Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: chinese self study

HSK3 impressions beforehand

I’ve been doing quite a few mock tests in preparation for next Saturday, and these are my first impressions / expectations on how the exam is going to be:

  1. listening. This remains the hardest part for me. I practiced quite a lot in the last few months (though maybe not in the most efficient way) and, yes, I can see a certain improvement – but it’s still the bit I feel less confident about. I’m usually able to catch the keywords within the dialogues, which allows me to pick the right answer most of the time, but I know I will have to work more on this skill in the future.
  2. reading. Doable, but a bit trickier than expected. I tend to slip in 2/3 stupid mistakes that could be totally avoidable if i just paid more attention to the question. Also, sometimes I find a word that wasn’t on the official word list – so I can just pray this doesn’t happen in the actual test.
  3. writing. Based on the exam drills I’ve practiced with so far, this seems to be the easiest part (it’s also the one that gives less points). The ‘reorganise the sentence’ exercise is usually pretty straightforward, and the characters you’re supposed to write by hand are among the easiest (but I still managed to write 运 instead of 云 the other day, ha!). Just hoping I won’t be asked to write 葡萄. That would be interesting.

 

So, overall I think I can pass this test without too much stress. Whether or not I’ll do it well, that’s another story. But right now I’m super impatient to get myself tested and see what my actual Chinese level is!

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好久不见!

大家好!It’s been a while 🙂 Life has been busy (when isn’t) and there has been just a lot going on with the new house and the new city and HSK and everything else.

I have been fairly active on Instagram, and if you want to catch up with my musings on how things have been going with my Chinese studies you can find those here. But I never intended for Instagram to take the place of my blog, so I’m ready to get back to the good old habit of writing about my Chinese adventures.

So after having talked about it for almost two years, I’m now on the brink of finally taking HSK3. I am scared as much as thrilled, but all in all I can’t wait to have it done.

I’m going to be absolutely honest with you: I’m not completely prepared for this exam. I’d say I’m 65/70% ready. Which is good enough at the moment, though the perfectionist that is in me can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

There are a number of reasons for this, and the number one is that self-studying a language is damn hard. I deeply underestimated how difficult it actually is to devise and follow a clear and logic study plan, and how easy it is instead to think you’re doing a lot we’re you are actually not doing that much.

I struggled a lot in learning both how and what to study,  which means a lot of the time I spent on books and other resources didn’t give back the expected results.

If I could go back I’d do so many things differently – but to be completely honest right now I’m much more interested in what I can do next than in looking back. Seems like I learnt something at least 😅

If there’s one thing I’m super proud about is that I didn’t chickened out and registered for the exam anyway, even if I knew I couldn’t do as good at the last time. Again, for one like me that always wants to have top marks and be the first in her class, this is a huge huge improvement.

I guess my focus and interest is now much less academic and much more towards the real language. And I have to say that now that I’ve mastered at least 600 characters I can see a huge difference in my understanding level when I read things written in Chinese. This is giving me the main boost to keep going and start seriously using the language, not just studying it.

There will be other posts on the whole HSK3 experience of course, for now I just wanted to check in and let everyone know that I’m alive and well 🙂

 

PS: I’m about to finish watching Black and I can say that after a slow start it has picked up a lot!

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 😅

 

Back home & the status of my Language Learning

It’s 7:10am and I’m sitting at my desk with a cup of steaming herbal tea and a blanket.

When we left Florence yesterday afternoon it was about 32 degrees Celsius. By the time we landed in Edinburgh, it was 8° with strong western winds and pounding rain. Ha!

Feels good to be home anyway.

While I was in Italy language learning wasn’t exactly my focus (stuffing my mouth with delicious fruits and veggies and seafood was – though for some reason I didn’t have a single ice cream 😟 NO. FREAKING. WAY.), but I haven’t let it slip away either. I’ve maintained my 189-day streak on Duolingo [kinda proud of it if I do say so myself] and I’ve also been fairly active on Instagram this time, which is something I don’t do for likes and followers but rather to keep myself accountable/inspired/motivated.

