Just an ordinary girl's life

Current focus and routine implementation

Following this post and this post, I’m still in the process of refine and redefine my study workflow for both Chinese and Japanese (though Chinese is the main focus at the moment).

A few steps I’m trying to implement right now:

  1. keep my language learning log updated; I started countless times to keep a record of what I study and when, but I’ve never managed to keep up with it properly. Being able to see what I’m doing day by day and week by week is not only inspirational but also essential in the forming of study patterns and routines. I moved my LL log to OneNote so that I can have all my J and C related stuff together and available even on the go; so, come on, this should’t be that hard.
  2. exit the challenge mindset and keep focusing on my progress; I have to admit, I got caught in the ‘wanting to be the first in my club this week on Duolingo’ syndrome, which is just plain silly, since doing 6x times a certain skill is not necessarily what my study level needs at the moment. I was always one of the best in my Japanese and Chinese classes (please note: this doesn’t mean that I was the one who actually knew how to use the language with proficiency; I simply got the highest scores), so it kinda hurt my pride to see other people climbing the ladder higher than me, but hey. Seriously? Time to move on.
  3. review, review and keep reviewing; especially characters, since I may have forgotten that I need to be able to write 600 of them by December 1st, if I wanna pass HSK3. So instead of going on and on, let’s have a look at what I’ve covered so far and try to strengthen it first.
  4. more listening practice, I’m begging myself; really, I started off good and then derailed yet again. It’s a pain in the neck and it constantly reminds me of how much I still suck at the language, but it will just keep increasing if I don’t do something about it right now.

With only 193 days to go before HSK3 😱, setting up a solid study routine that I can keep up with in the upcoming months seems even more compelling. I’m starting to feel the pressure, but maybe not even enough 😣


Small adjustments

Following my spring cleaning manifesto, I started making order around me – including in my language learning process.

I tried to analyse my study behaviour and discovered that 80% of the time I study languages at a place that is not my desk (bed, windowsill, coffee shop etc). This means, I seldom have the chance to use pen and paper to jot down grammar and vocabulary notes.

I said this before, but I’m just not able to write properly if not while I’m sitting at a desk. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who can just write everywhere in a super neat way, but I’m not, and I hate to read from a sloppy handwriting.

So, rather than forcing myself to change my study routine, I’m simply changing the way I take notes. I still need to do some note-taking by hand of course (plus character practice!!!), but I discovered that the majority of the time I can easily write things down digitally on OneNote.

What I do is basically

  1. study things on the iPad (Duolingo, Decipher Chinese, Youtube etc.)
  2. take notes on the iPhone via the OneNote app while I review materials

Then, when I have the time and the will, I go to my desk and format my notes to make them look a bit prettier and more organised. But it’s by no means an essential step, I can easily leave them as they are if I just can’t be bothered (most of the time).

This goes to show you (me) that sometimes the solution to a problem is just within a hand’s reach, we only have to let go of certain aesthetic ideals (beautifully handwritten notes) and useless external interferences.


I’m finally (drum roll please) on episode 15/16 of Strong Girl Bong Soon and plan to finish watching it by tonight. It started off well but lost its appeal after a while. I really liked the female lead (for once), she’s strong in all senses and she doesn’t let other people boss her around. Still, there are too many gender issues and feminine disempowerment attitudes that bug me too much.

Plus the romance was super cheesy, too many absurd plot choices, very badly written male characters – and, for goodness’ sake, does every single male lead have to be RICH AND HANDSOME? Can we have a *normal* love story with *normal* people for once?  Seriously -.-

Maybe I’m just watching dramas that target a different audience. Still.

On other news, yesterday was my birthday 🙂 and I spend the day reading, studying Chinese and setting up the AMAHZING iMac that I received as a gift 🤩 Overjoyed!


Spring Cleaning

A few days ago I went back to Leo Babauta‘s blog and read a few posts on simple living and goal settings. It had been a while since I read something from Zen Habits and honestly I felt super rejuvenated and motivated afterwards. I immediately started craving for a simpler, less cluttered life (again).

A couple of days after that, I read this post from Inhae which hugely resonated with me and it felt a lot like the kick in the ass I just needed. I want to stop the junk from coming into my life and fogging my thoughts with its looming presence.

