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My experiences with TPRS and Keren - Jonathan Shock

I started learning Chinese a long time ago. Back in 2005-2007 I lived in Beijing, and realised quickly that getting some basic proficiency with the language was going to make my life enormously richer. I took lessons once a week for a few months, and invested in an audio course, and with these I got up to a level that I could communicate about very basic things. Since leaving China I continued to teach myself, using Duolingo, and Anki to learn characters. 

I think that given that most of this was on my own, I’ve done pretty well. I got up to about 1500 characters, and can have relatively fluent conversations about basic topics.

And then came Keren, and TPRS, and everything changed!

I first saw Keren’s videos on Youtube, and was immediately impressed with how passionate she was and how fun her lessons looked, but it was clear that most of the content was for beginners. I wondered about whether her techniques would work for someone who is intermediate to advanced, so I reached out to her and we had a trial lesson.

I was hooked immediately. The structure of the lesson was so clear, and you knew that at the end you would have not only learned new words and grammar patterns, but used them extensively in context.

I love the idea of storytelling being a major part of the learning experience, and it’s clear that you can make a story as basic, or as advanced as you like. You can make it in the future, in the past, in the present. A story is a huge part of how we discover language when we are growing up, and it feels that they continue to have an amazingly powerful effect on us even as we get older.

I chose to use The Little Prince, as a book to focus on, as I had had it for years, and it had always been a little too advanced for me, so my lessons are based around the vocabulary and grammar patterns from it. 

Keren plans each lesson meticulously, with a very clear structure, introducing verbs, nouns and adjectives, and then grammar points, coming up with actions to connect them with the real world, then we review the words in different ways, before moving on to questions based around these words, and stories, often based on a picture which we describe.

At the end of the 50 minute lesson I have learned and used normally around 10-20 new words in lots of different contexts, I have a video of the whole thing, so I can rewatch it, and Keren sends through an audio recording of the story that we have constructed.

Normally after this I put the new words into Anki so I can learn the characters over the coming days, and by the time the next lesson comes around I usually find that I can use them in context without too much effort.

Though I have been learning Chinese on and off now for 15 years, the last few months have been the most enjoyable and revitalising language learning experience I’ve ever had, thanks to both Keren, and TPRS.

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