Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: chinese vocabulary

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 Book Review} Mandarin Chinese – English Bilingual Visual Dictionary

I’m very happy to be writing my first language book review today (as promised here) 🙂 I definitely feel like a proper LL blogger now!

Since moving to Edinburgh I’ve been willing to check out the various resources I have available through the local library system, and this one book caught my attention. The concept is definitely not new – a thematic visual dictionary with words clustered according to their semantics.This one is the 2018 edition, but the dictionary itself has been out for quite some time now.

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Upon opening it, you find a visual table of content listing all topics you will find in the book:

After that, there’s a brief introduction (both in Chinese and English) on what to expect from the book and how to use it. It also reminds you that there’s a free app you can download and use to follow along with the book.

Then you jump right into the core of the book. As shown in the table of content, there are different themes (family, work, leisure etc) and for each theme you get a certain number of pages analysing the vocabulary for that selected theme. For example, if you’re interested in sports you have a volleyball subsection, a football subjection, a swimming subsection and so on and so forth. There are also some boxes offering additional vocabulary insight.

Towards the end of the book there’s a ‘Reference’ section with useful information like how the calendar is structured, how to read the time, name of foreign countries etc.

After the Reference part, there’s a very very small section showing some grammar points and the so called ‘useful phrases’.

Finally, the index (in Chinese first, and then in English).

 

Comments

This is a very thorough and well researched visual dictionary, with great graphics and a very in-depth approach to the themes selected. This said, I have mixed feelings about this kind of resource in language learning.

Reason number one is the fact that lists of words are known to be quite a dry way of managing vocabulary assimilation, as words are better learnt and remembered in context rather than in lists (though having pictures and images surely help).

Reason number two is that you need to know how to connect the words you’re studying, otherwise your learning is going to be crippled by the fact that you don’t how how to actually use them. For example, if I learn how to say eyeshadow and nail polish, but I don’t know how to say to apply eyeshadow or nail polish, my learning is incomplete and it doesn’t really allow me to express myself in more complex ways.

At the same time it is true that I often find myself at loss when looking for a specific word in a regular dictionary, as I’m usually provided with more than one result and I’m never sure which one is the right one to use in that specific context, or the most common. So in this regard a resource like this could prove useful.

Final remarks

I think this can be an useful tool to broaden one’s vocabulary knowledge, but with a word of caution. Simply learning by heart all the words listed in the various section wouldn’t do much for one’s progresses in the language, but using it alongside other resources could result in a significant vocabulary booster.

I think the best way to use this book would be to select a few topics of interests, focus on a handful of words and integrate them with useful verbs and sentence patterns through the use of monolingual dictionaries like Bing. I reckon it’s better to master a few words than knowing a bunch you can do very little with.

Personally, I don’t think I’m going to buy this book. I find it very handy to have it accessible through the library system, so I plan to pick it up from time to time for a few, focused sessions of vocabulary study. I may consider buying it if it weren’t available at the library though.

 

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!

 

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.

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!

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.

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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 😅

 

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).

 

I’ve just checked my HSK2 test results

194/200 = HSK 及格!!太兴奋了!