And I can’t deny that one of the reasons I’ve often procrastinated with my language studies in the last couple of weeks was the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a clear enough space around me to do so. Go figure.

So, it’s time for spring cleaning.

  1. Anki. I haven’t used it in a while since I started studying both C and J on Duolingo (which is a sort of SRS in its own way), but I really feel I need to go back to it. I have way too many decks and a lot of cards that I don’t use/review anymore. Time to clean things up drastically, and also to read the complete manual once and for all as by talking with Inhae I discovered I’m missing out on a lot of cool features.
  2. My stationery/Language Learning basket. I bought a rectangular white-with-black-stars stationery basket on Amazon back in February to keep my notebooks, planners, pens etc organised. It has worked fine for a while, but as it often happens it has recently evolved into a messy den in which i just dump everything I might need to use soon. Time to clean it up but also to re-evaluate what I need to use and what not, which brings me to the next point.
  3. Studying and planning workflow. I’m always on the lookput for better, quicker and simpler ways to do things, so I want to review both resources and processes and have a better system in place.
  4. Stationery boxes. I have a lot of stuff, too much really, and I definitely don’t need everything right now. I keep switching between some notepads and pens, but a lot of other stuff can honestly be just stored away.
  5. Bathroom hanging organiser. I take my skincare and shower routine very seriously, not just as a conscious effort to keep my skin clean and clear, but also as an act of kindness towards myself (it’s one of my favourite self-pampering moments). I want to re-organise the content of my pouches and declutter them from everything I see I don’t really use for a better and more satisfactory skincare experience.
  6. Closet. I’m leaving a huge clothes review and declutter session for when I’ll be in Edinburgh, since I still have to figure out how the weather is going to be there (though I doubt things will be much different from here). Still, there are a few worn-out clothes and shoes which I know I can’t keep anymore and that I definitely don’t want to pack and bring with me in my new house. So, yes. Another thing to do.

I also want to seriously start selling some of my stuff online. I have quite a few things that don’t really fit my lifestyle or that I simply don’t use anymore – but as I’m also worried and concerned about waste production and environmental issue (some of them are also pretty new), I’d rather not throw them away. Any suggestions on which platforms are best to sell stuff in the Uk would be highly appreciated 😁

I still have a huge decluttering project that I need to tackle: the review of my digital space. Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, Mega, external hard disks – they’re just a huge huge huge mess and I don’t even recall what I’ve stored where exactly. This is definitely not something that I can manage in one sitting so I’ll probably leave it to a less hectic moment in the future. In the meantime, I’ve completed a big cleaning of my macbook and I’m also progressively clearing my iPhone of all photos (I prefer online storage and backup for those).

I think I’m in love

I downloaded many Chinese apps [especially related to HSK] over the course of years, but I seldom bother to even open them (I’m already overflowing with too many resources for too less study time).

Some mysterious force of the universe has brought me to try and open the most recent one (this) and, honestly, it blew my mind.

Now, to be fair I have to say that I’ve been using this app for just a couple of days, so I may be slightly carried away and too precocious in my judgement. Still, at this very moment it feels like I found exactly what I’ve been looking for.

For now I’ve tried only the listening section (as always, my greatest weakness) and I’m finding it EXTREMELY useful. There are different topics covered by a variable number of classes; each class has its own vocabulary and phrases + a practice section. What I truly love about this app:

  • you don’t just have the vocabulary list related to a certain topic, you also have the most common expressions related to it (for example, on the ‘time’ section in addition the words for hour, minute etc you have explanations how to say ‘how long does it take to…?’ etc);
  • audio tracks for both vocabulary and set phrases are provided;
  • the test format for the audio part is very similar to that of the actual HSK3;
  • full transcript of the dialogues is also provided.

A word of caution, the content is not 100% free of charge; you can either buy the complete lessons or pay them through the coins you earn by accessing the app everyday. I plan to use it pretty consistently so I think I’ll be able to use my virtual coins to pay out many of the locked courses.

It’s still pretty much a work in progress, but let’s give it a serious try!

Wicked Habits

Everyday I discover new reasons why, despite the time and effort that I put in it, my study often fails.

