Instructions for companions
If you are bilingual and have a friend who is learning Chinese, the more you practice with them the better. However, here are a few guidelines for how to make the most impact during your practice time.
It is important that learning be easy, otherwise motivation will falter and learning rate will suffer.
Avoid the temptation to teach too many new words or grammatical constructs to your friend too quickly. Our lessons teach about 5 constructs per day. Depending on motivation and available time, some people can learn 10 or 15 words in a day. So when you practice with your friend, check what vocabulary he has learned.
Pick no more than 10 words outside of his or her vocabulary to use in your conversations. If you think this will make for boring conversation, read the next section.
Use the new words often enough that he or she can memorize them naturally. Try to use them very frequently at first (a few sentences in a row), then less progressively less frequently (every couple minutes). Make sure he uses them as well. This will help move the word from short term to long term memory.
It is important that learning be interesting, because enthusiasm not only drives people to practice more, but helps them become comfortable and learn more quickly.
To be interesting, practice conversations should be the same conversations people would want to have if they weren't practicing. Do you usually talk to your friend about politics? Do it in Chinese. Do you usually gossip about your coworkers? Do it in Chinese. Whatever you were going to say if you weren't practicing, do in Chinese.
Of course, you're not going to be able to do this with a 10 word vocabulary, or even a 100 word vocabulary. Rather than becoming overloaded with too many new Chinese words, or restricting conversation to uninteresting topics, we recommend that learners, whenever they need to, use English words in their Chinese sentences.
This is very unconventional advice. If you disagree, read our explanation of progressive immersion. If you still disagree, try it for a week. You will be convinced by then.
So, the easy rule for you: if your friend uses some English in their sentence, don't scold them, encourage them. You can pick a couple of these words as new vocabulary to teach your friend (see previous section). But please, don't try to teach your friend all of them in one day.
The difficult rule is this: your friend won't understand you if you use words that are outside of his vocabulary. So watch what you say. If you want to use a word that your friend hasn't yet learned, use English. If you want to use a grammatical construct that your friend hasn't yet learned, use English. If you make a mistake and use words he hasn't learned, don't try to teach him all the words, say your sentence again with a little more English. Every day, as his vocabulary and grammar improve, you'll be able to use a little less English and speak more fully in Chinese.
With Effective Language's Chinese lessons and the advice above, your friend will attain the comfort level and structural foundation he needs to enjoy speaking more and more fluent Chinese with you for years to come.
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