Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: chinese characters

Chinese Summer Goals Review

 

Good news: during the months of August and September (so far) I’ll be following meticulously my summer study plan, and I’ve also tracked and evaluated my progresses in my planner.

Bad news: I’m behind on all accounts, meaning, I have completed not a single task on my list ._.

Breaking it down:

  1. finish one audio course: I completed the first round, which was listening to the first 15 tracks of Learn Chinese 888, and I’m about halfway through the second phase (reviewing the notes and transcript from the dialogues). I haven’t completed the third phase, which is listening to all the track a second time and see how much (if?) I’ve improved my comprehension.
  2. review all HSK 3 words and characters: about halfway through it. I started well and strong but then slowed down a lot. As usual, the first 200 characters are much easier to review than the following 400.
  3. finish studying all A2 grammar points on Chinese Grammar Wiki: this is the goal I failed the most at, I think I’m not even at a third of the process. It takes a lot of time and a lot of focus, and I realised I can’t deal with more than 3/4 grammar points a day.

Now, I’ve been in Italy during the last 10 days so I would had probably accomplished more if I had been home instead, but I still wouldn’t have completed everything on the list.

What is good about this is that it’s super helpful to realise how much I can actually get done in a week/month. Plus I’m super happy that, even if I didn’t complete it, I was able for once to follow a clear, goal-oriented study plan.

So now: today is the first day of fall (YAY!), and we’re also slightly more than 2 months away from the test. My plan is:

  • in this last 7 days of September, focus on finishing the listening course (notes and audio tracks) + the wordlist. I want to have all the characters reviewed thoroughly at least once and then keep them fresh until the exam;
  • from October 1st (marking exactly 2 months before HSK 3), start with a proper fall study plan – which will probably be divided in two (a plan for October and a plan for November). It will have its own post of course.

I’m still overall happy about the progresses I’m making, but time is passing fast and I need to start thinking about wrapping things up, which is kind of scary. It is also true that pressure can be a quite valid form of motivation 😅

 

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Chinese Full Immersion: Weekend 1

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I usually have a lot of ideas for my language learning studies, but I often fail at following up with them [reason No. 1 is the ‘this idea is so good, I want to wait for the perfect moment to apply it’ kind of mind-frame]. Can anyone relate?

Well, I’m happy to say that, for once, I did follow up and actually put into practice one of those project. So, this past weekend I finally experienced my first Chinese full immersion study session.

What is a CFI?

This is surely not my original idea. I think the first time I came across the concept of full immersion in language learning has been by reading Khatsumoto’s blog, but honestly I don’t think it’s his original idea either.

While I don’t think that full immersion with books, anime, dramas, comics etc can substitute more structured forms of learning (like textbooks), I do think that being surrounded by different mediums and tools in the target language can be extremely beneficial – and I also think it’s something I’ve definitely not been doing enough as of lately.

Basically, CSI for me means two things:
1. dedicate an insanely amount of hours to study my target language over a pretty short period of time
2. use a great variety of resources (like those above-mentioned)

What did I use for CFI?

I think the kind of resources I use will vary with time [also to keep things a little more interesting/challenging], but in this particular session I used a combination of what I’ve been doing regularly in the last couple of weeks and a few new stuff.

My regular resources:

  • Duolingo – I’ve talked about it several times (flaws and glitches included) so I don’t need to go into much details here; it’s my very basic source of vocabulary/sentence pattern, plus a low level listening practice (basically, getting used to tones and inflections)
  • Learn Chinese 888 – They have a youtube channel and also a website with the dialogues transcripts; I use this resource as listening practice (obviously) as well as for vocabulary and sentence pattern
  • Remembering Simplified Hanzi – this is the system I personally use for characters review, but it’s not the only nor surely the best one; I’d say that it’s pretty similar to a radicals-based learning system, and the two pretty much go hand in hand

Ad hoc resources I used for CFI:

  • Chinese Grammar Wiki – this is a staple in my learning routine, though not something I would refer to everyday. I think a good grammar immersion is very helpful in boosting my confidence with the language, so I thought it was something worth using during my project.
  • Mandarin Chinese-English Bilingual Dictionary – I’m usually not a huge fan of this kind of ‘thematic’ photographic dictionaries, but I think that their value mostly depend on how you use them. I picked up this one at the library and I thought to give it a try. I’ll review it separately, but for now I can say that I’ve enjoyed broadening my vocabulary in certain specific sectors of interest (like skincare and makeup).

