HOW to learn and improve Chinese: Nobu’s methode

Learning Chinese & HSK, 中文 Bilingual entry 3 Comments »

25th April 2017

“Purpose +(Love+Passion) = Improvement”

A lof my friends asked me how I am learning Chinese.

There are a lot of methods of learning a language. Beside that, everyone has her/his own preference of learning method. Some people prefer to learn by her/himself, some people prefer going to language school.

In fact, the method is not that important. From my point of view, the purpose is most important: Why I want to learn Chinese? What I want to do when I am able to speak Chinese? This is something (for me) I need to think about and define before I start.

When I started to learn Chinese, I had a dream: One day I will move to China, settle down there, get married, enjoy the Chinese culture, make a lot of Chinese friends etc.

Learning a language is not that easy. Not seldom I face the resistance or feeling of give up. In such situation, I remind myself about my own purpose, which I defined earlier. I came so far. Do I really want to give up?  By reminding myself,  I would be able to find back my confidence and continue learning.

Beside the purpse, passion and love towards the Chinese language are important factors as well. If I do not have these, I can use a book, CD, DVD, APP or what so ever, there are just useless tools and/or my progress will be slow.
除了目的,还有对中文的激情很重要的。如果没有的话,即使有书,CD,DVD,APP 等,也是没有用的或者进步很慢。

Frankly speaking, when I have just started learning Chinese, I did not have any passion at all. I tried different methods, my progress was very slow, I was afraid making mistakes and I was basically unsatisfied.
真诚地说我开始学中文的时候,我对中文没有激情。我试过很多方法, 进步却不太大,一直很怕说错了或者不满意。

Learning Chinese at that time, was just a struggling process. And I have changed teachers several times.

One day, when I was traveling in Guangzhou by my own, I got lost. The only way to find my way back was talking to a local. So, I did. And the lady did not understand at all what I was talking about, because my pronunciation was not that good. I used body languages, drew pictures on the map, finally she understood what I was talking about. I got the help I needed and in the end I was able to arrive safely and relieved in my hotel.

This experience reminds me that not the method, but the target/aim and being are very important.

There are not any limitation for learning and practicing Chinese. As long there is motivation, every method works.

Beside learning with a book and with a teacher, I am making friends from Mainland China living in Hong Kong, learning Chinese songs, reading books, watching Chinese dramas and TV –Shows as “You are the one!”, and talking to random people I met in the supermarket, in the air plane, in the train, on the street, in the restaurant etc. This way, I created my own Mandarin Chinese environment in Hong Kong,
除了用书和跟老师学中文以外,我还交了在香港住的国内朋友,学中文歌, 看中文书, 看中文的电视剧和电视节目 “我们约会吧”,跟任何地方 -例如在路上, 餐厅, 超级市场, 飞机里, 火车里,- 月遇到的人说中文等。我创造自己的语言环境。

This way of learning Chinese is much more interesting and amusing.  My Chinese has improved ever since.

HSK6 preparation with Zootopia’s support

Learning Chinese & HSK, 中国 Mainland China 3 Comments »

16th February 2017

Last night I was in Shenzhen’s bookcity* -which claims there are the largest bookstore in the world –  in order to buy HSK6 appropriate reading books. I prefer to have the books in hand, have a close look inside and read a bit before I buy, rather then buying online. Some of the literature are labelled with the language level, including a vocabulary list and some exercises to check my reading comprehension. I really love these books. It is simply a great way to improve Chinese by reading!

Frankly speaking, I was a bit disappointed. Compared to the other levels like  HSK3, 4 or 5, the choice of the books for HSK6 is not that wide or … maybe it was sold out and I just had a bad timing. I am not very sure about this point, but I was sure that I did not want to go back home with empty hands.

When I was strolling around the book shelves – in a hope, there might a suitable book, wrongly sorted in the shelves – , one book drew my attention: “ZOOTOPIA”! Did you watch the movie? It is one of my favorite movies in 2016! I watched at least 3 times!  And should you not have seen it, watch it!   “Try everything!”,  “Anyone can be anything!”,  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” are few quotes out of many others, which touched my heart.

