Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: self studying chinese

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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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 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.

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.

Current focus and routine implementation

Following this post and this post, I’m still in the process of refine and redefine my study workflow for both Chinese and Japanese (though Chinese is the main focus at the moment).

A few steps I’m trying to implement right now:

  1. keep my language learning log updated; I started countless times to keep a record of what I study and when, but I’ve never managed to keep up with it properly. Being able to see what I’m doing day by day and week by week is not only inspirational but also essential in the forming of study patterns and routines. I moved my LL log to OneNote so that I can have all my J and C related stuff together and available even on the go; so, come on, this should’t be that hard.
  2. exit the challenge mindset and keep focusing on my progress; I have to admit, I got caught in the ‘wanting to be the first in my club this week on Duolingo’ syndrome, which is just plain silly, since doing 6x times a certain skill is not necessarily what my study level needs at the moment. I was always one of the best in my Japanese and Chinese classes (please note: this doesn’t mean that I was the one who actually knew how to use the language with proficiency; I simply got the highest scores), so it kinda hurt my pride to see other people climbing the ladder higher than me, but hey. Seriously? Time to move on.
  3. review, review and keep reviewing; especially characters, since I may have forgotten that I need to be able to write 600 of them by December 1st, if I wanna pass HSK3. So instead of going on and on, let’s have a look at what I’ve covered so far and try to strengthen it first.
  4. more listening practice, I’m begging myself; really, I started off good and then derailed yet again. It’s a pain in the neck and it constantly reminds me of how much I still suck at the language, but it will just keep increasing if I don’t do something about it right now.

With only 193 days to go before HSK3 😱, setting up a solid study routine that I can keep up with in the upcoming months seems even more compelling. I’m starting to feel the pressure, but maybe not even enough 😣

Small adjustments

Following my spring cleaning manifesto, I started making order around me – including in my language learning process.

I tried to analyse my study behaviour and discovered that 80% of the time I study languages at a place that is not my desk (bed, windowsill, coffee shop etc). This means, I seldom have the chance to use pen and paper to jot down grammar and vocabulary notes.

I said this before, but I’m just not able to write properly if not while I’m sitting at a desk. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who can just write everywhere in a super neat way, but I’m not, and I hate to read from a sloppy handwriting.

So, rather than forcing myself to change my study routine, I’m simply changing the way I take notes. I still need to do some note-taking by hand of course (plus character practice!!!), but I discovered that the majority of the time I can easily write things down digitally on OneNote.

What I do is basically

  1. study things on the iPad (Duolingo, Decipher Chinese, Youtube etc.)
  2. take notes on the iPhone via the OneNote app while I review materials

Then, when I have the time and the will, I go to my desk and format my notes to make them look a bit prettier and more organised. But it’s by no means an essential step, I can easily leave them as they are if I just can’t be bothered (most of the time).

This goes to show you (me) that sometimes the solution to a problem is just within a hand’s reach, we only have to let go of certain aesthetic ideals (beautifully handwritten notes) and useless external interferences.

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I’m finally (drum roll please) on episode 15/16 of Strong Girl Bong Soon and plan to finish watching it by tonight. It started off well but lost its appeal after a while. I really liked the female lead (for once), she’s strong in all senses and she doesn’t let other people boss her around. Still, there are too many gender issues and feminine disempowerment attitudes that bug me too much.

Plus the romance was super cheesy, too many absurd plot choices, very badly written male characters – and, for goodness’ sake, does every single male lead have to be RICH AND HANDSOME? Can we have a *normal* love story with *normal* people for once?  Seriously -.-

Maybe I’m just watching dramas that target a different audience. Still.

On other news, yesterday was my birthday 🙂 and I spend the day reading, studying Chinese and setting up the AMAHZING iMac that I received as a gift 🤩 Overjoyed!

 

Christmas and languages and family and food

 

This is the most wonderful time of the year and I’m blessed enough to get to spend it with my loved ones (though the significant other is working on all major holidays -.- bummer).

I guess this year I got a lot of wake up calls about, well, a lot of things. I’m much more aware, in general, of the reasons behind many of the things I do. I don’t plan to change my life dramatically from January 1st, but I honestly feel like doing things with a different approach – and I already started.

Language learning wise, I’ve managed to study 1.5h of Chinese almost everyday in December. Studying everyday is not only essential to acquire new knowledge – it’s also key to keep up the motivation and love for the language itself.

I would like to create a even deeper level of language and culture immersion in the upcoming year – if anyone has recommendations on books about Chinese (intended as both PRC and Taiwan of course) society and culture please please please let me know!

I hope you can spend a peaceful Christmas with your loved ones eating super succulent food, listening to Michael Bubble festive compilation and, of course, studying your favourite Asian language!

Merry Christmas everyone ❤️🎄🎅🏼

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.