I think it has to do once again with having an OCD, type-A personality and the resulting obsession to strive towards perfection. [I already talked about this here].

Let’s take again Duolingo as an example. With the new crown system (I’ll talk about that in a later post), I found myself with tons of skills to review from the very basic levels. Many of them are really repetitive and kind of pointless for me (as shitty as I may be with Chinese, I honestly don’t need to repeat 15 times how to say ‘hello, thank you, goodbye’), so much that they feel like a true waste of time.

Now, what would the focused and goal-oriented person do? Ditch ’em and skip directly to the interesting and useful part.

I am, on the other hand, focusing on getting every single skill completed because I really, really can’t stand the view of a lot of ‘unfinished’ lessons at the very top of the learning three.

See what I mean?

It’s once again a matter of priorities. Do you want to learn Chinese or do you want your Duolingo to look pretty?

And it’s also a matter of falling into the illusion of learning one more time – I’m practicing on Duolingo = I’m dedicating time to study Chinese = I’m making progresses. Not much the case, since I’m basically repeating the same stuff I already know time and time again.

Is it really that hard to care about the right things, even in language learning?


The significant other has 4 night shifts in a row starting tomorrow (Monday), which means I can use the additional solo-time to watch a few things he usually refuses to watch with me. My list at the moment includes:

  • a Korean movie on Netflix, Psychokinesis
  • the 2001 miniseries on the Mists of Avalon [3h long, it’ll take me a few nights to finish 😅]
  • episodes from either one or the other of my currently watching Korean dramas (Strong Girl Do Bong Soon and Something in the Rain)

I also updated my Drama roll [it was about time], which has made me realise how few dramas I’ve watched since 2014 ._. 2017 was particularly bad in this respect, hoping to do way better in 2018!


Listening to : Midnight Fighters ~ Dreams
Weather : warm and springy
Drinking : peach & elderflower infusion


Short trip down memory lane

In late March 2009 I made two discoveries destined to change my life forever: I started following a personal blog written by a woman who was passionate about Japan and Japanese, and I entered a manga shop for the very first time.

I wasn’t new to 漫画 as a thing (I’d been actively following the MTV Anime Night for a few years already, and back in high school I had a classmate who would lend me many of the manga she bought), but it was the first time I was solemnly committing to it.

This was pre- language learning, pre- scholarship for studying in Japan, pre- Chinese, pre- social media and, well, pretty much pre- anything else.

But it was spring, and it was warm and sunny, and I’ll never forget the feelings of those days.

That’s why for me spring is an always will be my golden season of language learning. It all started then, and has remained ever since.

In these 9 years, superfluous to say, I’ve become a very different person from what I was back then. I don’t read manga or watch anime that often anymore (I don’t even remember when was the last time I did either of those things tbh), and my overall approach to Japan and East Asia in general has changed deeply.

Still, I’m happy to say that with everything that has happened and changed in my life in all these years, somehow I’ve managed to remain true to myself by not letting go of what was truly important to me: Japanese, language learning, Asian cultures and languages in general.

So when I feel disappointed at myself for not having chased some of my dreams until the end, I can actually re-read this post and remind myself that I didn’t betray the real dream, and that I’m still fighting for it. Every single day.


Hello again

It’s been a while – more than I wanted, as usual – but I’m back more or less. I’m dealing with some life stuff at the moment, nothing life-threatening of course but stress-inducing and annoying nonetheless. Let’s say that I have a few months of hustle and bustle ahead, and this will inevitably impact my study commitment as well as my presence on the blog (and my mental health… that’s for sure -.-).

I have a couple of longer posts that I’ve been willing to write for a while now, but I guess they’ll have to keep waiting. I don’t have the mental energy to engage in bigger undertakings right now, and I’d rather spend my spare time studying Chinese (or Japanese!), if I have to be honest.

Plus we just had the best springy (and probably warmest) week of the entire year and now we’re back to kind of winter so I definitely need some time to cope with that.

I think I’ll focus on shorter and more regular study updates for a while. Oh, and I’ve also been pretty active on Instagram lately, in case anyone is interested.

