Workshop Schedule

Adult language learning is optimized when people are encouraged to, and are given tools to, make personal meaning of their efforts in connection with others. 

Workshop 1 – Orientation (“Insider Tips” below)

Workshops 2-12

3:00 – 3:10  PM Progress check-ins

  1. Report on development of proficiency with The First Sentence and expansion of its use
  2. Report on interlanguage development
  3. Report on learnings and challenges

3:10 – 3:30 PM Presentations
3:30 – 4:00 PM Consultations with guest instructor
4:00 – 4:20 PM Synthesis and application of content from presentations and guest instruction
4:20 – 4:30 Progress check-outs

  • Presentations: Each group member will make a presentation on a topic of interest to them and lead a conversation and/or discussion about the topic. Organizing one’s thoughts to explain language content to others contributes to developing an interlanguage.
  • Consultations with guest instructors: Each group member will bring questions: 1) to ask for the instructor’s guidance, 2) to ask in hopes of fostering group discussions facilitated by the guest instructor.

Workshop 13: Consolidation of gains and next steps

  • Progress check-ins.
  • Presentation of scores and percentage improvement.
  • Assessments and suggestions for further optimization.
  • Future study plans.
  • Announcement of date and time for celebration banquet.

Celebration Banquet at The University Club of Virginia Tech

  • Date and time to be announced

. . . . .

Workshop 1: Orientation

Research-informed and case study-informed insider tips on learning Mandarin Chinese

  1. Play to the strengths of the human brain. Self-kindness optimizes. Self-judgment delays.
  2. One word: Homophones. Mandarin Chinese has around 400 sounds. In comparison, English is reported by several pundits to have an estimated 14,000 sounds (a number I have been unable to verify). That means a) syllables, words, and concepts in Chinese sound alike, and b) the same sounds will have multiple meanings. Most characters, however, have single meanings.  Therefore, learning characters from the start is an imperative because, although many concepts may sound alike, a disambiguating mental image becomes associated with each word, syllable, and/or concept.
  3. Consciously attend to your morale and do what helps, not hurts. Mandarin Chinese courses can have a 95% dropout rate.
  4. Become aware of, and attend to, your personal remembering and forgetting processes. Not being able to remember is a central barrier to achieving proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. As Qi et al., 2019, aptly put it, “The capacity for retaining proficiency after training is a critical challenge for real-world language learners.”
  5. Learn new content, then, rather than letting the brain’s natural forgetting process overwrite previously learned content, consciously keep new content dynamic by mentally integrating it into the existing, established circuitry of your interlanguage.
  6. Rather than attempt to force yourself through sheer willpower to learn new content, cheerfully and consciously collect exposures. Researchers have found that second language learners may need from 3 to 17 exposures to learn a new word.
  7. Interaction, with all its rich unpredictability, may help create autobiographical memories and may help keep content dynamic, potentiating the human brain to remember rather than forget. According to neuroscience studies on second language learningadults learn languages most efficiently through social interaction, particularly when it’s immersive for adult learners.
  8. To be intelligible to all but our teachers, we need to pronounce Mandarin Chinese with meticulous accuracy. Best to consciously learn it from the start, particularly tones. It’s inefficient and painful to go back and retrace one’s steps.
  9. Pinyin isn’t always pronounced as it’s spelled.
  10. Only 3% of Chinese characters are pictograms.
  11. The end in mind is finite and achievable. According to Everson et al., 2016, “For native readers of modern Chinese, it is estimated that between 2,000 to 3,000 characters are needed to accomplish most reading functions on a daily basis. Chinese children learn 3,500 characters from first to ninth grade.”

Insider tips on using Mandarin Blueprint

In an innovative application of the method of loci – a memory strategy attributed to the ancient Greeks and Romans – Mandarin Blueprint users are taught how to pronounce, write, and read Chinese characters by attempting to create the equivalent of autobiographical memories by envisioning places from their own personal histories, then imagining actors interacting with props in rooms within those locations. Characters are introduced in order of frequency of use in publications, increasing the likelihood that users will be able to quickly recognize, then read, text they encounter online and in print.

  1. Choose “z” characters ahead of time.
  2. Choose 13 memorable locations/sets that you don’t mind visiting many, many times. For some locations, revisiting them may prove traumatizing, including one’s childhood home, the latter used throughout Mandarin Blueprint. Here are the finals represented by the sets, in order of introduction:
    -(e)n: -en, -n
    -(e)ng: – eng, -ng
    ∅, no final
  3. Orient yourself to visualizing tones using a “Tone House.”
  4. Although Mandarin Blueprint invites you to use your own “props,” if you intend to continue with Mandarin Blueprint, using their props is easier since you will encounter them hundreds of times and that’s one less thing to remember. (I had to Google “rocket launcher” to see what one looked like, but I now recognize 𤴓 for an accurately used rocket launcher when I see it.)
  5. Use Hanzi Search to find characters in Mandarin Blueprint. Directions: Copy and paste the character of interest into the search box. Clicking on the character takes the user to the lesson in Mandarin Blueprint where the character is taught. Text links below the character take users to other resources that offer definitions and examples. These URLs link to descriptions of 十:  Dong |HSK |Z2HZ2H offers movie clips in which the character is used.

Mandarin Chinese Workshop-related links

Last updated 5/24/22

Questions? Please contact Anne.