This language learning experiment came as an accident: poor time management with a busier schedule, less time on Chinese.
About three months ago, I was watching a Taiwanese drama I really enjoy 《光陰的故事》(Time Story; loose translation so don’t quote me on that!). It’s set in roughly 1970’s Taiwan, which I believe to Taiwanese is kind of like the 1950’s is to Americans (Which always bothered me: women were still expected to be housewives, civil rights hasn’t existed yet.. really? That’s our ‘ideal’?). Kind of like this time when everyone was good, people were happy, and summers were cool and bright. I don’t know how accurate this is, but I love period peices like this, and it’s a fun way to get a bit more background on life in Taiwan.
And anyway, I like dramas that are slightly more realistic. Everyone looks like average people; not super stars. I don’t know, it’s just more believeable.
That aside, I used to watch it for hours everyday (actually to avoid doing SRS reps 咳！咳！). I found my listening and speaking increased dramatically and I felt more confident in my speaking. My watching method consisted of just, well, watching it. I never paused to use a dictionary. I just enjoyed it. Gradually I could feel my vocabulary increasing as there was a lot of repeating words, or words I picked up form outside the drama that I saw repeated. I “mocked” the way characters speak—usually you can always, ALWAYS, find one character that you like the way they speak, so I pick to mimick them. In this case, it was 陶復邦. You start to pick up some of their mannerisms, which are native mannerisms. It’s great!
Then, I moved. Got a new job (full time, as mentioned before), and I eventually just stopped watching it entirely. Months later, I feel my speaking and listenin has gotten a lot worse and isn’t what it used to be. I listen to a lot of music, but it didn’t help nearly as much. This just proved to me:
You can’t stop. Seriously. DON’T STOP.
Variety is good. Music: awesome, but mix it with material that has actual speaking in it (dramas, news, TV shows, etc.). I used to believe music was the only way. It is a great help, but ultimately, you can’t sing your way through immigration issues, you need to be able to talk to them.
Unrelated benefit: they use a lot of Taiwanese, a very native language of Taiwan in the drama. I picked up a decent amount from the series just by listening and getting the meaning from the Mandarin subtitles. Fun!
Related link: 《光陰的故事》Ep. 1 Part 1/10