

    It took me a while, but I managed to work out a way around it. Once you find a video you like, copy the address and go to and paste it in to the 开始GO box. What it will spit out is a list of all the addresses of the 7 minute sections that youku has turned the video into. Then you can just go along and “copy link location” of each one into a separate tab and then after pressing enter, a box should come up asking whether to save or to open the file. It shouldn’t take too long, and in the end you will have a lot of flv files (try to change the names as you save them to something like part01, part02 etc). Then use a program called Movica to combine them all into 1 flv file. After that I normally use SUPER to convert it to mp4 to watch on my PSP, or mp3 to listen to.

    Now off to watch some Casino Royale, my most recently downloaded and dubbed movie!

    PS If you know of any easier way to get the files downloaded, tell me!

  16. zodiac
    August 6, 2008 at 20:06

    does anyone know of similar websites for japanese (ie dubbed movies online)?

  17. hueoblue
    August 6, 2008 at 23:00

    youku has stuff in Japanese as well but it can try your patience finding what you want, and it will often have Chinese subs.

  18. quendidil
    August 7, 2008 at 01:53

    Hey where did you get Monkey Island in Chinese?

  19. Ivan the Terrible
    August 7, 2008 at 09:54

    > Hey where did you get Monkey Island in Chinese?

    I didn’t. I just wrote that in a really confusing way. I was trying to make a reference to the fact that anti-moon suggests playing adventure games, gave Monkey Island as the first example that came to mind (no Chinese version, so far as I know, but to be fair I haven’t looked hard), and then segued off into the game I was really talking about: Civilization IV.

    Basically, what I was attempting to get at is that since the adventure games recommended by anti-moon have both virtually disappeared from the shelves and likely were never translated into Mandarin/Japanese in the first place, a good strategy game like Civ IV is a very good replacement. It becomes more obvious when you see I mention expansions packs and an in-game encyclopedia, which would be really weird with a LucasArts adventure game.

  20. quendidil
    August 9, 2008 at 00:41

    Ah I see.

    You can use RPGs for Japanese at least. All the Final Fantasies, for one.
    There are also some translations of English games available, like Oblivion and Baldur’s Gate. The audio might still be in English though; I downloaded Warcraft III in Japanese recently only to find out that the audio was untranslated, after 3 missions I decided to uninstall it; my main purpose for intending to use the game was to go through the campaign in Japanese, the gameplay controls involve an incredibly small amount of language use in any language and I decided that it wouldn’t do much good.

    I’m currently downloading a few other games on Share, I hope they won’t be all undubbed, especially the RPGs.

    エロゲ are also good for listening and reading practice; and actually especially those based mainly on H-scenes for beginners-intermediates. The language is fairly easy at that level and the voices loud, clear and natural. You’ll also pick up some sexual vocab along the way. =p

  21. quendidil
    August 13, 2008 at 12:49


    All of the translated English games I’ve found only have translated text; the audio is still English. This MIGHT still work for RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, which actually have fairly little audio but RTS’s are out of the question.

  22. Ivan the Terrible
    August 13, 2008 at 15:35


    > All of the translated English games I’ve found only have translated text; the audio is still English. This MIGHT still work for RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, which actually have fairly little audio but RTS’s are out of the question.

    I think that’s really the best you can hope for, and it’s still one-up on Mandarin. There’s plenty of Western RPGs available…more than I was expecting, as I was thinking that as a fellow Asian country devoted to the cult of 可愛 they would prefer the strict narrative and spiky hair of JRPGs…but none translated into Chinese outside of the manual.

    Ah well. When I start Japanese (as of now, I’m looking to 1st of September as D-Day), I’m definitely going to get some RPGs, turn down the audio and listen to Japanese music and audio while I play. I wonder if I can find a translated version of Fallout and Fallout 2?

  23. ~
    August 20, 2008 at 02:32

    Awesome! But couldn’t he haved used the Heisig book? If he’s living in Taiwan, then he’s using traditional characters, which are nearly identical to Kanji… ahh well. Question here: Did listening only to Chinese podcasts/music/videos help you understand, at all? Not just get used to the language, but to actually understand? Just curious. Either way, an inspiring story!

  24. Ivan the Terrible
    August 20, 2008 at 17:54

    > Awesome! But couldn’t he haved used the Heisig book? If he’s living in Taiwan, then he’s using traditional characters, which are nearly identical to Kanji… ahh well.

    I could have. Maybe. I didn’t…and don’t…know enough Japanese to know just how much of a crossover there is between Hanzi and Kanji, nor did I really know which characters were exclusive to Japanese, which characters had been simplified (I’ve noticed Japan turns 國 into 国), which characters had nearly entirely different meanings or are used in entirely different ways, etc.

    And, of course, that’s setting aside all the Hanzi which fall outside of Japan’s 常用漢字 list.

    I actually tried using the Heisig method as he outlines, following along with those first few chapters, but as I recall I kept running into key words for characters I already knew which didn’t seem to fit with the Mandarin meaning I had come to know. In the end, it just didn’t seem to be worth the risk of pounding my way all the way through Heisig only to discover a good portion of my Hanzi had just been Kanjified out of all understanding.

    In the end, though, it isn’t that difficult without Heisig directly guiding you. I would even go so far as to say it makes the process somewhat easier; you can choose exactly the keywords that you know will stick, customized to suit your own tastes and interests. All through the learning process, there are little traces of you. My keywords, for example, are literally overflowing with references to everything from Big Trouble in Little China to World War II (擊 = Panzer attack!) to various irritating habits of certain family members. 🙂

    If Heisig did it on his own, no reason the rest of the world can’t. It’s more a matter of streamlining and convenience than anything to have the keywords given to you in advance.

    >Question here: Did listening only to Chinese podcasts/music/videos help you understand, at all? Not just get used to the language, but to actually understand? Just curious. Either way, an inspiring story!

    Somewhat. Especially in the cases of movies I had already seen and knew well in English, picking up new vocabulary was easy. When you know that a character is named ‘elastigirl’ in English, and people in the Mandarin dub start calling her 彈性女超人, it isn’t hard to figure out what 彈性 means, for example. And, of course, there are cases where context makes it really obvious; when a military commander yells ‘開火!’ and everyone starts shooting, what else do you need?

    Mostly, though, for me it acts as a reinforcer of what I’ve been studying in the SRS. There are few greater languages rushes than listening to a movie you’ve heard on your Ipod about a billion times and suddenly realizing that a given sentence you’ve heard about a billion times suddenly makes sense….completely, 100%…because of something you just added to the SRS the night before. There are also few better ways to insure that you won’t be forgetting the meaning of that sentence anytime soon.

  25. Failure
    March 13, 2018 at 14:36

    I tried this exact same method to failure. After searching 300+ Taiwanese TV shows, 500+ movies and other resources, I realized there wasn’t enough to sustain an interest.

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