I may be enjoying the longest summer ever (four-and-a-half months!) but that does not mean my days have been completely void of intellectual value. I have taken advantage of the down time to resume my Chinese studies (which had definitely taken a back seat to graduating for most of senior year).
It took me 9 hours, but I did all of the reading flashcards that had piled up in that time, and am making slow [painful] progress on the writing reviews.
One thing that enabled me to do all that reviewing (and that I’m hoping will help me maintain it when I get to graduate school) is my new phone. I bought my brother’s old HTC Evo, a super slick Android phone, and immediately installed AnkiDroid on it. It’s a mobile app of Anki, the Spaced Repetition flashcard program that I use on my computer (and that I wrote about here). With my flashcards always on me (and no games installed on my phone, purposefully!), I made quick progress and have been able to keep it up. The two programs sync almost effortlessly, and generally just make my life easier.
I’ve spent more time on QQ talking to XuLei, and corresponding with other Chinese friends via email and letters. (I still have a ton of Chinese postcards, by the way . . .)
And I’ve been watching Chinese movies! Based on recent experiences, I present the Top Five Reasons to Buy Sketchy Chinese Movies:
5. Value: You can’t beat the cost ($1-ish) – except for free, I suppose, but illegal downloads don’t come in disc form, and I like to have the option to watch things on TV.
4. Early Release: How awesome is it to be able to pick up a copy of the movie you just watched in theaters? (Although the quality of those movies is usually inferior.)
3. Entertainment Density: 4 seasons of Psych on 4 DVDs? Yes, please. I carry all of my movies and TV shows around in a large CD organizer, and I don’t have room for 16-CD sets. Go ahead and compress that data, make my day.
2. Region-free: A huge drawback of buying DVDs in other countries is that they may be locked to play only on DVD players of a certain region. Some of the more expensive (possibly even legal?!) DVDs that I bought in China only play on my laptop, not on our TV. Sketchy ones don’t have this problem.
1. Chinese content: My copy of Hero is in the original Mandarin; my copy of Monk has Chinese subtitles available. No better way to justify watching!
I’ve roped my parents into watching a few of the movies with me – Hero, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Message – in Chinese with English subtitles. I’ve watched some of them again, with Chinese subtitles, so that I could learn the new words. I highly recommend The Message and Hero!! They’re both very good movies, although the Chinese in Hero is very formal and difficult for me to understand (not that this is a problem for the subtitle-reading set).
So yes, movies have been part of my studies. If it seems too good to be true – watching TV instead of studying – that’s probably because it is. It turns out to be kind of hard work . . . Frequent pausing, writing down unfamiliar words, looking up unknown characters, etc. This sort of movie watching is to the normal entertainment variety as driving a car is to being a passenger.
I think that this sort of activity could have been highly effective in a class. In fact, it’s on my list of Chinese Classes That Should Be Offered, along with:
- TV/movie watching: In addition to vocabulary and listening practice, watching popular media would give students things to talk about with Chinese people! Websites would also be good.
- Getting mad: We only learned pleasant words in class; I’m not saying that we should have studied profanity or anything, but I wish I had been able to convince that woman at the Entry Exit office with my words instead of just by bursting into tears.
- Reading handwriting: Chinese handwriting – not to mention calligraphy – adds another level of complexity on to reading, which isn’t exactly easy to start with. I literally had to have XuLei help me read some of my birthday cards, and had no idea what we were doing in Shanghai because Mangu wrote our itinerary by hand. I don’t even know how I caught the plane!
- Writing like a Chinese person: My nicest Chinese handwriting looks like a 2nd grader, but when I attempt to imitate their “sloppy-looking” handwriting, it just looks . . . well, sloppy. I want to be able to write without everyone knowing I’m a foreigner!
- "Spelling" characters: Because of all those darn homonyms, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which character a speaker is using. So there’s a way of “spelling” the characters by describing them. I did this with friends before I knew that actual Chinese people do it, but it turns out that there’s a relatively standard way of doing it. I know a few terms (which never fail to surprise and impress when I use them!) but I definitely once had to find a different hotel because I didn’t know how to “spell” the name of the street that it was on.
Well, enough of this – back to studying! The last half of The Message isn’t going to watch itself!