Setting priorities is the key to learning a language efficiently.
One thing you learn pretty quickly when studying Chinese: you’ll never be able to learn everything at once. Learning how to speak, read, write, and listen fluently are goals that take years to master. That’s why it’s essential to occasionally take stock of what your current goals are, and then adjust your study patterns to better achieve them. Switching up your routine keeps you from getting bored and helps you cover more areas of Chinese. But no matter how much you shake things up, you’ll always have to do some picking and choosing.
Recently Chinese forums had a great post about memorizing advanced vocabulary that touched on this topic. It covered a range of ideas like the difference between recall and recognition, and even offered good advice on improving your reading skills. My favorite quote came from kdavid:
When we recognize a word, the word we recognize could be part of either our passive or active vocabulary. High-frequency words–those that we see everyday–are likely to be part of our active vocabulary–meaning we use them on a day-to-day basis. Such high-frequency words include common adjectives, household items and appliances, etc. Low-frequency words are words we don’t use often, if at all. Such words could include sledge hammer, asphyxiation, NyQuil, etc.
When we can recall a word, it means that as we are speaking or writing, we can actively produce the word in context without “searching” for it. If you can recall a word, you can also recognize it. On the other hand, a word we can’t actively recall, but we know “on the tip of our tongue” is more likely to be a word we can only recognize.
Deciding just which words (or characters) you will learn to recognize and which you will learn recall is a great way to make studying Chinese easier on you.
How do you make learning Chinese easier for yourself?