A lot of the time I find myself raring to go, ready to practice some Chinese, but without knowing where to start – based on my current skills where is the best place to start practicing? Or, which area of practice will be most effective? Usually this procrastination ends up just wasting the time that could be better spend actually practicing.
37 Signals, a web application company, recently posted an article entitled “How do you turn inspiration into skill?” on their blog. The short but to-the-point article discusses how work by other designers can be a great source for inspiration, but a lot of the time this inspiration alone doesn’t amount to anything. Ryan, the writer of the article explains:
So I got thinking. How did I develop the basic skills I have right now? Mostly by copying heroes. When you’re fresh starting out, you have no fear of diving in and copying something directly.
Basically, a large part of how designers gain skill comes from copying or mimicking other designers’ work. The same can be true for learning a language too. Maybe we should just find some text we like and tease out the structured sentence patterns, ‘steal’ the keywords that we want to use ourselves, rewrite articles, and so on.
Taking an example from a Chinese language magazine I bought recently about how to utilise Twitter for business, the first paragraph starts:
zài chéng zhǎng zhōng de wǎng lù shè jiāo méi tǐ fēng cháo zhī zhōng, “tuī tè” shŭ yú qí zhōng de yī xiàng, qí tā hái yǒu Facebook hé MySpace děng.
From this sentence we can extract the basic pattern, giving us a frame of our own:
Then we can use this sentence as we please, to suit our needs. This sentence happens to be quite suitable for business related topics, so we might choose to write a sentence about the mobile phone market, which is very competitive at the moment:
在競爭激烈的手機市場風潮之中，「蘋果iPhone」屬於其中的一項，其他還有Google Android和Windows Phone等。
在竞争激烈的手机市场风潮之中，“苹果iPhone”属于其中的一项，其他还有Google Android和Windows Phone等。
So we have taken an existing sentence structure, and reused it for our own means, and in the process learnt a bit more Chinese 🙂
Try it yourself, pick up a Chinese magazine or book that is in reach, spend a minute or two flicking through it to find a reusable sentence structure, and post it below: