Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: study time

Duolingo + Index Card Workflow

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I’ve been working with this kind of setup for a while now, and since it has served me well I thought I would share it here.

I discovered soon enough that I wasn’t making many progresses by practicing Duolingo skills the traditional way. This is the kind of problem I’ve had with spaced repetition systems in the past as well – they work great at first but after a while they become a bit dry and my retention rate starts dropping significantly.

Active recalling is always best than passive memorisation, so whenever I can I try to follow this simple but much more effective system for both Chinese and Japanese:

  1. I create an index card for each single skill than I want to work on. On the top left I write ‘C Duolingo’ or ‘J Duolingo’ so that I can distinguish between the two languages, while on the top right I write the name of the specific skill I’m practicing (Activity 1, Food 3 and so on)
  2. on the index card, I write in English all those sentences I would like to try and actively remember
  3. I keep adding all new sentences as you usually don’t encounter them all at once

This is what may be considered the preparation phase. You do this once and then your index card is ready and you don’t have to add anything more. The proper study and recalling phase starts now:

  1. the next time I want to practice that specific still, I first take out my index card and start working with that. I first try to say the sentence in Chinese/Japanese out loud, then take a pace of scrap paper and write down the translation (this way, I also practice characters)
  2. I go on until I’ve translated all sentences on my card
  3. I fire Duolingo and check both translation and pronunciation

That’s basically it. As you can see is definitely nothing super long and complex, and it doesn’t require a lot of preparation. It usually takes me about 10/13 minutes to review a single skill using this system, but the retention rate is much much higher than simply using Duolingo on my phone or computer. This way I also feel a lot more engaged in the language and thus I enjoy myself much more while studying.

 

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Language learning at the beginning of the year

Word of the year or my LL approach is: relax. No rush, no pressure, no drama. I’m taking it easy.

I think that’s the only possible way for me to fit in both Chinese and Japanese in my schedule. If I try too hard with one language, I’ll end up by neglecting the other (and feel bad about it).ย  I find it easier to sneak in bits and pieces of both when I don’t put too much pressure on myself. So that will do for the moment.

In terms of resources, I’m mainly using my Duolingo + index cards system for both Chinese and Japanese. I should probably do a separate post about this, as for now it’s proving quite useful.

Sometimes I also try to read a few passages in Chinese from my Confucius class textbook, to keep my vocab fresh and get familiar with new grammar patterns. I’m not doing specific listening exercises at the moment, but I’ve been watching ๆฒณ็ฅž (Tientsin Mystic) more regularly lately and it feels like a good practice to get used to different accents and inflections.

Switching to Japanese, I’ve watched Flavours of Youth on Netflix – and I really liked it. This format is probably better for me to get back to the habit of watching anime, rather than having 27-episode long series to watch. I also like anime with a more mature storyline, I’m probably a bit too old for school dramas ๐Ÿ˜…

 

/All over the place kind of post/

 

 

The future of my language learning after HSK3

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I haven’t even taken the test yet, but of course I’m here already planning and scheming on what to do next. It wouldn’t be me otherwise ๐Ÿ˜›

So, what happens after Saturday? Well, I’m going to take a little break, that’s for sure. I’m not going to stop studying languages because I know it would become super hard to pick them up again, but since I have a lot going on right now I feel like I need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

So, for Chinese. I don’t know what my performance with HSK3 will be of course, but I honestly doubt I’ll flunk it. Which means that the next target would be HSK4, which hopefully I’ll be able to prepare in two years (my plan would be to take it in December 2020, since this one would have been expired by then). Hopefully I’ve learnt enough from my mistakes this year and this would be doable ๐Ÿ˜…

This said, I want to take things a little bit further with my Chinese study. Ok textbooks and whatnot, but I also want to establish a more broad study practice and routine. I would especially like to start using the internet more, both as a source of listening and reading practice. It’s free, what more could I want from the universe?

Then, Japanese. I really, really want to start back seriously with it. I miss studying it and I’ve been feeling an increasing longing for it in the last couple of years, especially when I happen to stumble upon it (people talking down the street, ramen package instructions, dramas on Netflix and so on).

I don’t know yet how I’m going to manage studying two such intensive-labour languages at the same time – if there’s something I learnt this year is that studying takes time, a lot of time actually. I barely managed to find enough of it for Chinese, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. But I feel motivated enough to do it.

I would probably have to change my overall attitude towards it – less ‘scholastic’ and more real-life and personal-interests prone. I have a huge variety of resources to use to make it more fun and interesting – I just need to be less strict and start enjoying myself (and the languages) more.

So no, I’m not going to study any languages on Sunday ๐Ÿ‘ปย but I’ll be back to it on Monday, you can be sure of that!

 

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 ๐Ÿ˜…

 

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 8ยฐ 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 ๐Ÿ˜Ÿย 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 (๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…), 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ย #earlybirdpride

(A kind of) Full Immersion Weekend

I honestly hadn’t planned to do another weekend of full immersion, but I ended up doing something of the sort anyway ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ

I didn’t use anything new in terms of resources, as it seems that my current study workflow of Duolingo + HSK3 wordlist review (and Anki) + listening practice on YouTube + Chinese grammar wiki is working pretty well for me at the moment.

I think what has changed a lot lately is that I’ve been feeling a lot more connected to the language and the culture in general. This is giving me a boost in motivation and commitment, and I actually enjoy immensely my study sessions, instead of feeling like they’re something I *have* to do (even if it’s just for myself).

The significant other and I are going to Italy tomorrow to visit family and friends and have a lot of good food, so my study routine will be inevitably slowed down a bit. I’ll do my best not to completely lose momentum, though I also think that sometimes is good to take a break and give our braincells the time to process information.

Plus I can always pay a visit to some bookstore in Florence, they often surprise me with juicy language learning related goodie.

I’m also thinking about the tons of gelato I’ll eat while home and I’m like awwwwwwwww ๐Ÿ˜

*totally unrelated*

On other news, I’m currently watching the Netflix Korean drama Black. I’m at episode 5 right now and I’m slowly starting to get into it – though I’ve already picked up some flows (at least based on my tastes). I really enjoy the crime/mystery part and I find the male lead extremely captivating and fun – while on the other end the female lead’s story bores me to death ._.

I’m kind of sick of watching always the same drama with the same heroine who for some reason is hated by everyone in her life (I can think of at least other 3 dramas with similar situations, and I’ve not watched that many in total), and I’m also sick of the already-seen young and handsome heir who looks like an idol and who is the son of an illegitimate affair of the head of the house, so that the other siblings hate and despise him. All of this is a huge no-no for me, and I honestly wish they would have just decided to focus on the crime/mystery bit.

Anyway! It always feels good to surround myself with East Asian stuff, be it books or movies or dramas or textbooks (lol). Hope I can keep up the good work!

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 ๐Ÿ˜ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜Žย 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 asย 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 myย schedule right now – I honestly can’t imagine a better way of spending such a rainy and humid Sunday โ˜”๏ธ

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.