I got so excited, that I started to sing the song quietly “Try everything!” from Shakira ( ˘ ɜ˘) ♬♪♫:

” [..] I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
Till I reach the end
And then I’ll start again
No I won’t leave
I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail […]

Oh oh oh oh
Try everythi~~~~ng”

Yeah, why not give a try! I grabbed the book – wohoo nice soft cover  and very handy in my hand- . I found out that is an English learning book made for Chinese students. That’s why it has a  Chinese text, too. I guess, in case the students may not understand the English part, they may have a look at the Chinese text as well. Additionally, English vocabularies are explained in Chinese!

RESULT: I bought the book not for learning English, but Chinese. For around 35 RMB (!!). How it can supprt me for learning Chinese?

  1. Learn new vocabularies.
  2. Practice  writing summaries. (HSK6 includes a writing-summary-exercise without having the text in front of you.
  3. HSK6 is more less native level. And this book’s Chinese is “brutal” real Chinese regardless any HSKlevel.
  4. High motivated simply because I love “Zootopia”.

Try everything, right?

“这里是动物城,所以每个人都有无限可能!- This is Zootopia, and anyone can be anything. ” quoted by Zootopia

“这是我人生,所以我有无限可能! This is my life, and I CAN be anything.” quoted by myself (^_-)≡☆.


*How to go to bookcity (Chinese: 书城) in Shenzhen:

  1. Should you come from HKG, cross the boarder in Lok Ma Chau.
  2. Walk over to the  FUTIAN CHECKPOINT metro station (Chinese: 福田口岸站). It is around 5 minutes walking distance.
  3. Take the metro, line 4 (or also called red line or Longhua Line).
  4. Get off at the 4th station called CHILDREN’S PALACE metro station (Chinese: 少年宮站).
  5. Exit D or follow the signs.

Result of HSK 5, Chinese Exam

Entries, Learning Chinese & HSK, 香港 HongKong 765 Comments »

13th February 2017

When I came back from my trip, a letter was waiting for me. A letter from the Yale-China Chinese Language Center/The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I took the exam of HSK5 last December. It must be the score report!!!

I opened the letter calmly until I saw my score:

Wohooooo! I did it!! ✧*。٩(ˊᗜˋ*)و✧*。 I passed HSK5 (equal to C1) Chinese language proficiency!

I received a lot of encouragements and support from my friends and family! With their support I felt strong: I let go my expectations and fear. Be in present!! Learn, take a break, learn, play, learn! Thank you!!

还有进步的空间,我继续努力! There is still place for improvement, I will keep learning! \\\٩(๑•̀ㅂ•́)و////   Please keep on supporting me!! Next goal: HSK6 by latest 2018!



Favorite Characters (1): 努力

Learning Chinese & HSK 3 Comments »

18th June 2015

One of my favorite Chinese Characters are:
My favorite Characters
I believe with great continuos effort any accomplishment can be achieved. It is not always easy and i may need to have a lot of power for striving forward esp. after a failure. Well, a failure is good opportunity to learn from and make it better next time. Every little step, every little growth has been supported by motivation and  driven by “power”.

The character of power can be found twice in above word: The second character means power = 力. And if you have a close look, you will find the same character as a part of the first character. So, “努力” consists of 2 x power. Double power. Eventually a lot of power :)

Let’s have a closer look at the first character 努. It can be seperated in three different characters:

1)  woman
2) again
3)  power

Putting all meanings together: A woman have much more power again (after a failure)*
Towards my dreams, I 努力!

Let me share your favorite Chinese character!

* This is the way I subjectively learning Characters.

Quotes from Chinese lessons

Learning Chinese & HSK, 香港 HongKong No Comments »

2013 / 03 / 22

Today I would like to share with you some quotes from my Chinese teachers during the lesson, here we go:

After teacher C. failed to explain a grammar to the students “ I do not understand why you do not understand. All my linguistic students understand. Teaching linguistic students are much easier, because they know the basic knowledge of linguistic, you don’t.”

