Alaric Radosh is studying Chinese; besides the Chinese blog he uses to practice (brave man!), he’s started an English one in which he discusses techniques of language learning that have worked for him. I recommend it to anyone trying to learn a foreign language. (Via Brainysmurf.)

One remark in his very first post, “Suggestions for New Bloggers in Chinese as a Foreign Language,” astonished me: “Don’t worry too much about making mistakes in your Chinese posts. Your Chinese readers will enjoy pointing them out to you and ‘helping’ you with corrections.” What I would have given to have native speakers correct me when I was trying to learn Mandarin in Taiwan! But nobody would; it was all “You speak our language so well!” I guess there’s not so much concern over saving your face when it’s a long-distance blog relationship. Lucky Alaric.


  1. Thanks for the pointer! As you say, the English blog has some great suggestions for students of any language. And the Chinese blog is both an inspiration and a challenge — I think I may well follow Alaric’s example and start a Japanese blog.

  2. A nice blog – I pretty much agree with all he has to say. Especially about reading. I found reading Harry Potter in Chinese was great. Even when you can’t understand a word, the story is simple enough that you can still follow along. And because they are translated from English they don’t have so many classical Chinese phrases, like some Chinese language children’s books.

  3. dungbeattle says

    Yep! he do make horse sense; I have watch foreign students study and then return home better native language speakers and and new partner, that was living not far from whence they left. They had banded to-gether like rooks and suddenly feeling home sick, sure they made friends ( birds of a feather flock together } but did not circulate amongst the natives.
    The Parents cannot understand why? after spending dollops of money.

  4. Actually, they still do that. They still sit there and tell us how great your language is, even if we make mistakes. (I live in the mainland though, not Taiwan.) But on the Internet the reaction is quite different. I don’t know, maybe it’s because the written language?

  5. A guy I knew learned Japanese from his gitlfriend. The first time he used it in public everyone burst out laughing. He was talkking like a girl, which I have been told is elaborately stylized in Japan.
    I have had good luck with American pulp fiction in translation. It’s so stereotyped that everything is pretty predictable. I even have a favorite author — Bill Ballinger, whose work I have in Catalan, Portuguese, Finnish, and one other language (Dutch or Spanish I think — I’ll buy anything anyone has, BTW).
    With this method I’ve had fun with languages I don’t know such as Catalan, Norwegian, and Dutch, but Finnish is 100% inpenetrable. A friend of mine says that there are a few Swedish cognates in Finnish, but nothing else.

  6. OK, ‘fess up — was this actually “a guy you knew” or was it the more traditional “friend of a friend” or “cousin of this guy I work with”? Because I’ve heard that story a lot, and while it’s inherently plausible and very likely happened to somebody at some point (probably during the Occupation), I’ve seen nothing that would definitively raise it from the status of urban legend (ie, a protagonist with a name, rank, and serial number who’s willing to come forward and testify). Frankly, it would be pretty hard not to notice that none of the guys you heard on the street talked like your girlfriend.

  7. It was either Ken Kopp or a friend of his. I had a feeling that whoever it was enjoyed practicing Japanese in an intimate surrounding and was less enthusiastic about talking to strangers. For reasons I can well understand.
    Ken, sorry to out you, but my honot was questioned.

  8. OK, your honot is redeemed.

  9. Harrow English School says

    Kerim Friedman (2003-10-13) uses the expression “Even if you do not understand a word….”
    His terminology is idiomatic, and it means, “Even if there are no words at all (in the entire text) that you understand……”
    He does not really mean this. He means to say, “Even if there is a word you do not understand…..”

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