Intensive Mandarin Viewing – Week 49

Besides fertilizing my eucalyptus plantation and spending time with family, my major pursuit for the past couple of weeks has been language study, namely my Mandarin project. It’s great to be on vacation!

This week, I enjoyed sharing three of my favorite movies with my sister Sofia while at the farm. First, we watched my all-time favorite, Dragon or Wu xia, with its impressive acting, gorgeous visuals, cool martial arts sequences, enthralling storyline, psychological duels, and carefully crafted philosophical undertones. Next, we viewed the visually matchless House of Flying Daggers. The colors in the autumnal birch and bamboo forests, the luxurious bordello, and the historical costumes of soldiers and rebels delight the eye, as does the actress Zhang Ziyi. For those that prefer gazing at men, Takeshi Kaneshiro is a good-looking fellow and an excellent actor, who happens to also star in Dragon. Finally, we watched Hero, probably the overall highest quality Chinese film I’ve seen. Like House of Flying Daggers, it is visually stunning and is directed by Zhang Yimou and features Zhang Ziyi (although here she is in a secondary role). Like Dragon, it involves a subtle psychological battle—in this case between the king and Nameless, the hero played by Jet Li.

As a way to focus my viewing, I sometimes reference my word-a-day list as I watch movies. It is easy to do, since when I record terms I include the exact source in a simple database, allowing me to produce queried lists. Here is an example from the movie Dragon—probably my longest movie list, ready to use for beginning students of Mandarin. Please note I am watching the abridged version of Dragon for Western audiences, downloaded from Amazon, and the notation is not pin yin, but rather my own invention, based loosely on English phonetics.

TERM BEGIN TIME END TIME DAY
yinze 05:12 05:56 18-Oct-14
shu(r) 10:05 04-Oct-14
tjien 10:12 16-Nov-14
shee 10:22 05-Oct-14
chahng 10:28 06-Oct-14
ying shiung 12:30 07-Oct-14
fatzu 30:00 30:15 08-Oct-14
fa 30:48 30:55 17-Oct-14
yuan 31:34 28-Nov-14
bye 35:25 29-Nov-14
kan 35:52 02-Dec-14
cheezuh 48:50 19-Oct-14
guh 52:00 52:08 03-Dec-14
ju 53:00 20-Oct-14
hi 58:57 04-Aug-14
yao 1:11:27 31-Aug-14
jia 1:18:10 21-Oct-14

I have also been enjoying the sadistic machinations of the Boonie Bears recently, logging many hours of viewing without subtitles. Less enjoyable, but highly profitable, is the time spent on Qiao Hu. The following graph shows my erratic weekly viewing from October through December, followed by my traditional hours-of-viewing graph, which now spans over 11 months. hours_oct-nov-14       hours_25-dez-14

To conclude this week’s post, I’d like to mention my excitement about the Christmas present my wife gave me—a shortwave radio. This technology may have made a lot more sense 20 or 30 years, before the advent of the Internet and online radio. Nonetheless, here in Brazil and especially when out at the farm, camping, or backpacking, reliable Internet is not ubiquitous.

Thus, if I am able to tune in to foreign-language radio, it will be great for my language studies. For now, I am interested in finding and listening to French-language radio for my French fluency recovery project. In the future, however, when I understand a lot more Mandarin, Chinese radio may be a great listening source. In my preliminary dabbling with the radio, I was surprised not to hear any French, but to pick up several Mandarin stations! It’s a new world.

Super Qiao Hu Study Guide and French Fluency Recovery Project – Week 48

My Mandarin viewing is back in full throttle. In fact, upon returning from my Peru trip, I believe I set an all-time record for total viewing hours in a seven-day period. I watched nearly 12 hours—an average of 1:40 per day! By contrast, my average daily viewing time for the entire 11 months of the experiment has been just 36 minutes.

I’m happy to report that my daughter Camila Daya also got back into watching Chinese videos with me, especially Boonie Bears, and tallied nearly six hours in the same period. I don’t necessarily expect her renewed enthusiasm to be sustained, but we always have fun and I think the exposure to Mandarin is positive for her on various levels (even if the exposure to the Boonie Bears’ sadistically violent tormenting of Vick the Logger is not morally enlightening).

Here’s a little table summarizing our recent viewing time.

Victor Minutes Daya Minutes
11-Dec-14 108
12-Dec-14 140 80
13-Dec-14 75 75
14-Dec-14 93 52
15-Dec-14 122 42
16-Dec-14 41 101
17-Dec-14 134
Total Hours 11.9 5.8
Avg Minutes 102 50
Experiment Average 36.3 16.3

This week I also spent a significant amount of time preparing a Super Qiao Hu Study Guide. These guides were originally suggested to me (by an administrator at chinese-forums.com) as a way to show my progress and level of understanding to others. They are of course also intended as a helpful tool for other beginning students of Mandarin, and I highly recommend using the episodes I review for learning purposes. Reading through my guides beforehand, and occasionally referencing them, will help students know what to listen for and may also serve as a useful yardstick to measure their own understanding. However, the rules of my experiment and my time constraints impose some limitations on how useful I can make these study guides. For instance, I cannot research terms or include Chinese characters or pin yin.

The original diagnostic purpose of the Qiao Hu reviews still holds. In this respect, I was pleased that in this episode I was able to understand far more phrases and complete sentences than ever before. My improved comprehension is reflected in the length of this Study Guide Seven—four whole pages, instead of the two or three for past guides. I believe looking at each of my seven guides in sequence would provide a fairly clear indication of my progress over time.

I should note, however, that my comprehension of the Qiao Hu episodes, as reflected in the guides, is not the result of a single viewing. I spent at least a couple of hours preparing this latest guide, including watching each scene an average of about four times. In other words, I was able to understand all I did because of very careful listening and repetition of dialogue.

In other news, today I began a brand-new language acquisition project that I will also report on in this blog. I will henceforth spend an average of at least 10 minutes per day studying French—probably most of it on listening, but also including reading, writing, and speaking. Unlike my Mandarin project, my main purpose is not experimental: I simply want to recover my fluency in the language. However, since I am always interested in contributing to the understanding of the language acquisition process, I will carefully record my activities and report on my progress.

I will continue to focus my weekly posts here on my Mandarin experiment, though I may occasionally comment on my new French project en passant. However, I will create specific pages to report on my French project—albeit with much less detail and frequency.

What I did to kick-start my French project today was to devise and take a self-administered test to measure my reading, writing, and speaking ability before getting started. I have detailed the test procedure and posted my actual performance (without any corrections yet) on my new French project pages. I hope you will take a look!