Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Tag: study workflow

Japanese study resources

Underlying statement to this post is: I’m trying to keep things simple. Especially since I’m working on a very tight schedule now, I can’t waste time shuffling 10 or more different study resources. Also, from a psychological point of view is important to me to see progresses – something that becomes difficult when you entangle yourself in too many apps/textbooks/podcasts.

At the moment, my resources for studying Japanese are very basic:

  1. a good online dictionary, in my case Jisho.org. This is the number one resource for when I’m at my desk; if I’m out and about I use imiwa on my phone.
  2. Core 2000 Japanese vocabulary on Anki (free deck to download); I like this one in particular because it works its way through vocabulary via sentences, not just the single words. I think it’s supposed to have audio but that is not working for me at the moment (though I find audio for Japanese less essential than for Chinese, so I can live with that for now).
  3. Tatoeba for example sentences; I wonder if there’s anything specifically for Japanese (like Jukuu for Chinese), though it has worked just fine for me so far.
  4. Japanese Pod 101 for listening. I had the premium subscription 3 or 4 years ago but never really used it. Now I’m ready to work my way through all the levels, since listening is my main focus for Japanese at the moment.

At times I also like to download lyrics from songs that I like (unfortunately very few at the moment), and go through them for new vocabulary and expressions. I also use Netflix to watch Japanese shows from time to time, just to get used to how people actually speak.

I have quite a few textbooks that I’ve acquired throughout the years, but I’m not focusing on those at the moment. I can’t do everything at once anyway, so I’d rather stick to this routine for now and wait for some progress to show before taking the next step.

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Language Learning weekly schedule

Studying both Japanese and Chinese at the same time, and as intensely as possible, is no joke. I’ve been wondering for quite some time now whether or not I’d be able to do that – as much as I love language learning, I also have other commitments in life and there’s only so much that I can to with the free time I have.

For the purpose of being intentional as well as realist with my LL study, I’ve decided to try and do some further planning in terms of how I want to structure my language schedule. I’ve basically divided my tasks into daily and weekly, and this is the kind of structure I’m considering to follow:

  1. daily tasks: practice with Duolingo and index cards + vocabulary and characters practice on Anki for both Chinese and Japanese. This is the bare minimum I’d like to do every day or on most days, as keeping words and characters fresh and constantly reviewed is the first step not to feel overwhelmed in the long run. Listening would be important too, but for now I’m trying not to overdo it.
  2. weekly tasks: one week I’m going to focus on Chinese, and the following week on Japanese. By focusing I mean studying the language more in-depth [studying grammar points, reading articles, listening to podcasts and YouTube videos, etc].

I’ve started last week right away with Chinese, and I already have my tasks to complete set and ready for Japanese. I don’t know how (if) well this is going to work, but what I know for sure is that there’s no chance I can fit it both C and J grammar/listening/reading/writing practice every week. It may not be much but it surely is more than trying to do too much and then get inevitably stuck.

If you have any tips on how to study two Asian language at the same time, feel free to share!

 

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).  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 河神 (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 😅

 

/All over the place kind of post/

 

 

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 😅

 

(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 🙃🙃🙃

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 😍

*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 😝 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 ☔️

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.

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!

 

Kickstarting Spring: current study workflow

Not that I can call the current weather exactly spring tbh (we’re expecting snow tonight – AGAIN), but yes, even if I keep wearing the same clothes I’ve actually been wearing for the last seven months, I can still feel the change in the air. Plus we have so many hours of light during the day now that loafing about in blankets and darkness is not an option anymore.

Since last week I’ve been working hard on my Chinese study routine, polishing and refining my workflow and the kind of resources I want to use at the moment. I know that if I want to successfully handle HSK3 I need to broaden and deepen my knowledge at 360 degrees – studying just for the test is not going to work anymore.

So I’ll just leave all HSK3-related resources (apart from listening tracks) for the last stage of the review process while I try to delve into vocabulary and grammar.

I’m following a pretty easy, quick and (for the moment) effective workflow:

  1. vocab/ grammar practice on Duolingo with notes. I talked about how I’ve changed my approach to that app in my previous post, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. I listen to the audio, jot down any vocab / grammar pattern / characters that I want to focus on, and then constantly review previous materials to keep my memory fresh.
  2. listening practice with ChineseClass101 on youtube with notes. I discovered that CC101 has a YT channel with some interesting resources – specifically, long audio tracks divided by levels in which you listen to a dialogue first and then pick up the right answer among the pictures you see on the screen (example here). My listening skills are still pretty low but I’m working really hard on them right now.

As I said in my previous post, I have to avoid focusing too much on keeping on always the same routine. I think for the kind of study sessions that I have the ideal would be one week of focus on grammar and vocab (plus listening), followed by a week of focus on reading (plus listening). I was reading an article about the importance of continuous input this morning, and I was considering starting using LingQ for my combined reading and listening practice. Anyone who has used the app and has some thoughts about it?

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On a totally random note, yesterday I finished reading the third book of the Bitterbynde saga which brings me to exactly ten books finished since January. I know that compared to the reading pace of many book-lovers out there it sounds almost ridiculous, but for me is a pretty good achievement. Even more so since I’ve actually enjoyed all the books I’ve read this year!

I’m also on episode 15/16 of Hello Monster/I remember you, which means I’m preparing myself to be on mourning once I’ve finished watching it. Can I just list one more time all the things that make this K drama absolutely amazing?

  1. plot
  2. OST
  3. character development
  4. mental thriller vibes
  5. character interactions
  6. strong female lead
  7. AMAZING bromance
  8. mystery and suspance
  9. a sense of ‘reality is more complex than just black and white’
  10. casting
  11. EXO references
  12. and I could go on and on

I need to watch more crime and psychological thriller-style dramas. As usual any recommendation would be more than welcome.

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On another random note, I would like to do some spring cleaning and decluttering but since I know I’ll live in this place for just another 4 months I’ve lost all motivation ._.

Anyway, I just had a peach and lime 150 gr yogurt (is it yogurt or yoghurt in English?) pot as you can’t truly have spring without some peachy flavour in your life!

 

Weather: (kind of) sunny
Listening to: Spaceinvader – Acceleration
Drinking: Starbucks peach iced green tea
Currently reading: City of Fallen Angels (Shadowhunters 4)