Phase 1 Reflections

My experience

  • I began GPA Phase 1 about 4 weeks after arriving in Taiwan, at my local language school, with two different teachers. My class scheduling was 2hrs each afternoon on Mon, Tues & Wed.
  • None of the teachers had heard of GPA before, but they were happy to try. When I discussed doing GPA with the language school supervisor, I specifically requested ‘flexible’ teachers who would be willing to try something different and follow my directions.
  • Doing 6hrs/wk, on average I completed 4 of the P1 lesson plans each week, and completed P1 in just under 3 months (approx. 70~ hrs).
  • Because I was self-coaching my teachers, and learning how to ‘do’ GPA Phase 1 for the first time myself, the workload was very high. Each 2hr class block required about 2hrs of prep time – reading the manual, trying to understand the activity, writing up a summary and runsheet, and then preparing materials (print outs, etc). If there was someone on hand who’d done Phase 1 before to advise me, this probably would have been a lot more manageable.
My folder of daily resources. There was so much paper to manage and sort!

Reflections

  • Overall, P1 was great. It was heaps of fun, very interactive, and really pushed me to listen hard and distinguish sounds. There’s also a great sense of achievement as you hit the different milestones and summary activities and start to realise how much you’ve learnt.
  • I used the Mesha+ app for P1 to manage recordings. Initially it was great, since Mesha+ is insanely fast and convenient to create audio + image flashcards. However, it quickly became less and less useful, and by the end of P1 I gave up on Mesha and switched to Anki.
  • One thing I would do differently to simply the prep process is to stick with the resource pack provided. Initially, I couldn’t make sense of the instructions, and decided not to create cue cards. Later on, by the time I realised they would have been helpful, it was way too much hassle to go back and make them retrospectively. This also meant I had to skip the sound sorting activities which utilised the cue cards.
  • So, my tip: Find a local printer way in advance of your first class. Print 1x plain paper copy of the entire resource pack, and also print a second set of the entire resource pack on slightly stiffer card paper. This will cost, but it will be worth it.

Mandarin Specific Notes

  • Pronouns in Mandarin are simple (wo/ni/ta), without any verbal gender distinction). So I quickly stopped doing the pronoun activity once I was familiar with them (e..g Meeting Plan 1, Game 3).
  • Plurals in Mandarin are also dead simple for people (+men suffix) and basically don’t exist for most other nouns. So you can skip a lot of the P1 activities which focus on teaching plurals (e.g. Meeting Plan 10, Game 6) once you are confident.
  • Listening is extremely important in Mandarin. The Hear the difference? game (Meeting Plan 11, Game 1) is VERY useful and important. You can use it both for distinguishing different sounds (e.g. jin ㄐㄧㄣ vs jing ㄐㄧㄤ), as well as practicing your tone recognition.
  • GPA discourages using writing in P1 to make sure you don’t start reading instead of listening. Mandarin is a slightly different case, however, since there are technically two written versions of the language – the actual characters (我們), and the phonetic scripts like Pinyin (wǒmen) or Bopomofo (ㄨˇㄇㄣ). So once my teachers had decided which word to use for a given P1 concept, I got them to write the character at the bottom of the picture. This wasn’t a distraction for me since I could’t read, but it helped them quickly remember what word had been chosen, and avoid confusion. This is especially important if you have more than one teacher.

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