Three months under my belt and I think this online language learning thing is actually going to work. I do seem to be making progress and wonder at the level of progress that might be made if I had more time to spare.
On one level keeping this blog detracts from the process as it eats into my scarce time. The other side of the coin though is that the blog acts a focal point and I have started to make some interesting contacts through it.
Well I have been learning Mandarin online for 3 months now. And generally speaking I am very happy with it. I still can't claim to speak Mandarin in any meaninful way, but I can probably hack a few sentances together that wouldn't do too much damage to the sensitive ears of a native Chinese speaker (they would probably do a lot more damage to the oversensitive ears of a non-native Chinese language pedant, but I will leave that for a full post).
The main part of my strategy is still based on Podcasts, I listen mostly to the Chinesepod podcasts but also those of Serge Melnyk Serge's podcasts are well worth listening to, I did subscribe to the transcripts but probably won't in future as they use traditional characters alongside the pinyin and I am only interested in simplifed characters at the moment. I will make the occaisional small donation to Serge for his efforts though as it would be a shame if these disappeared.
I have subscribed to the Chinesepod podcasts, and do some of the activities on the site as part of my more 'bookish' learning. I also use the ZDT software for flashcard work, I am not a big flashcard junkie yet but as my vocabary increases I think they will play a much more significant role.
I am trying to learn the simplified characters and do spend some time writing them, partly as a memory aid, however I am not going to get too stressy about calligraphy. My main drive with the characters is to be able to read them and input them via pinyin input methods. I expect that just as with English most of my real writing in Chinese will be on a computer.
I am trying to focus on pronounciation for a little while now. I want to nail(or rather a good enough approximation) most of the pinyin sounds, there is no point in having a phonetic representation of Chinese if I don't fully understand the phonetics. I intend to output more sound files to the Internet for as long as I can get helpful feedback (I may also attract some hate mail but so be it ;)).
A slightly unexpected side-effect of my learning is that despite the fact that I don't have much time each day to do this, and despite the fact that on one level it is tiring, it does seem to be increasing my mental alertness. My spoken English seem a little sharper, I can learn other things a little faster and my hair is growing back! (ok scratch the last one).
The next three months will be significant. By then I hope to be getting plenty of speaking practice and be comfortably in the intermediate level at Chinesepod.