After teacher H. failed to write a Chinese character “Who will use the pen to write Chinese? We are in the modern time, everyone is using Smartphone and PC. There is no need anymore to study Chinese characters.” After a while “Ah! I remember it; I just forgot it, because I have not written it for at least 50 years.”

After I confronted teacher H./C. for teaching not-in-dictionary-existing-Chinese-characters. “Where did you buy the dictionary? It must be a dictionary not made in China. That’s the reason, why you cannot find it in the dictionary.” ,
“You just do not know how to use the dictionary. Let me look for it!” After a while “Strange, I cannot find it. This cannot be. Ah I know! This is a fake dictionary. I bought it in Shenzhen. They often sell fake products.”
“I am the teacher and you are only student. And your dictionary is lying. Do not trust it. This Chinese character really exists. I always write it like this. You need to trust me. Without any trust, I cannot be your teacher.”
“I know you need to be detail-orientated in your job. But there is not any need to be like that in the Chinese lesson. If one or two strokes are missing, it really does not matter, because it can be guessed from the context. So, do not worry about it!”

What I think about it?
Well, Chinese is a very complex language and I do understand that some teachers might forget some strokes or even do something wrong, as nobody is perfect. I assume those teachers know that they did something wrong, but cannot admit it otherwise they would loose face. How come a student advice the teacher, she is wrong?! That cannot be, right? In fact, here and in other parts of Asia loosing face is a big issue, so usually people tries to defense rather than loosing face. In my opinion, it would be ok if the teacher is honest to me. She could say “I am not sure at the moment, but I will check it for you.” It would be fair for both sides.

At the beginning it was frustrating and I doubted I could learn some useful Chinese from them. In order to avoid learning wrong Chinese characters I started to review my lessons very carefully, which is actually a good practise. And every time I come across those quotes now, I am just smiling.

What do you think about the quotes? Do you have similar experiences?

How I prepared myself for HSK 3 and 4 exams

Learning Chinese & HSK, Thoughts, 香港 HongKong 3 Comments »

2012 / 06 / 01

Actually, I was learning vocabularies for long time already (nearly every day a little bit for about one year), so I was not that worried about them. This is something I can always do as e.g. while waiting for the bus or by walking to office (this is dangerous, please do not do!!!). After doing the mock up sample I was much more worried about my listening comprehension as in this section I got poor scores only. Therefore I consulted my friend Daisy, who is also a Putonghua teacher. She gave me the hint that my listening comprehension is bad because of my not accurate pronunciation. Now, I DID know what to do: I definitely needed to improve my pronunciation AND my listening comprehension IN SHORT TIME. There was not so much time left any more and I definitely did not want to postpone my exams. Those exams are my challenges and passing them are my targets of this year!

I had a plan, but I was not sure whether it will work or not. BUT I wanted to try. So, today I would like to share you how I prepared myself for the HSK exams (HSK3 and HSK4).

The fact is in my daily life English and Cantonese are over-weighting. In order to get to use much more to Mandarin Chinese language thinking and feeling I had completely eliminated those languages until the exam date, as well as my native languages Japanese and German. 4 weeks before the appointed date I literally immersed myself in Chinese language that I had the feeling I was living in Mainland China and not in Hong Kong. I was listening active and passive to Chinese every hour, every minute and every second, even when I was sleeping or cooking. I exposed myself 24 hours to Chinese music, movies and dramas. Every day I was reading a Chinese short novel or listening to this short novel CD.
At the beginning it was difficult to change my daily habit. I forced myself to speak Mandarin Chinese only at the working place with my colleague, on the street, with my friends and even with myself! But after some time, it became naturally and communicating turned out not to be that struggling. I was much more relaxed and confident! In order not get the temptation to speak in other languages, I did not meet my foreigner friends during this period and I also did not eat any German or Japanese food. I got totally crazy and went to extremes.