I also wanted to make use of my Netflix subscription and watch On the Children with subtitles but in the end I didn’t have the time to do so. I’ll save it for the next round!

How did I like this experience?

I honestly enjoyed myself immensely. Though I was motivated to do this, I also expected to have to push myself to a certain extent – but it turned out I really really wanted to sit down and study Chinese so that wasn’t even necessary. I appreciated the opportunity to use different kind of resources and different mediums, and instead of feeling like my study was all over the place I had the impression it was actually all coming together. So overall was a really pleasant and rewarding experience.

Notes for Next Time

Because, yes, there definitely will be a next time! First of all, I realised that, even if you have 2 entire days at your complete disposal, there is a lot of time you can’t actually dedicate to study – even if you want to. Basically, life has this very bad habit of getting in the way 😝 So, yes, I need to be realistic about how much I can get done without being disappointed by the fact that no, I can’t study for 12 hours straight.

Another thing to take into consideration, though it may sound funny, it’s the weather. This past weekend I knew that the plus one had to do some work from home, so we didn’t have anything specific planned; plus for once the weather decided to cooperate (when for some reason we can’t go out much during the weekend there’s usually a blistering sun -.-), and it actually decided to rain for two consecutive days 😏 this gave me the perfect motivation to grab my blanket-and-tea combo and get down to study!

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We are now pretty close to the end of August and I can feel the taste of fall in the air already. Autumn and winter here in the north of Europe mean a lot of long, dark, cold days – perfect for hot chocolate AND full immersion language learning sessions 😎 I haven’t scheduled my next one yet, but if it keeps raining like this I fathom it will be pretty soon!

 

HSK3 Preparation Progresses

Subheading: very slow but very steady, too.

I would be lying if I said I’m making huge improvements in my Chinese overall, but I’ve found a stable study routine and this is helping a lot (even just from a psychological perspective).

My study process revolves around few simple steps:

  1. Duolingo for vocabulary and sentence pattern (currently, 93-day streak)
  2. Hello HSK vocabulary and sentences list: for, well, vocabulary of course, and also characters practice
  3. Hello HSK listening practice (super good, because it’s really similar to the pattern you find at the actual test, but people speak at a faster pace so you get the chance to really train your abilities)

And that’s it. I know I should be reading more, writing more, listening to more diverse content but hey, I only have so much time I can dedicate to Chinese everyday and it has been a while since I realised I can’t do everything at once.

I’ve also started a new weekly revision project so I’d rather see how that goes and if I’m able to keep up with that before having dreams of grandness.

Plus considering for how long I’ve struggled to find a good and sustainable studying routine (a couple of years at the least) I’d rather savour the moment and go on with what I feel it’s good, even if it’s not much.

Getting serious about studying: HSK3 prep and Chinese study in general

 

I think I get it now.

After my resolution about getting serious in studying for HSK3, I spent 3 or 4 days wasting time while trying to figure put the best approach to learn new vocabulary / grammar / whatever.

But now I get that HSK3 is a completely different experience from HSK2, for a number of reasons, and I should adjust my study process accordingly.

In essence, my approach ‘if you want to study for HSK3, don’t study for HSK3’.

I’m not trying to be smart or anything 😅

The point is, HSK2 was pretty much at my reach. Considering that at the time I hadn’t been studying Chinese seriously for almost a couple of years (the only activity at the time was RSH), but also considering that while attending classes I studied hard and with a lot of motivation, I had retained enough knowledge to approach that level of examination. And in fact I did pretty well.

All I actually needed to do was reviewing things I already knew (vocabulary and grammar alike); in the vocab section there were 5 or 6 words max that I didn’t previously know, so there was no huge amount of study or memorisation.

HSK3 is a whole different story.

