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Learning in class

Contrary to most hip language learning bloggers out there, I don’t think that learning languages in class sucks. Sure, if that’s the only thing you’re doing, you won’t learn very much (depending on the institution, of course), but with the right attitude, formal education still has a lot to offer.

To start with, classes offer you structure and guidance. This is a double-edged sword. If you think that this means that you can relax and enjoy the ride, you’re wrong, but if you see the teacher and lessons as a resource among other resources, then they are truly useful. If you’re enrolled in a language program, there are three things you need to ask yourself:

  1. What do I want to learn which is not tested by this school?
  2. What do I want to learn that is not emphasised in this school?
  3. What does this school teach that I don’t want to learn?

If you want to learn native-like pronunciation, you can’t take a conversation class with 25 foreigners, you need individual tutoring. Attending class might still give you useful theory and other insights, but it won’t be enough. If you don’t care about writing Chinese by hand, but your teacher gives you tests with handwriting twice a week, you need to figure out what do about this, otherwise you’ll end up wasting hours learning something which doesn’t bring you closer to your goals. You need to understand the importance of counting what counts

This all boils down to comparing your own goals for learning Chinese with the goals (curriculum, examination) of the school you’re attending. They will never match perfectly, sometimes there are huge differences. In general, if you’re enrolled in a language program, you need to be clear about what you want to learn, what the program will teach you and how you will handle the difference between the two.

Here are all articles in this category (scroll down to see all of them in a text-only list):

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All articles
Mental models and making mistakes
The art of being corrected
Take responsibility for your own learning now
Learning Chinese pronunciation as a beginner
Native speakers and native speakers
Why you should use more than one textbook
Achieving the impossible by being inspired
The kamikaze approach to learning Chinese
Triggering quantum leaps in listening ability
If you want to master Chinese, make long-term investments
Learn by exaggerating: Slow, then fast; big, then small
The importance of counting what counts
Language question triage – General guidelines
Don’t try to improve everything at once, limit your focus
Language is communication, not only an abstract subject to study
Improving writing ability: Common problems and how to tackle them
Don’t just read about learning methods, actually try them as well
Learning styles: Use with caution!
Have fun learning Chinese or else…
Why you really should use a Chinese notebook
The question you have to ask about your Chinese teacher or course
Studying Chinese when your grades matter
5 insights from the first year of a master’s program in Taiwan
Reading aloud in Chinese is really hard
About fossilisation and improving your Chinese pronunciation
Drills and exercises aren’t only for beginners
Role-playing to learn more Chinese and avoid frustration
Focusing on tone pairs to improve your Mandarin pronunciation
Learning how to fish: Or, why it’s essential to know how to learn
Asking the experts: How to learn Chinese grammar
Why good feedback matters and how to get it


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