My approach towards pretty much everything right now is less talk, more action (though in my case ‘less plan more action’ would probably be more appropriate). Like, how long I have been thinking about starting studying Japanese again? If I’d used the time I talked or even thought about that for actually studying I’d be fluent by now. So I stopped talking about that, and started studying Japanese again for real.

On Duolingo, which kind of sucks, ok, but we all know that getting started is always the hardest part. Chi ben comincia è a metà dell’opera.


On totally random news – I finished two fruit infusions last week (thanks goodness, one was Whittard’s Toffee Apple and I truly hated that) and started three new teas in the last two days. I also finished reading two books last week and I’m about to finish another one, I decluttered part of my wardrobe and defrosted the fridge, started watching Twin Peaks season 3 with the plus one and finished up a couple of skincare products.

Keeping active and getting things done prevents me from freaking out too much.

Speaking on tv series, I’m on episode 11 of Strong Girl Do Bong-soon (and, honestly, I’m getting bored), while today I watched the first episode of a new Korean drama produced by Netflix (this) and I loved it! Would this be The One Drama for 2018? It’s definitely too early to say, but I got a really good feeling from it 🙂


Listening to: Amarante – Don’t Look Back
Drinking: Peach Dream Tea



Super quick update

Just checking in real quick to share a really cool youtube channel I found a few days ago called Slow & Clear Chinese,  where you can listen to audio tracks on different topics at a very very beginner-friendly speed.

Every track has a first part in which the speaker reads a story at a very slow pace and with extremely clear pronunciation, followed by the same story re-read at normal speed. In addition,  you can find the complete transcript in the video’s info box.

You can clearly see that a lot of work and effort has been put behind every video and the overall quality is really high. That’s exactly the kind of practice I was looking for, as it’s the perfect way to both get accustomed to the spoken language and learn new vocabulary from a wide range of different settings. Absolutely brilliant.

As I shared this morning on Instagram, I’m planning to keep up with listening for a few more days and then switch to intense reading practice next week. Still going strong on Duolingo (I plan to finish all lessons by the end of this month) to keep vocabulary and colloquial expressions fresh. An overall A1 + A2 levels grammar review would be much needed as well, let’s see if I can fit it in somehow.

Still snowing here in the Highlands, no spring for us no more, nope.


Listening to 에브리 싱글 데이 (I’m freakin’ loving it!)
Watching: Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (no wonder)


Kickstarting Spring: current study workflow

Not that I can call the current weather exactly spring tbh (we’re expecting snow tonight – AGAIN), but yes, even if I keep wearing the same clothes I’ve actually been wearing for the last seven months, I can still feel the change in the air. Plus we have so many hours of light during the day now that loafing about in blankets and darkness is not an option anymore.

Since last week I’ve been working hard on my Chinese study routine, polishing and refining my workflow and the kind of resources I want to use at the moment. I know that if I want to successfully handle HSK3 I need to broaden and deepen my knowledge at 360 degrees – studying just for the test is not going to work anymore.

So I’ll just leave all HSK3-related resources (apart from listening tracks) for the last stage of the review process while I try to delve into vocabulary and grammar.

I’m following a pretty easy, quick and (for the moment) effective workflow:

  1. vocab/ grammar practice on Duolingo with notes. I talked about how I’ve changed my approach to that app in my previous post, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. I listen to the audio, jot down any vocab / grammar pattern / characters that I want to focus on, and then constantly review previous materials to keep my memory fresh.
  2. listening practice with ChineseClass101 on youtube with notes. I discovered that CC101 has a YT channel with some interesting resources – specifically, long audio tracks divided by levels in which you listen to a dialogue first and then pick up the right answer among the pictures you see on the screen (example here). My listening skills are still pretty low but I’m working really hard on them right now.

As I said in my previous post, I have to avoid focusing too much on keeping on always the same routine. I think for the kind of study sessions that I have the ideal would be one week of focus on grammar and vocab (plus listening), followed by a week of focus on reading (plus listening). I was reading an article about the importance of continuous input this morning, and I was considering starting using LingQ for my combined reading and listening practice. Anyone who has used the app and has some thoughts about it?


