Week 4 – The Kid versus Her Dad

“Dada, your experiment is not scientific.” That was my daughter’s initial reaction when I told her about my Mandarin language acquisition project. When I insisted on an explanation, she said something about mixing different colored liquids in tubes. Since I wasn’t doing that, my experiment was not scientific.

Camila Daya watched just over an hour of Chinese with me the first week, and none at all on the second and third weeks. This fourth week, however, she got into it. For six days, between February 8 and 13, she averaged over 30 minutes viewing per day. She watched Boonie Bears almost exclusively. She actually enjoys it! I doubt she’s understanding much of any Chinese—I certainly don’t—but it’s entertaining nonetheless. And best of all, she now says that she agrees with me, that the experiment IS scientific.

So here’s a comparison of how much each of us has watched in our first four weeks.


Though it seems improbable, it would be awesome if Daya were to keep up with me from now on. Her participation would make the experiment doubly interesting. Would she learn more quickly and effectively than me, due to greater neuroplasticity? That outcome would be the natural hypothesis. It is possible that I will fail to obtain comprehension, and she would succeed, which would be particularly elucidating.

It is nearly impossible to measure my progress at this early stage objectively or accurately. Perhaps after a year it will be more feasible. As a fun exercise, however, I’ve decided to estimate the percentage of communication that I can understand, on average, in the various sources I watch. I’ll update the estimate about once a month. After this first month, I feel confident that I’m understanding at least 1% of what I watch. If nothing else, I’m certain that at least 1 out of 100 words is either “how” or “ni,” both of which I’m confident I understand well. The following fun graph compares my estimated percentage of understanding to the time that I have spent viewing/listening to Mandarin as a percentage of the 1,200 hours stipulated in my hypothesis.


In the future, I will incorporate both graphs into the sidebar for easy reference. I have also added a follow button above and a posting calendar at the side.

4 thoughts on “Week 4 – The Kid versus Her Dad

  1. Sofia Hart says:

    I like the graphs; they give some visual appeal to the blog.

    That would be amazing if Camila were to accompany you on this language acquisition journey. For some people, learning is highly correlated with social interaction, and I think this may be the case with Camila. Her motivation for watching the videos is probably very different from yours. For her, it gives her an opportunity to be close to you. As long as your interactions with her around this experiment are positive, pleasant, and fun, she will probably want to continue with it. And if she does, she probably will learn faster than you.

  2. I think you’re right, Sofia. But I think she is also into the concept of it, of doing an experiment and learning Chinese, because she has watched mostly by herself, not with me. I doubt that will last 6.5 years though (haha)! I think she also gets a kick out of Boonie Bears, it’s really funny. But that will get old eventually, so we’ll have to find new sources for her and hope it doesn’t take too long to begin understanding a little of the language.

  3. Greta Browne says:

    You didn’t mention if you acquired any new vocabulary this week.

    I was actually thinking at one point that I might somehow get onboard with your project to see if I could recall any of the Chinese that I learned as a child. But then I remembered that I lived in Hunan Province – I don’t know whether I learned Mandarin or a dialect. Wish my father were alive to tell me. He spoke Chinese well enough to preach and I remember that he actually spoke at Chinese churches in São Paulo back in the 50’s and 60’s. So I suspect he spoke Mandarin.

    • That would be so cool to have you on board as well! Then we’d have 3 generations! A grand experiment.

      I don’t feel I learned much vocabulary this week, but I’m sure I learned something. I reviewed that momo clip I mentioned in my first post and sort of learned the numbers from 1 to 10. Otherwise, I think I’m on a bit of a vocabulary “plateau”—a plateau just a few inches from the ground, that is.

      The language does sound more and more familiar to me. That is natural, of course, and it could mean absolutely nothing, or it could mean my brain is already adapting to the language, as hypothesized. Time will tell.

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