Why am I studying Mandarin? And why am I studying this way, undertaking an unusual experiment?
Although I have broached the latter question in some my previous posts, I will endeavor succinctly to consolidate my answers to both questions here.
First, why am I studying Mandarin?
- I really enjoy learning new languages, and through them, getting insights into different cultures.
- It is an exciting and altogether new challenge to learn an utterly unrelated language. I speak four languages—English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish—but they are all closely related. My “second” languages, French and Spanish, are easy for someone who already speaks English and Portuguese. (I’m using “easy” in a relative sense, because learning any language is enormously challenging, and at more advanced levels interference from a closely related language—such as interference from Portuguese when one is trying to perfect one’s Spanish—is very difficult to overcome.)
- I believe learning Mandarin will be an amazing exercise for my brain. And I think one should always exercise the mind, like the body, to keep it healthy and sharp and expand its powers.
- I have a language institute and work with international relations. Learning Mandarin may contribute to success in both fields.
- Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world—certainly by number of native speakers, and arguably by number of total speakers.
- It seems cliché, but I do believe in my lifetime we will continue to see the rise of China. It will have the largest economy on earth within a few years. In an uncertain, rapidly changing world, I like the opportunities that speaking Mandarin will offer me.
- As an English teacher during several years, and at present in my advisory role at the institute, I constantly touted the benefits of watching authentic video sources for improving one’s listening skills. I always insist that, along with reading literature and other high quality texts, speaking with natives, and writing essays, watching authentic videos (especially movies) and listening to audiobooks and radio are the very best methods for learning a foreign language. Students often resist watching videos because they feel that they don’t understand enough. They think they don’t benefit if they’re not understanding most of what they hear. This experiment, by isolating variables, has the potential to prove that watching videos can be beneficial at any level. It’s not just a way to reinforce what you’ve already learned, but also to learn more.
- I like the idea of conducting a quasi-scientific experiment and contributing to understanding about language acquisition. Though I am not a linguist, I like the field of linguistics.
- I hope to drive quality, long-term traffic to the website of The Natural Language Institute. In particular, I want traffic that will improving rankings worldwide and help attract teachers, translators, and other collaborators. Although the Institute operates pretty much exclusively in Brasilia at present, my vision is to expand it internationally (at least via the internet), especially in the fields of distance learning and translations. I believe the way to build traffic is by creating interesting, valuable content. That is one of the main purposes of this blog and, indirectly, of the experiment itself.
- Although I’m honestly not sure, I do believe that in the long run my method will actually be effective and efficient. If my hypothesis is proved correct, and at the end of 1,200 hours I’m understanding a decent amount of what I watch (enough to “get” what is going on in any normal type of video), I think that will be an excellent basis for expanding my studies—adding speaking and study of characters, as well as continuing my viewing.
- Logistically, it’s a very easy (not to mention cheap) way to study.
- It’s a very enjoyable and relaxing method!