This morning I decided go review the first Mandarin unit I studied, Self-Introduction, and focus on writing. Much of my time has been devoted to listening and speaking, but I hadn't yet tried transcribing what I hear. The platform that I'm using to study, Mandarin Cafe, allows me to watch a dialogue then write what I hear (in pinyin). I liked this challenge since I've already mastered the vocabulary and grammar for this unit, but had a hard time distinguishing words like you (have) and yao (want), and spelling simple, common words like liu (six), which I previously anglicized incorrectly as leo. Repetitively writing the words allowed me to quickly recognize my mistakes, and I think that knowing the spelling will also help me with pronunciation (even more so if I can remember to add the tonal markings to the words!).
One thing I still find confusing is how to space words when writing in pinyin. For example, I've seen the word China written as zhong guo or zhongguo, and both forms seem to be accepted.
I successfully communicated with locals on three occasions yesterday. The first when buying coffee and asking for it to be ground at a specific setting (shi wu or 15), and the second meeting a friend for drinks. During both of these interactions, I used only one or two words at a time with a lot of gestures. Nevertheless, I was happy to be understood.
My third interaction took place over the period of an hour when some workers came to my apartment to fix some problems. Here I was able to use full sentences (full of mistakes), but was well understood. I had to pull out my Chinese notes at one point to remember how to say the days of the week and one worker was thrilled to see the Chinese-English translations and tried to learn a few words in English himself. I realized after they left that I had been saying one phrase incorrectly over and over. In English we often say, "I don't like..." or "I would like" to be polite, but in Chinese you need to use yao (want) instead of xihuan (like), with some exceptions. So, instead of saying, "I don't want this," (wo bu yao zhege), I kept saying, "I don't like this" (wo bu xihuan zhege).
That’s Mandarin Co. Ltd. “Mandarin Café.” Learn Smarter Chinese, 1.63.0, That’s Mandarin
Co. Ltd., https://new.mandarincafe.com/app/#!/home.