Oct 08, 2019

Top 3 Tips for Taking Notes while Learning Chinese

This guest blog post comes from Jeff Blaylock, linguist, and polyglot. He believes that learning language techniques are far from efficient. The human potential is underrated. Jeff believes that everyone can learn languages in a fast and efficient way.

Before practical advice, it is essential to mention that there are various techniques in learning languages. Making language notes is a part of the reading/writing technique. There are three more methods:

  • Audio
  • Visual
  • Kinesthetic

It is essential to choose your method before starting the learning process.

Audio information can lead listeners to considerable progress while people, who perceive visual information better, will stay at the same level. The truth is, humans are using all channels of perception to learn new information better. That’s why taking notes is inevitable for every type of learner.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/9ju5FNNAixs

Consider the origins when taking notes in Chinese

The first method is to understand the origin of the character. For that reason, use the drawing method for all the evolutionary line. Ms. Zhang offers this method in her book, Learning Chinese characters. It takes the learner through the evolution of each character. This method of taking notes makes you understand what are you trying to say which fastens the process significantly. It leads you from abstract notions to something that you can imagine and therefore memorizes better. When all the characters make sense, it boosts the learning process.

For example, 大 (Dà) means big. It is a picture of a man spreading his arms to the sides as if showing that he is big. 岛 means island which id a combination of a bird 鸟 and a mountain 山 making the island a place where birds are sitting in the mountains. Making notes which explain the original meaning of a character is much more efficient than repeating them without that knowledge. A person memorizes study material better when they understand it.

Always use an example sentence when writing language notes

When making notes in Chinese, make sure you are using the example sentences. Words and characters can change their meaning depending on the usage or the context. That is why it is important to memorize the context rather than the English (or your first language) equivalent. Make notes of phrases rather than separate words. Phrases make strong connections between two elements and every time you use one work, you automatically remember the other. This method turns study process into a qualitative and thoughtful process.

When choosing examples for new phrases or words, don’t copy them from the dictionary. Make up your own sentences. It not only improves your memorizing skills but helps to put the new phrase into its right place in your memory sector. Using the phrase in a dialog is more effective. Short dialogs involve emotions which accelerate the study process significantly.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/gL-7_NtZpYI

Tell the story

Every time you learn enough new Chinese textbook notes to tell the story, do it. Ten or twenty new words are enough. Write down the story that you find as abstract as possible. Your task is to imagine everything you are writing and see the story. The story doesn’t have to make any sense. The more absurd it is, the better. Write it down and read it out loud listening to your own voice. Recording a video of yourself reading this absurd story is even better. This technique involves all your study resources. You turn your imagination on to create the story, make language notes during the process, polish your pronunciation while reading it and improve listening skills when listening to your own record. Use a custom writing company if you can’t make up the story.

This method makes connections between your notes in Chinese. The more abstract the image of your notes, the longer you remember it. Once you use one phrase, your brain will immediately bring up all the other phrases that were there in the story. You can share it with friends, they will appreciate it.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/y-mT2OATY6k

Don’t forget to repeat your language notes

Spaced repetition is the key to success according to the Hermann Ebbinghaus, the inventor of the technique. It helps to remember the big scopes of information fast and qualitatively. By using the technique, you improve your chances to learn Chinese in a shorter period. Repeat your stories and listen to the records you’ve made. There are various options. The light version is to repeat the text in 30 minutes, next morning, in three days, in a week, in a month, in three months, in half a year and in one year. Make notes in the calendar. It is one of the most efficient ways to learn new information.

Bottom line

The general pieces of advice for learning Chinese and making language notes are as follows:

  • determine your personal most efficient learning technique
  • make smart notes and understand the meaning of each character
  • write phrases and sentences to memorize the correct meaning
  • write an absurd story using all the phrases, read it out loud and listen to yourself
  • use a spaced repetition technique.
Jeff Blaylock

By Jeff Blaylock | A Super Chineasian

Jeff Blaylock, linguist, and polyglot. He believes that learning language techniques are far from efficient. The human potential is underrated. Jeff believes that everyone can learn languages in a fast and efficient way.

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