Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: chinese grammar

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 😅

 

Advertisements

Chinese Full Immersion: Weekend 1

photo.jpg

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!

____________________________________________________________________________

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!

 

HSK 3 Preparation Progresses – II

Focus of the last 7/8 days:

  • 20/30 minutes of listening practice every day. There’s no way of escaping this, listening is my weakest skill in all languages and as usual only practice can make you perfect (or at least a bit less crappy);
  • past grammar review + new grammar points: I try to review a couple of pages of grammar notes in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook + cover two new grammar points from the list of Chinese Grammar Wiki on one day, and review everything the day after. Usually I also try to use the grammar studied so far in my Instagram posts captions for practice’s sake, but that’s not always the case;
  • review new vocab from the listening tracks. Right now I’m using the Chinese Conversation series from Nihao Chinese yt channel; the dialogues are pretty short and informative and I usually can follow them quite easily (which helps giving me some confidence). They also offer the pdf transcript of all audio tracks on their website Learn Chinese 888, which is awesome.

What I plan to do next: finish reviewing all past grammar points & finish listening to the audio tracks of Chinese Conversation; keep going through A2 grammar points; keep going with daily listening practice; focus on reading and vocabulary for about a week.

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.

 

Chinese mood and LL immersion

Noodles and books. Can you even think of a better combo?

I honestly can’t.

Today is a beautiful cold and sunny day and I’m enjoying the sight of autumn nature here from my window.

November weather is perfect for language learning =)

I’m immersing myself as much as I can in the language, trying to use all the resources that I know I can enjoy and that don’t feel too much of a constriction.

What I’m using in order to create the perfect Chinese-learning environment & mind frame:

– Chinese beauty vloggers (especially Rainie Tian)
– Chinese pop music (this in particular is what I’ve been loving in the last couple of months)
9 seconds / Eternal time drama (ok this is actually Korean XD but it still serves its purpose of creating the perfect Asian context)
10.000 sentences method, which practically means ‘studying vocab and grammar in context’
– chow mein noodles and fried chicken (nothing can put me in a better study mood than food – especially NOODLES)

Sometimes I can go even a couple of weeks without doing anything Chinese related. But this is and will always be what I love doing the most. LL is not 100% of my life of course, I have a lot too many CROSS interests to be honest; but Asian languages are without doubt a HUGE part of who I am, and going back to them always, always feels right.

***

Currently listening to this fall compilation 🍂

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. 

 

Current Chinese study (& mood)

Plan, plan, plan. That’s what I feel like doing right now.

I’m so happy about my HSK score that I can’t even begin to express how over the moon I feel right now. Definitely wasn’t expecting such a result. I’m on a motivational boost once again!

Everytime that I feel super motivated about studying Chinese I also experience the need of setting clear steps to follow in order to make my learning process as effective as possible.

I then end up not following these stesps but that’s a whole other story.

I already outlined my study plans for the next 2/3 months. Just to recap:

  1. finish studying Remembering simplified hanzi
  2. fix anki decks
  3. keep reviewing words learned for HSK2
  4. keep reviewing grammar learned for HSK2
  5. start listening practice again

I’m still working on a standard weekly schedule as since my arrival in Scotland the plus one has been on annual leave so we’ve been doing stuff together rather than sticking to a rigid regime. For now I plan to be studying 汉字 5 days/week and taking an afternoon each week to do one or two of the other tasks. Two sessions of 25 minutes per day for 汉字 practice would be ideal, and maybe not so hard to fit into my daily schedule.

Lately I’ve been wondering whether I should go back to practice vocabulary with Memrise or not. I stopped at the beginning of January after I accidentally interrupted my streak (yes, I’m so picky) and honestly I haven’t been feeling much like going back to it. It was fun but it looked like I wasn’t really learning new vocabulary. I like the fact it provides different kind of exercises to strenghten memorization (in this sense it’s much more verstile than Anki), but learning vocab without context doesn’t look like it’s working for me. I’m too focused on characters right now, maybe once these are done for good I can retrieve some reading practice and go back to Memrise to reinforce vocabulary. We’ll see.

I’m so glad I resolved myself to take the test. After a couple of moths in which I felt still interested but overall detached from the language, I’m back loving it and even more loving the process of learning it. After all the troubles I’ve had with Japanese these years, Chinese is like the tangible sign I can actually do this. I’m not just learning a language but also a lot about myself, about the way I do things, the mistakes I make and the reason why I do things in my life. I will never regret spending time learning Asian languages (or any other language, for what matters).

 

Remembering The Hanzi – Day 16 [Frames 703 ~ 761]

I’m back on track with my 汉字 practice, as I’m trying to take the most out of this motivational boost I’ve been experiencing later. Plus now that I’ve set a concrete deadline [end of May] I’m even more determined to get done once and for all.

I’m now going down the writing road. When I finished my last Chinese class at Confucius Institute in May 2015, I decided to go for a characters writing ban. I tend to focus too much on characters, which at that stage really seemed pointless – especially considering I don’t live in China and I don’t have any Chinese friend I can write to. Plus overall writing wasn’t a priority [like reading, for example].

That’s why when I started studying Remembering Simplified Hanzi I decided not to waste time on writing, even though Heisig wants the reader to do so. It simply didn’t feel like the right thing to do at the time. Fast forward to now, I think it’s about time to complete the project the way it’s supposed to. HSK3 has a writing part anyway, so I’d better prepare myself (starting from now).

Reviewing what has already been studied is extremely boring, but I’m finding short study sessions of about 20/25 minutes a good way not to kill my motivation 😅

HSK3 project + future Chinese study plan

HSK2 is behind me already so I need to look forward to new goals. Taking the test spurred me to pick up the language again in a more vigorous way. Focusing mostly on characters in the last couple of months made me partially lose sight of what the bigger goal actually was. Now that I’ve regained my confidence and motivation I plan to take the most out of it. So I have already started to outline my next language learning steps.

  1. Keep reviewing the grammar I re-studied for HSK2. The huge revision I made for the exam was really effective, maybe the best way I’ve ever studied grammar for an Asian language. I’ve also managed to finally put a grammar notebook in good use so I really don’t want to waste all this hard work.
  2. Keep reviewing my Anki deck with my textbook’s words. I found that the vocab lists provived in my current textbook were extremely helpful for the test (I actually knew way more than the requested 300 words) so I want to keep them fresh before starting building new knowledge.
  3. Finish Remembering Simplified Hanzi once and for all. HSK3 features an additional characters writing exercise so I’m even more aware than before of the necessity of being skilled in 汉字 practice. I had gone through about 2/3 of the book before taking this brief hiatus so it shouldn’t be that hard to finish it. I plan to be done with it by the end of May, so that I can jump right to the next step of learning (new grammar and new vocabulary).
  4. Find suitable audio tracks to exercise amap (=as much as possible). Listening is always my major concern (and weakness) in LL, so I need to thoroughly prepare myself. I tried to listen to a couple of HSK3 listening files and I was like 😱 they felt super long and complex to me. As this starts to be an intermediate level I need to listen more broadly and extensively, which is not easy when you’re not an advanced learner. Investigatons should be made.
  5. Finish ‘fixing’ my Anki deck. This is not proper study activity but it’s something preparatory to it. While reviewing for the test, I noticed some missing words from a few of my textbook’s units, plus the tag system that I used it was not much helpful. As I said I found this textbook to be a very good Hsk preparation resource so I would like to keep using it for the next level as well, and in order to do that I need to have everything polished and sorted out. #organizationfreak

Here are a couple of shots from my 2017 Goals and Chinese Study boards on Trello 🙂 so satisfying to cross goals off the list!