"Do you use pen and paper with flashcards,... "
yes, I use both pen and paper/ flashcards, but what helps to reinforce learning new vocabulary for me is to utilize it as soon as possible. When I first started studying Chinese I would sometimes write a short story using the new vocabulary or engage in conversation with the particular topic vocabulary in mind.
If I learn 40 words per day, I know I will retain 45%. That's why it is important to review vocabulary incessantly. Quizlet flashcards are ideal for me.
I would also suggest that you find yourself several graded reading books (China Breeze, et al) to boast your vocabulary as well.
"Be patient, and enjoy the ride," and you will succeed .
Hi, I would like to add more details:
Chinese children usually know pinyin and memorize some basic words and pronunciations in grade 1. We also learn the structure of words -- we call them: piān páng bù shǒu 偏旁部首.
When we know the alphabet and the structure of pinyin, we can speak out all the Chinese characters!
( We use pinyin to type in our phone or computer as well)
Learning basic, simple words, and piān páng bù shǒu 偏旁部首 (about 50? I'm not sure. Simple words: 日- sun, 月-moon, 木-wood,火-fire. ) can make us read character with out pinyin.
Since the difficult or complex words are usually made up of simple words and piān páng bù shǒu 偏旁部首. We can guess what the complex words’ meaning ,or at least the difficult words is related to the simple ones.
Like: 火-fire; 火焰- blaze
When we can write simple words, we can read sentences/articles by ourselves without looking at pinyin, gradually.
( However, we need pinyin when we type on our phone. we type pinyin and choose a correct Chinese character.
It's like a person said something, I know the Chinese word in my mind. Pinyin and Chinese character should be matched)
After grade 2, we usually look up a dictionary to see a difficult Chinese character. this process will involve using piān páng bù shǒu (偏旁部首) . Then we get pinyin in the dictionary: so we know how to read/ pronounce it; and we can also get the meaning of the difficult word.
Apparently, as we communicate with our parents, friends and teachers in Chinese, we speak Chinese every day, we can speak sentences (of course, children speak short sentences as long as they can express themselves).
Maybe it's our grade3. we start to learn making/creating sentences with new/difficult words and conjunctions. Then we learn to write a composition/short article/ essay(sorry, I don't know the exact word to say中文作文)。after many practice, we can express our ideas with more details and in a precise way.
For the reading part, our learning process is also reading with short simple articles first, and then read some longer and difficult ones.
As you guys said, maybe reading help us know how to use words in different situations.
Ps. When we were in primary school, we didn't use the Internet. When we saw words that we couldn't read, we looked them up in a dictionary.
Now there is the Internet. If people encounter words they don't know on the Internet, they can copy them and paste them on the website to check pinyin and explanation.
So for foreigners, maybe your Chinese textbooks do not involve too much about the structure of characters? And then you don't have to learn this, right? I'm not sure.
Anyway, as foreigners may not learn ancient Chinese articles and our common used words are about 3000, so you should be able to accumulate them quickly. If you have some friends who speak Chinese, try to speak more, then you will master Chinese soon.
Enjoy your learning!
I hope you can understand my point in English.( I got the lowest score with writing part evey time in an English exam. Crying😭).And hope our Learning method is helpful for you.
If anything of my idea makes you feel confused, you can tell me. And I will try to explain again.😁