I didn't have class today and there also won't be class at Shida the rest of the week. It is spring break time! :) Normally I should be happy about that, but when the teacher told us on monday, I felt kind of sad...haha! I think that is the first time in my life that I feel like that about a school holiday, unbelievable!
But good, that gives me some time to tell you about how I study Chinese when I am on my own and not in class. I have worked out my own little Chinese flashcard system that I want to tell you about. Yeah, right, flashcards, no fancy PDAs or smartphones with Chinese software involved here, just basic flashcards. (I do want a fancy smartphone though...)
I was inspired to start with flashcards after I read a wonderful book called "How to learn any language". Mark wrote a very interesting article about it on his blog (click here) and I directly started to read it. It was a fantastic read and I can just recommend you to also read these 100 pages. Inspirational! So I adopted the best ideas and actually enhanced them for Chinese. Here are my 6 stacks of flashcards:
As you can see, there are 4 colored stacks and two white ones. That is not a coincidence but my system. :) I use the colored stacks for recognizing single Chinese characters and memorizing their respective tones. As you might know, Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones. So each tone has its specific color. In my case that is
Yellow - 1st tone
Red - 2nd tone
Blue - 3rd tone
Green - 4th tone
And believe me, that is really a very good system to remember the tones! It is so much easier to remember that a character was in the blue stack and therefore must be 3rd tone than just to remember something abstract like "3rd tone" on its own. I better visualize the character on its blue card. Works fine for me. Why did I choose those colors? Well, I like the 4th tone, therefore it's green (GO!). And I don't like the 2nd so much, hard to speak for me, so it became red (ATTENTION!!). :) The other colors are more or less randomly chosen. You could choose different colors for your flashcards though...haha!
Here is a colored flashcard's front. It just shows the character, and if there is a simplified version of it, I also put it on the right bottom corner. Might be useful sometime to also know about them.
On the back of the card, there is the pronounciation of the character and the most important words for which this character is used. I try to learn them all. I use www.zhongwen.com to find all the different meanings.
The stacks don't have a special order. Actually I shuffle them from time to time, so that I don't just remember them because I know their sequence by heart already.
The two white stacks have the following purpose. One of the stack is my blank stack. It contains some blank cards, and whenever I want to say something but I don't know how to say it, I will write it down and the next Chinese speaking person that doesn't run fast enough will be interrogated. Most of the time that is my friend Curis or my girlfriend. Thanks for helping me so much! The other stack is just normal English to Chinese vocab. I will read the English vocabulary and will try to remember what is the Chinese expression for that. This is how I study the new vocabulary of my Chinese book.
Yeah, now you know about my Chinese flahscard system. Hope you might get a little inspired by it! :)