First of all, my classes experience further away in time now – with all their flaws and limits, classes are still a good source of language immersion and self discipline.

HSK3 has three new challenges for the Chinese student: the sentence order exercise, longer texts to read and character writing practice (+ 300 new words and 汉字 to learn by heart). This is not reviewing anymore for me, it’s actual study and memorisation material – and there’s a lot of it.

So here’s my take on the subject: you can study for a specific exam if your overall preparation is more or less at the same level; you can’t do that if you know you still have to progress a lot in the language before reaching your target.

That’s why I was saying I can’t actually study for HSK3 at this time: I need to study Chinese overall, with characters and sentences and listening and reading and grammar and everything else I would do in class. I can keep HSK3 words and characters lists as a reference guide but I can’t focus only on that.

I have to get my bearings of Chinese study in general; then, I will be able to focus more closely on examination papers. And move forward.

 

Pausing and reflecting

I think it’s time for me to seriously reflect on what the hell I wanna do with my Chinese study, once and for all.

It’s that time of the year again and I find myself reflecting on the way I spent my time language learning wise in 2017. If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with myself?

Honestly, not much.

Let’s be clear, I don’t hate myself and overall I don’t think I suck at my life. But I have a problem I haven’t found a way of overcoming yet – I busy myself everyday with daily life chores and I forget about my goals.

And when 31st December comes, I feel like I’ve waisted yet another year of my life doing something meaningless.

Because that’s what tricks me, I’m not actually doing nothing. I never spent a single day of my life lounging on the couch binge watching tv series (not even for Stranger Things). So yeah, at the end of the day I feel like I’ve done quite a lot, and I actually have – just, not in the right direction.

The ending result is that I keep being mediocre at the things that I care the most about and this sucks all my motivation out.

Let’s look at my Chinese study for a second. I passed HSK2 in February and that was a huge accomplishment for me – than what? I finished RSH in July, ok, but do I really know how to write all the 1500 characters taught in the book? Hell no, and I haven’t even started a proper revision yet.

I haven’t started studying grammar and/or vocabulary again, let alone doing listening practice. I started an HSK3 prep course a few weeks ago and, guess what? I got busy and just put everything on hold. I could have done so much this year – and I didn’t. And this is definitely not the first time I’m moaning about this.

It’s the same about reading (I already talked about that), I know that I have the time but I just don’t bring myself to do it. I keep myself busy doing God knows what and everything becomes increasingly irritating.

I know I have to change things. I tried, I could have tried harder. I have to learn how to be more focused and, yes, how to manage my time more wisely. Seems like all the planners in the world are still not able to teach me that.

I keep being distracted by a lot of things, even wonderful ones, but the truth is that I don’t have the time to do everything so it’s either being productive or wandering around aimlessly.

So from today – yes, TODAY, not next Monday or January the first – I’m taking responsibility for my own learning and I’m keeping myself accountable for HSK3 preparation. I know it’s not too late yet but I have to really, really work my butt off this time.

Who’s with me? Accountability pals seeking!

 

Coming back to LL (for real): Chinese reading challenge and prep for HSK3

I fell for the hype of studying Chinese again. If there’s anything I learnt about language learning in all these years is that it’s a constant roller-coaster of emotions, for better and for worse. There’s no such thing as ‘I’m finally getting hold of my language learning process‘, it’s not and it’ll never be a linear journey. Two steps ahead, three steps behind, and so on and so forth. This is the only recognisable truth about LL. I’m just lucky to be in a phase of high right now.

How long it will last, no one can say. Still.

I don’t know if it’s the idea of being in the last third of the year that boosted my motivation, but somehow I’ve realised I’m less than 4 months away from next HSK session [assuming it will be in February same as last year, which I can’t be sure of since I don’t think they have a fixed schedule all around the world like for the Noryoku – but I’m digressing] and if I really want to take the test, then I really have to work my butt off. HSK3 is no joke, there’s the character writing part and a much longer reading part and gosh don’t let me even start raving about the listening level (impossible).