2 weeks before the appointed date I did a mock up test  every second day. And wow! I was surprised my listening comprehension DID improved. Just by listening once, I was able to understand! The other every second day I reviewed not only my mistakes in those mock up samples, but also some common HSK grammar sections.

In fact, I found out that this kind of learning is the best way to learn and improve my Chinese. This learning method did not only help me to improve my “HSK skills”, but also my general Chinese skills. Since ever, I started to expose myself to more and more Chinese every day. Surely not that extreme as I did in frame of the HSK preparation, but still immerse into the learning language is a great support especially living in the country, where Mandarin Chinese is not the native language.

P.S. I passed both HSK exams and I am so happy that I cried a lot!

HSK – Ready for a challenge?

Learning Chinese & HSK, Thoughts, 香港 HongKong 2 Comments »

2012 / 04 / 19

Have you ever heard of the HSK* (汉语水平考试/ hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì)?

Well, it is an internationally recognized Chinese Proficiency Test for non-native-speakers learning Chinese. I always wanted to pass the HSK test. But previously I failed and also probably ran away because of lack of confidence and fear of failing again. I always targeted the greatest score in order to be eligible to apply for a scholarship at one of the universities in Mainland China. This gave me a lot of pressure. At that time I strongly believed that pressure would turn into motivation, but (in my case) it did not. Instead, that huge pressure led me to failure, disappointment and loose of my Chinese confidence – totally opposite of my target! Probably this is also the reason why I could not get so good scores in school; I always wanted to be perfect and the best.

After I have started  to chang my view of my dream last year, I have realized my only biggest enemy is myself. Actually, there is no need to be the best. Besides the scholarship, there are OTHER MANY opportunities going to Mainland China (e.g. traveling) or be exposed to Mainland China’s influence (e.g. appending job in HKG). Actually, there is no need to be perfect. Nobody is perfect. Actually, Nobu, you have already done a great own progress in your Chinese speaking skills. Actually, you CAN be more confident.

That’s so true! Now, I felt ready, ready for my next challenge. I decided to challenge myself in order to have new opportunities: I registered for two HSK exams. A new challenge was waiting for me, not only for my Chinese skills but also for myself. And again, I decided not to give up. No matter how difficult it would be.

SOMETHING was going to begin, but at that time I did not know yet…

*For more information about HSK and its registration, please click here.

A “beautiful” day …

Learning Chinese & HSK, 香港 HongKong No Comments »

My friend from China called Tim was visiting Hong Kong last weekend, so I accompanied him to Ocean Park, which is a popular destination for tourists and a great amusement park combined a zoo and riding attractions.

Tim has already pre-booked tickets in China. I was very surprised (°o°;;) ナント! that after discount tickets only costs 150 RMB (=175HKD), original entrance fee is 250 HKD in Hong Kong!! Thank you, Tim!

We always speak Chinglish, a mix of English and Chinese. It is a great exercise for both of us, he can improve his English and I can improve my Mandarin.

While Tim was trying to find the tour guide, who will issue us the tickets, I was waiting at the entrance. A lady with her daughter was sitting at the entrance. A small yellow and red sticker named with a travel agent in China was labeled on her shirt; she probably joined a tour to come to Ocean Park. Well, I assume the lady observed Tim and me for a while. After Tim left in order to find the tour guide, she talked to me “Ey, 朋友,你很漂亮! [Ey, friend, you are beautiful!]“ I was surprised and answered “我的朋友你很漂亮吗?  [Is my friend beautiful?]” When the lady rose up her voice and used her hands to express her feelings, I recognized that I misunderstood her. She said, it sounds a little bit angry, but she was not angry at all “不是! 他不漂亮!! 是朋友!! 你很漂亮!!! [No, he is not beautiful! YOU are beautiful!]” First I thanked her (*^.^*)エヘッ
, but then I remembered and said with a big smile in my face “哪里哪里! [Not at all!]” The lady and the daughter were laughing. Tim rushed back and asked me “Any problems?” I could not answer clearly, I just smiled to Tim, to the lady and the daughter. (^ー^* ) フフフフ

We received tickets from the tour guide and explored Ocean Park, mainly the riding attractions. Later on we went to a German pub “Schnurrbart” in Lan Kwai Fong. In total it was nice day!.. and a beautiful day *ggg*

Tim, hopefully you have enjoyed your stay in Hong Kong!

