Learn Mandarin in Two Days!

Interesting article on language learning.

short link to the article


What is so interesting about this article? Can you elaborate?

How did a The Onion article get onto the Guardian?

Basically someone learned how to say a couple of phrases in Mandarin in two days. This is news.

Although it is kind of cute how naive the journalist is, maybe.

That was certainly my reaction Sol. In two days you learn two day of Mandarin. Big deal. What matters is how soon you can actually hold a conversation, and that takes time.

How do I get the Guardian to interview me about LIngQ?


That’s their contact page. You could try that.

对我来说,学了两天中文以后,我不会说汉语。 时间这么太短,所以我的口语一点也不好。

Practice makes perfect. I think servers (服务员)speak English when guests have some trouble.

The course is a concentrate of the most important grammatical structures brought to life by a basic vocabulary. No one is claiming it’s sufficient for daily life, but it’s an efficient way to learn. What’s more, it encourages people to start using the language right away! Once you understand how the language works (well, it’s basic structures, at least), it’s up to you to fill in the words you need.

I like the fact that he has a native speaker with him. Michel Thomas was/is not at all an appropriate way to learn pronunciation.

@ SolYViento: "Although it is kind of cute how naive the journalist is, maybe. "

It’s the Guardian, a liberal, arts newspaper for the highly-educated middle classes who love travel, foreign food and international film festivals. They WANT to believe that it’s possible to learn Mandarin in two days. That’s so cultured!

I’d love you to contact them Steve, but I doubt they’d be very interested in running a story that says that ordinary people can learn foreign languages if they work really, really hard.

Having said that you are Canadian, widely travelled and know all about trees…sounds pretty Guardian-friendly. See if you can mention gourmet food and speaking French in your article. They’d like that!

As a member of the highly-educated middle classes who loves travel, foreign food and international film festivals I obviously have a son who has a friend who is an editor or some such thing for the Guardian Online. I have just asked for his name. (May take a while, son is swanning around in NY at the moment.)

alexandrec, it always surprises me to see you say , with such confidence and authority, things that run totally counter to my experience.

  1. to me Mandarin has no grammar, just patterns that have to be learned through a lot of exposure. I do not know any grammar rules in Chinese.
  2. In languages with complex grammar, you can read or hear an explanation of the structure of the language, but you only retain a vague idea. I have often read a grammar rule, and even if I understood it and remembered it, I would not notice it in the language for months.
  3. I have never found that correcting people’s pronunciation, as proposed here, has any effect, and especially not at the beginning.

Language learning takes time. It takes time to get used to a language. Telling people that they can learn a language in 2 days will only encourage lazy people, and such people will quickly give up, although they may buy a book.

Should I try to email the journalist? This has never been successful in the past. Or, Sanne, should I wait to hear from your son?

Why don’t you e-mail the journalist? It’ll be interesting for him to learn of yet another aspect of language learning. If my son comes through, I’ll let you have the other name for just in case.

I don’t think the journalist is actually claiming that two days is enough to learn the language. In fact he concludes that he didn’t actually learn a huge amount in two days.I thought what was more interesting was some of the things which the guy who taught him said, such as how classroom teaching is generally very ineffective and concentrating too much on grammar can be counter productive. This seems to be similar to the things that Steve often says.
It would be good to see an interview with Steve in a mainstream newspaper because I think most people are not aware of his approach and still think that classroom teaching is the only way to learn. It would be great if more people new about Lingq and took charge of their own language learning.

I think there exist several camps when it comes to “anti-classroom” language learning. The one mentioned in the article belongs to what I call the “early speaking” group, and this is certainly not the approach LingQ would suggest.

This approach is very attractive, as it promises that you can use the language very early on. But experienced language learners would tell you that it does not work at all.

I myself would go further and say that people promoting this idea are deceiving themselves. Imagine in day 1 (or day 2 in this case), you learn to ask questions to the native speakers, but can hardly understand anything coming back at you. You go home and tell yourself, “See, I have used the language today!”.

To me the “Mandarin in two days” approach sounds like that of Michel Thomas approach, nothing very new about it, except for the grammar labels which MT did not use.

Steve, I think our definition of grammar is different. Grammar is anything that dictates how the language orders and structures its components.

In Mandarin, the subject goes before the verb. That’s a grammatical rule. You can’t move around the subject and the object because the meaning would change. It’s not a complex rule, obviously, at least not for an English speaker, but it needs to be taught or showed through examples.

In more complex languages, grammar rules are like spare tires: you resort to them only when you are stuck and have no other way out. I never advocated you learn complex grammar rules as a way to use a language actively; you find the patterns that show the “grammar” and you copy it and extrapolate.

@Steve “it always surprises me to see you say, with such confidence and authority, things that run totally counter to my experience”

Now you know how I feel about the silent period :wink:

Once you have heard a few sentences in Chinese you get the picture.

“You go not go eat rice now?”
“not want go”
“You what time go?”
“after go”