There’s still time, yes, but I’m also quite behind with my study schedule (as always), and I need to see tangible progresses, or this time I won’t get away with it as easily as this year. No one is asking me to do this, I’m committing to it because I want to do it for own satisfaction; I still remember how good it felt last year just being there, even before knowing that I had passed, because just showing up and making the effort meant I was ready to invest in myself and my passions.

So at least once a year, I wanna feel good about myself and take time for this me-project.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been making myself busy with:

  1. Chinese reading challenge over on Hacking Chinese (I already talked about it here). I’ve tried different resources, and among those the one that I prefer by far is the Du Chinese app. I hope to be able to make a dedicated post about each of them, but for now if someone is still looking for a good Chinese reading app this is my No. 1 recommendation. [If you don’t see my updates on the HC challenge page is because for some mysterious reasons it doesn’t allow me to enter anymore -.-]
  2. HSK3 preparation course on Coursera. This will be worth of reviewing as well, for now I’m still attending my first week so it’s a bit to early to express an opinion. Still, there are plenty of lessons (it’s impossible to keep up if you don’t study at least 5 days a week :0) involving parts of vocab, grammar and listening practice – for free!

Challenges and courses apart, it just feels really good to be immersing myself in the language again. Sometimes I wonder whether the whole RSH experience was actually worth it; I still have to see its actual benefits on the ground, and apart from this it also detached me completely from the actual language [which I’m sure impacted very negatively my motivation]. Anyhow, for the moment I’m only concerned about keeping the focus in the right direction, enjoying myself in the language and trying not to spoil everything like I usually do 😅

 

The future of my Chinese study

So. I finished The Book. What now?

Now, essentially, I’m on my own.

I have to start reviewing, of course, but that’s not going to be my focus – so I have to set up a system and a workflow.

I think that the first thing I should avoid it to be too specific in the kind of study routine I want to establish. Second, I have to restrain from putting too much on my plate (something I’m always guilty of). So basically I should follow two guidelines: flexibility and simplicity.

How will I ever do that? ☹️

Ok so, first, lists. There’s no point for me in making a study plan if I can’t make lists. HA!

So let’s jot down a couple of point and let’s see what I can get out of them.

(1) organise my LL resources once and for all

Internet is a beautiful place and I continuously stumble upon dozens of different resources – blogs, apps, podcasts, textbooks reviews and so on. I have them saved almost *everywhere* (Evernote, OneNote, Trello, Apple Notes, my paper planner) and without fail every time I need to retrieve I certain information I don’t know where to look. It’s clear that I have to find a univocal system to organise all of this, and maybe also re-evaluate the actual usefulness of certain resources [things change over time].

(2) review my grammar notes

After years (literally) of error and trial, this February I finally figured out a useful way of setting up a grammar notebook in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It was an attempt I made just the two weeks prior to HSK, and it worked out very well. I don’t want to go through the beginner’s textbook one more time to review all the grammar I have forgotten in these 3/4 months, so having a personal tool will prove extremely useful.

(3) listening, listening, listening… and repeating

HSK3 audio tracks scare the hell out of me, and my issues with listening practice is well known. Listening morning and night to the exam samples bore me to death – plus, it can be good practice for HSK’s sake, but not for your LL process overall. ChineseClass101 is still my best option at the moment – I know it’s flawed, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I know I can handle right now. And since I’m trying to learn the language as a whole, I should also force myself to repeat the dialogues out loud in order to practice pronunciation AND get used listening to myself speaking Mandarin. 

(4) index cards - an attempt

CC101 is not a huge resource for what concerns grammar (textbook are way better for this purpose), but sometimes they offer some insights that can be useful to remember. I don’t what to mix things up in my grammar notebook, so I think index cards can provide a more flexible tool in this case. Let’s try out something new for once and see how I like it.

***

I’m going home on the 22nd and won’t be back in Scotland until mid September, which is a bit meh. It’s not like I don’t like going home, it’s just that every visit ends up being 1. extremely long 2. extremely packed with things to do, and this disrupts my routines and good efforts immensely. It was the same thing back in May, I was doing well with RSH and then I disappeared for 25+ days and when I was back it was extremely difficult to get the focus and motivation back.

