Skip to content

Archive

Archive for August, 2009

Recently, John has started up yet another well-designed and interesting blog. This one is called Global Maverick, and it’s focus is language learning. It’s also got a tools section where he’s sharing iPhone apps he’s written.

One series of posts I found interesting was his interviews of three successful language learners– Steve Kaufmann, Kelly McGuire and Khatzumoto of AIJATT fame. Steve Kaufmann is a Canadian polyglot who has achieved excellent proficiency in six languages and varying degrees of skill in another four. I’ve written about him on Toshuo before. Khatzumoto made a name for himself learning enough Japanese through self study in the US to get himself hired at a Japanese tech company before ever setting foot in Japan. He’s also written a very motivational if quirky guide on his site. I hadn’t heard of Kelly McGuire before, but her experiences with Mandarin, Dutch and Japanese were also interesting to read about.

Despite the fact that my work is teaching a second language to kids who rarely start out with any motivation at all, I’m very interested in self-directed adult language learning. Language learning has been an interest of mine for years. I haven’t really been that good at it, but I have steadily gotten better at it and examining the habits of more successful learners has been a big help.

John’s new blog is full of good stuff and just might be worth archiving, just in case.

My friend David has recently shown me some of what he’s been working on with his site for learning Chinese, Popup Chinese. Popup Chinese has always had a great technical backbone, amazing talent in its instructors, and lots and lots of free MP3 lessons. That said, this last batch of upgrades is still pretty impressive.

learn chinese

The Writing Pad

This a cool writing application that has teaches how to write Chinese characters. The only thing I’ve ever seen like it is Skritter, also a neat tool. The writing pad enforces correct proportions in characters as you write them and also enforces stroke order. The strictness of the stroke order is a little bit frustrating for me, since stroke order isn’t entirely uniform amongst all writers and the stroke order conventions my teachers taught are slightly different than those in the Writing Pad. This issue would be irrelevant to any beginning students who aren’t already accustomed to writing a certain way, though. The app will teach you how to write correctly as well as any app I know of at this point.
The Writing Pad

HSK Stuff

You don’t hear much about the HSK here in Taiwan, but if you ever want proof of your Chinese skills so you can go to college in China or brag to a prospective employer, this is the test to take. There’s an impressive array of materials on Popup Chinese to help you get ready for it:

One-Click Access HSK Tests, HSK Flashcards and HSK Vocabulary Lists
http://popupchinese.com/hsk/flashcards
http://popupchinese.com/hsk/test
http://popupchinese.com/hsk/vocabulary

Spaced Repetition

I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my suggestions months ago made it into the site! For anyone signed up, the site remembers which flashcards they’ve answered right and which ones they’ve missed on and calculates the ideal time to show them again for review. Even for students who are unfamiliar with spaced repetition, this is a huge plus.

Practice Speaking Lessons

I’ve heard about these types of lessons before. I guess if you’re living someplace where Chinese tutors are hard to find or expensive, this option might be worthwhile. People can get one-on-one feedback on their spoken Chinese with a premium subscription.
Practice Speaking Lessons

Pricing

The prices have come down quite a bit. For the first time it’s in the price range of something I would have bought as a student. At just under fifty bucks, the “basic plus” subscription is far, far more useful than textbook in existence at roughly the same cost. I sure wish they had this stuff around back when I was in school!

I went back to Colorado to see my friends and family this summer. It was a great vacation and it really gave me a lot of things to thing about. So much in fact, that every time I’ve started going over my diary I’ve gotten lost in thoughts before transferring any of them online. This has to go up today, though.

My dear friend and former roommate Matt Ball is running up a mountain. This is the same guy who helped get me interested in both poker computer science over a decade ago, the same guy who used to wake me up at 5:30 am and ask if I felt like riding over to the pool for a swim before work or if I was a wuss, the guy who used to do easy 15 mile runs with me on the weekends and split a 3 pound Beau Jo’s pizza with me afterwords.

He ran a marathon a few years back, but this task is much, much more ambitious. This run is up a mountain called Pike’s Peak, one of Colorado’s 50-some “fourteeners”. For those not used to measuring mountains in feet, that’s an elevation of about 4,300 meters. I’m not sure exactly how much the altitude gain is during the run, but it’s a lot.

Pike's Peak from Colorado Springs, by David Shankbone

Be safe buddy and enjoy the clean air!