Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: chinese listening

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 😅


Chinese Full Immersion: Weekend 1


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!


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.

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!

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)


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 😅


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).


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!

HSK2 -15 days

I wish I had more time for both studying and documenting my preparation process. It’s the old same story.

I’m starting feeling the pressure of the upcoming departure (less than two months) and of all the things I need to finish/accomplish/organize before leaving.

We live in complicated times.

My time for Chinese study this week has been practically non-existent. I thought I was going to be less busy – looks like I was deeply wrong.

The one thing I’ve been doing consistenly this week has been listening practice, hell yes. I’ve been spending the whole of my commute time with headphones plugged in listening to past exams audio tracks. And to be honest this has been working, like, A LOT. I now realise how stupid I was doing so little listening practice when I was preparing for Noryoku shiken. Lesson learned for next time.

Still, I need to put much more effort to revise both grammar and vocab (characters shouldn’t be a huge problem + in HSK2 you still have pinyin) so I’ll have to carve out some study time starting this week end (tomorrow).

Things I want to do in the next 7/8 days:

  1. review a good chunk of lessons from my grammar book, which includes vocabulary; I discovered I’ve forgotten a goood deal of words I studied in the past so I need to figure out how much I remember and to what extent;
  2. take a look at the official list of HSK2 vocabulary list provided by Hanban and see if there’s any gap to fill;
  3. listen to one audio file and try to do an exam simulation with the answer sheet at hand;
  4. take a look at the grammar/reading part of the paper [which I haven’t figured out yet]

I’m taking some time off next week [which means slowing down the completion of my internship work, but hey, I’m prioritizing here] in order to focus a little more on these tasks. I’ve been revising Chinese in the odd moments but now it feels like I seriously need to wrap things up. Wish me good luck and a headache-free week.

Fruit and Veggie Juice to Stay Healthy and Hydrated (especially after 5 super buttery mini croissant oooops)

HSK2 -20 days

January has not been an easy month so far. I came back to Scotland quite late (past Epiphany) and the very first day I was supposed to go back to work I got the flu and everything started falling apart. I missed an entire week of work for both my jobs which in turn has lead to me cramming to catch up with everything.

Not the best moment to prepare a language proficiency test, hell no.

Still, I don’t think this is a good reason for not trying and doing my best. Nobody said this was gonna be easy, especially in a grown-up life with work to do and errands to run.

In the very few free moments I had this week I’ve tried to face HSK study this way:

  1. grammar revision – I’m doing it one step at a time. Revising a couple of grammar points per day with example sentences and maintaining fresh the ones reviewed before. I don’t see any point in ruishing to have everything covered when I can’t remember what I just studied the day before. In lack of sufficient time I prefer to go for quality over quantity.
  2. vocab revision – I would like to cover as much vocabulary as I can since this is essential for both reading and listening. I’m not having a super hard time with this but there are words that won’t stick in my head. Annoying.
  3. listening practice – I wasn’t doing this and I knew it was bad, so instead of avoiding it like I would have done in the past I forced myself to face my fears and now on every bus ride I have headphones in my ears, listening to previous tests audio tracks. I hate doing it because I suck at it, but I would lie if I said I’m not seeing improvements. Having had more time would have been perfect but bla bla bla, we always say if only I had more time.

I still have a lot of content to cover but I’m positive I’ll be able to revise almost everything before the test. I need to store up a good bunch of cup noodle to get me through all this.