PS. In this context 朋友 is used as a greeting to an unknown person. It does not mean “friend” (orginal meaning).

Beautiful like a Flower

Learning Chinese & HSK, 爛gag, 香港 HongKong 5 Comments »

In order to improve my Chinese pronunciation much more, I have decided to talk more. Recently I have started to speak Putonghua also in office, and nearly all of my colleagues kindly cooperate with me, although is not always easy (sorry m(T__T)m). One of my colleagues Henry teaches me new words with at least 4 characters, which I try to use it as often as possible.

Henry: Today you are very beautiful!
Nobu: Thank you!
Henry: In Chinese it means “今天你是貌美如花.”  “貌美如花” means beautiful like a flower!
Nobu: 今天我是貌美如花, 真的吗? [Is it true, that I am very beautiful today?]
Henry: 真的. [Yes, this is true.]

The following day
Nobu: 今天我是貌美如花吗? [Am I beautiful like a flower today?]
Henry: hm … [he is thinking]
Nobu:  今天我不是貌美如花. [Today I am not beautiful like a flower.]
Henry: ???
Nobu: 今天我是普通花*. [Today I am normal flower.]
Henry: Hahahaha

You may think this conversation is meaningless. But for me it is not, by using new characters also learning characters, which I cannot find in my text book, is a great experience for me. When I look in the past, e.g. last year I was too shy and afraid to talk. But since “Happy Chinese”-experience in Guangzhou, I feel very motivated to talk. At the moment my sentences are short and easy, but I am sure one day I can make more complicated sentence like “I am a happy person with an unique smile learning Putonghua in HKG and I am proud of myself’ (^_-)

*this expression is created by Nobu and does not exist.

Putonghua VS Nobu

Learning Chinese & HSK, Thoughts, 香港 HongKong 3 Comments »

One of my dreams at the moment is speaking, reading and writing Putonghua fluently. Well, I think my writing and reading is not bad, but my pronunciation is still not good.

Last autumn I met Shan (Taiwanese grew up in China) in the hospital. She was interested in me and would like to talk me. We found out that we have one language (luckily) in common: Putonghua. It was the first time I used this language for a private communication and honestly I could not imagine until this moment, that I am able to discuss and talk. Wow it was so amazing. When we could not see us, we wrote SMS to each other, she always corrects me and I have learnt a lot. For exchange I told her a lot about Germany. This is was the beginning of a friendship, but also for my confidence in talking Putonghua; even I talk like a small child.

I also started to watch Taiwanese Drama with Chinese Subtitles. This way I was able to train my listening and check it by myself. Often I am ringing up my friend in SH and talk in Chinese. It is always quite funny. My friend is always very patient listening to me.

One day in CN, when I was sitting in the cab, I started to discuss with the taxi driver about a the life as a taxi driver and merchandiser. (⌒▽⌒;) オッドロキー It was not that difficult that I thought!

Since I felt still unsatisfied with my progress, I am joining now a Chinese Business Class, in which I have learnt to write essays (at least 400 words) and holding speeches (It should be 3 minutes speeches, but my speeches are always around 1-2 minutes). I was surprised by myself ビックリ~ (/’O’;)/, that I am able to write a long essays. Suddenly I had a lot of fun to write essays, so meanwhile I am just writing some of them just for fun. I may upload some of them here. \(^^)/わーい

This year I started to paddling together with MAD PADDLERS and got to know to a lot of paddlers. Some of them do speak Putonghua as well, so I also have a lot of opportunities to speak this wonderful language.

I guess I need to try to speak more Putonghua, also in my private life, so I can learn and train.

This moment came earlier than I thought: Damn! (°_°;)ハラハラ(; °_°)

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