So this has been my study routine/attempt while I was away:

  1. as mentioned, I practiced Chinese Duolingo everyday. Sometimes I did just one lesson because I had too much of the rest going on, sometimes I managed to do 3 or four skills in a session. I found it to be a pretty useful resource for when I’m out and about and I don’t have either the time or the occasion to spread out dozens of notes and textbooks on my desk.
  2. for grammar and listening, I’ve re-started attending the HSK3 prep course on Coursera since I hadn’t finished it last time. I have to admit I’m already a week behind (😅😅😅), but I was nice to have a quick and easily accessible resource like this for those few times I felt like having a bit more in-depth study session.
  3. I also found some time to have a look at Chinese resources in a big bookshop downtown. I know that this doesn’t technically count as study activity, but considering how much I love books in general, browsing bookstores it’s always a good motivation boost for me – so it does count in a way.
  4. unfortunately, I haven’t studied a single word of Japanese while I was away. Considering that I had limited time and limited resources, I consciously decided to give priority to Chinese (only 72 days to HSK3!!!). I expect that less and less time would be devoted to Japanese from now to the date of the test, but I have plans for it once I’m finally done with HSK3.

There are a lot of things I want to do and I’m excited about this fall. I want to intensify my commitment to language learning in general, starting with doubling efforts for Chinese. In a couple of days I’ll post about how my summer goals went, what I want to do next and my fall study schedule. My to do list for the day is quite long so I’m happy I took advantage of my habit of waking up before 6:30am to write this blog post 🙂 #earlybirdpride

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!

 

Summer Language Learning Goals

We are already 2 months into summer, I know, but since during the last 3 years June and July have been moving months for me, I never quite got to set my summer goals for my language learning. So, with 41 days to go before fall, I’m going to set my small-scale summer goals for Chinese and Japanese.

Review my overall HSK3 plan

Every hiatus I take (voluntary or not) breaks the continuum of my study flow, which means I often find myself not knowing exactly where I am at and whether or not I’m making the desired progresses. So first thing to do now is to sit down, review the notes I wrote on OneNote about all the points that I need to get covered before HSK3 and start making a detailed monthly and preferably weekly plan of what I want to get done. HSK3 is too much to bear without a clear plan, I’m well aware of that now.

Finish studying all A2 grammar points on Chinese Grammar Wiki

Grammar is the aspect of language learning that bothers (and bores) me the less. I actually find it pretty relaxing to sit down with my notebook and the right soundtrack, writing down sentence patterns and rules. While I was preparing for HSK2 I found a system for studying grammar that, at the time at least, seemed to work for me: reading about grammar points from different resources (textbooks, online courses etc), writing them down into my Midori Traveler’s Notebook with example sentences and reviewing them constantly. The review part is essential for my learning process. So my goal now is to finish studying all A2 points before tackling B1 and have them constantly reviewed by the beginning of fall.

Complete at least 1 listening course

I’ve been playing with different audio resources lately as listening is my weakest skill (I said this a billions times). I’m discovering *surprise surprise* that is not easy to make tangible progresses if I don’t take the time to study all the new vocabulary I encounter in the dialogues, so my summer plan for listening is to take the time not just to passively listen to audio tracks but to actively take notes on the new vocabulary / sentence patterns I come across and build my way up from there. For this reason I want to at least complete one of the many courses I started following, this way is actually easier for me to check my progress and to have a clearer idea of what I want to focus on next.

Do a few full-immersion sessions

There’s only one thing that keeps us going with language learning: passion and motivation. We can set all the best possible routines, but if we keep going on autopilot without actually feeling the language it becomes just a dry exercise of rote memorization. I am an anthropologist, so it’s only natural for me to believe in a holistic approach; meaning, I feel motivated what I can see that the whole is more than just the sum of the single parts, and that everything integrates harmoniously and flawlessly. When I see the role that Chinese (and Japanese) has in my life, the way studying and progressing in the language makes me feel, discovering every day new cultural nuances etc. – that’s what brings me true motivation. For this purpose I think a couple of full immersions sessions in which I dedicate myself full time not just to the language but also to the culture and lifestyle of my target country can be extremely beneficial.

Use anime and TV shows for passive listening practice

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t been watching anime in a good while now. There are a few interesting titles on Netflix though, and the fact that it offers Japanese subtitles can probably do the trick. My main focus is on Chinese right now – but I still like to find time for some side Japanese study. I don’t want to go crazy with grammar and written practice at the moment as I know I won’t be able to sustain that – but again, listening has always been my weakest spot in Japanese too, so why not starting from there? This way once I get back to study the language properly I can start from a not-so-shitty listening comprehension set of skills.

I’m going to fetch my planner and start working on my schedule right now – I honestly can’t imagine a better way of spending such a rainy and humid Sunday ☔️

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.

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!

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?

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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