I was reading through some of the great posts on English with Rae recently (if you are learning English, or would just like some topics to write or speak about in your target language, definitely check it out), and came across one that mentioned going back to basics. This is a pen talks about how even though these basic sentences are easy, and learning them might be boring, they are crucial as the building blocks for more complicated conversations. You may not think that knowing how to say ‘this is my new ruler’ is going to come in handy, but you do have to walk before you can run (crawling slowly is also an option).
A few days ago, I was at a Chinese restaurant. One of my friends was in need of a spoon, and she asked if anyone knew the Chinese word for it. Now, even though I have basic conversation skills and can talk about the weather and order food, I have a big hole in my vocabulary where basic things like kitchen implements should be. The next day, I went back to basics and looked up utensils and basic homewares and did some other vocabulary practice. Now I know how to say this is a spoon*, and I need a fork. Success!
*Learning basic patterns like ‘this is a…’ are actually really useful for Chinese, because they let you practise classifiers, which are the measure words for items. There are quite a few of these, and they depend on certain properties of the objects. Unfortunately the best way to learn these is rote memorisation!