On a totally random note, yesterday I finished reading the third book of the Bitterbynde saga which brings me to exactly ten books finished since January. I know that compared to the reading pace of many book-lovers out there it sounds almost ridiculous, but for me is a pretty good achievement. Even more so since I’ve actually enjoyed all the books I’ve read this year!

I’m also on episode 15/16 of Hello Monster/I remember you, which means I’m preparing myself to be on mourning once I’ve finished watching it. Can I just list one more time all the things that make this K drama absolutely amazing?

  1. plot
  2. OST
  3. character development
  4. mental thriller vibes
  5. character interactions
  6. strong female lead
  7. AMAZING bromance
  8. mystery and suspance
  9. a sense of ‘reality is more complex than just black and white’
  10. casting
  11. EXO references
  12. and I could go on and on

I need to watch more crime and psychological thriller-style dramas. As usual any recommendation would be more than welcome.


On another random note, I would like to do some spring cleaning and decluttering but since I know I’ll live in this place for just another 4 months I’ve lost all motivation ._.

Anyway, I just had a peach and lime 150 gr yogurt (is it yogurt or yoghurt in English?) pot as you can’t truly have spring without some peachy flavour in your life!


Weather: (kind of) sunny
Listening to: Spaceinvader – Acceleration
Drinking: Starbucks peach iced green tea
Currently reading: City of Fallen Angels (Shadowhunters 4)


Still getting it all wrong

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to be successful in school, considering how bad I am at self-learning languages right now.

No, seriously. How did I do that?

Let’s talk about Duolingo, for example.

Since a couple of days ago, my approach was: I do it first thing in the morning, while I’m still in bed, so that I’m sure not to forget about it, and so that I don’t lose my streak, and so that I have another thing to cross off my to do list for the day.

It’s not wrong per se. But can you feel how dry of all this is?

The point is not striking through items on my to do list. It’s not having a 52 days streak. It is (or should be, at this point) to gain knowledge, to develop and expertise, and even more importantly to enjoy the process.

It’s easy to see how I got it all wrong.

Funny thing is, I kept having the same approach for, like, weeks. I know perfectly that I’m not learning much, I can totally feel it – still, I keep going. I seriously can’t figure out what’s wrong with me.

Anyway, now, new approach!

I’m trying to make to most out of my Duolingo practice, which basically means giving more attention to new vocabulary and grammar patterns (though Duolingo is definitely not the best resource for learning grammar).

Instead of doing it in bed, I now use the app while seating at my desk, with my notebook/macbook/ipad open in front of me so that I can take notes on new characters, pronunciation and stuff like that. I mainly use OneNote for this purpose, though I sometimes take notes on paper as well.

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 12.16.10

I also try to give more space to revision. I know that many people in the language learning community claim you shouldn’t waste much time revising the things you already learnt but rather concentrate on continuous input – unfortunately this approach doesn’t really work for me. If I don’t review what I studied the day / week / month before, it’s like it never happened. I’m not yet at the stage in which I can reinforce my past knowledge by just reading and consuming materials meant for native speakers.

One thing that I have to be careful with is the trap of using always the same resources and focusing too much on revising past materials. Moving forward too fast is not helpful and can undermine my foundations in the long term, but getting into the rut of repeating always the same things is equally dangerous. Language learning is pretty much a balancing game, and we all know that in medio stat virtus.


I’m still watching Hello Monster / I remember you and I’M. JUST. LOVING. IT. SO. MUCH.

I can’t believe how perfect everything is in that drama, from the characters to the plot to the actors to the OST. I bloody love it and I already know this is just one of a numerous series of rewatch sessions.

On the wake of this renewed passion for K dramas, I started watching Strong Woman Do Bong Soon on Netflix. Not as great as IRY of course, but I’m honestly surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. I think it’s mostly because it finally has a female lead that I truly like and respect 🙂

I still have to finish watching CSIC. With only 4 episodes left I really don’t know what I’m waiting for to finish it – apart from the fact that I never feel like watching it ._.  I love crime stories but this one in particular never really caught my attention. It has all the potential but it’s like it’s always holding back; I still want to finish it though, and move on.


Listening to: Fuzgati ~ Neon Noir ♥
Weather: sunny and rainy at the same time
Drinking: loose leaves chai tea ♥