Well I guess one good exercise will be to try to keep up with a bare minimum of personal activities even while I’m away (like listening to a podcast episode every night), so that when I’m back I don’t feel like I have to do things all over again. 

 

Remembering The Hanzi / 看书好了!!!

I. Freaking. Did. It.

I’m done! I’ve finished the book! ヤッタ!

All 55 damn lessons completed. I don’t think I can even start to express how happy and relieved I feel.

I started this project more than a year ago. A year and five months ago, to be precise. It’s been a very long time, and honestly I’m much surprised I managed to be consistent and keep up with the project (even though at different paces throughout this last year) for such an extended period of time.

Especially considering how boring and non-linguistic the whole process is.

2017 has unexpectedly resulted in a very satisfactory year language-learning wise, starting with HSK in February. I don’t think I’ll hit any other milestone this year, as the plan for this second part of 2017 is preparation for HSK3 (February 2018?) and retrieve of Japanese study.

I know this is just the beginning. The beginning of the beginning, probably. Time to see whether this fuss was well worth the effort.

So tonight I’m celebrating with wonton soup and chow mein (on their way right now) + the last episode of The Good Wife Korean!

(There’s a bit of language promiscuity going on here, but if you’re an Asian lover like me I’m sure you totally get me XD)

 

Remembering The Hanzi / Day 25 ~ Lessons 51 + 52

Lessons 51 and 52 have been quite fun to learn, but honestly I feel this way every time I start a new one – especially after I’ve been on hiatus for a while.

It’s like when you are learning a new language, all the vocab that you read magically sticks in your mind which is like a blank canvas at that initial stage. It’s when you start to pile things up that the game gets confusing.

I’m starting to dread the moment I’ll finally be over with the book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy as f0ck at the idea of being finally done with such a long term project – but I also know there have been too many and too long breaks in between my study sessions, and I’m afraid the review phase will be more of a ‘starting from ground zero’ activity. Which will make the whole concept of having finished the book a little dry.

But it’s true that in the second half of the book I’ve been taking notes and adjusting keywords and plots to my needs, so it shouldn’t be that bad.

Plus I know that the awareness of having completed the project, at least in his first draft, will keep the spirit high.

Lesson 52 was a lot about animals stuff so I think I’ll need to complete a more thorough list of all the characters related to the animal kingdom. This includes not only words like tiger and hare but also animal-related things like paws, droppings, tusk and so on. I love lists, and even though they need to be acted upon in order to be truly useful, they always make me feel confident that I’m not losing bits and pieces along the way.

Remembering The Hanzi / Day 24 ~ Lessons 49 + 50

Enjoying a sunny morning

Characters in these lessons that were new to me: 殸, 蒸, 馨.

Now that I’m discovering new unknown characters I start to feel curious about what book 2 may actually contain. Is it filled with 汉字 that I’ve never seen before? The challenge is intriguing.

Ahahahahahah, NOT GONNA HAPPEN. ALL RIGHT?

This is me and my damn confort zone again. As boring as studying only character may get, it’s still something I’ve grown accustomed to. I know how it works and I know what to expect from it – yes, it’s called comfort zone. And if my guts are telling me to keep indulging into this repetitive thus reassuring activity, this time I’ll have to follow my brain.

Because there’s no doubt on the fact that what I’m doing right now is not actually language learning. In my perspective it’s a preliminary activity, but it’s not like seriously studying and learning Chinese. I may as well being studying hieroglyphics for what matters. Characters and their basic meaning are completely independent from the actual grammar, structure and pronunciation of the target language – that’s why they can be used interchangeably in Chinese and Japanese, two languages that are so different under all other respects.

So, as I’m supposed to be studying Chinese, I have to let it go.

And now I start feeling scared, as this means I truly need to take charge of my own learning. Studying 汉字 was an intentional strategy, yes, but was also a way of putting my real study on hold while I was trying to figure out how to study solo. Because let’s be honest, after I stopped attending Chinese class I didn’t accomplish that much on my own.

And now it’s time to face it and see what I can actually do, after – a year? of almost uniquely studying characters. Not an easy task.

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