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Learn Chinese in China

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About this blog

Well, I thought that starting a blog might help me keep focused on studying a little bit, and also just be helpful to continue gauging my process.  My name is Jonny and I am not really sure how long I have been studying Chinese, it has kind of been off and on.  I would learn some characters and a bit of vocab and then stop.  Then I decide that I really wanted to learn the language so moved to Harbin, and just finished a semester of a language program at the language school there.  In September I will be starting a 4 year degree.  I haven't taken any exams to assess my level, but I bought the HSK 4 book, did the first practice test just to see how hard it was, and passed with no real problems (238 or something I think).  My listening is where I really struggle, because I never had the chance to hear people speaking Chinese much before coming to China.  

I am on my break right now, but I bought the book for the level above the level I just studied at HIT, and I am slowly starting to make my way through that (whilst also trying to enjoy my rest)!  One of my teachers would actually like to do language exchange with me when she starts her break at the end of the month.  I think this would be beneficial because although I can easily learn Hanzi and new words by myself, context and getting the grammar down can often be a big challenge, so having a professional teacher will definitely help!  Normally I would avoid language exchange, but being as it is free and with a teacher I know well and who knows me, this sounds like it could be just as useful, if not more so, than a regular tutor.  

The materials I am currently using:


Anki - for new vocab etc.

Short Term Spoken Chinese (Elementary) - Beijing Language and Culture University Press

Hanyu Jiaocheng (Book 3, the blue one) - As above

Also just chatting with people as much as possible out and about


Today I had to go and get my physical health check done for my 4 year visa so I haven't gotten anything done Chinese wise, and now I am about to take my kids out to play.  Hopefully this will be a great chance to try chatting with some people!  Not sure if there is anything I should have added here or what, but that's it for now, and I am really looking forward to seeing how this looks in 4 years time!



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Year 1 Semester 1 - Review

Well the first semester is at an end, all that remains is 4 finals over the next 2 weeks (no class during that time).  I said that I would do a summary type post to finish, including areas that I think I have grown in, areas that are most desperately in need of improvement (comparatively), and then goals for the break.


I have really enjoyed this semester and feel like I have learned so much.  I don't think personal improvement is always that obvious, but I have been told by the teachers that we have all improved a ton.  I suppose they are bound to say that, but I have been told the same thing by others so that's encouraging!  Obviously that is relatively speaking.  I think my greatest improvement so far has been in my reading/writing, which is also my favourite aspect of learning the language.  My speaking has improved too, and I think the biggest thing here is being aware of my mistakes, and they are MANY!  I am constantly struggling to speak Chinese at home, but it's a real battle to change the language I speak to my wife.  However, I know that the only way to get better is to do it more, and the reality is we just don't speak much in class.  I also try and speak only Chinese with my classmates, which actually isn't hard because I don't speak Thai/Korean/Russian and they don't speak much English, and our teacher said one big source of improvement further on is that students speak Chinese all the time.  I have also improved in my listening, but again I am very aware of my shortcomings, and my biggest one right now is that I really, really have a hard time distinguishing tones I hear.  I usually try and rely on knowing the word and the context, but of course there are cases in which that just won't cut it (especially when you have to mark the tones above pinyin from audio you hear)!  We covered a listening exercise in our book that I had actually done previously last March, when I first started studying the short course.  All I remembered about it was having no idea what was going on, but this time it was easy.  That's how I am gauging my improvement! 


Areas that need improving - I think it goes without saying that there is a lot of improvement needed in every discipline.  However, things that need the most immediate attention are speaking and listening.  As for how I plan on seeing that improvement, I think the main way is to just continue what I have been doing.  I am hoping that time will be key here.  Additional things I want to make an effort to do are really hammering myself on speaking Chinese at home, and doing more listening practice, especially over the break.  I am going to try and do more general listening by watching more Chinese material.  I have access to plenty of Chinese movies on Youtube, and of course there's the TV.  I would also like to do some more intensive listening.  I have a book that I want to try and work through over the break, and I am going to try and find the CD and do all the listening exercises to go with it.


Goals for the break - I have a book called 'Short-Term Spoken Chinese', which is the elementary level, and I actually covered the previous book in the short course before starting the degree.  I am going to work through this one over the break.  If I don't finish the whole book then that's ok, I just want to try and do some active studying regularly.  I also want to watch at least two Chinese movies a week, which I know isn't a lot, but it's better than nothing!  Other than that I would like to keep active in speaking and listening when I am out and about.  For reading and writing I have the book that I am studying, I also want to go back and consolidate any new vocab that I have missed over this semester, including how to write it all.  The finally adding new characters/vocab to my writing deck on Anki and continuing to do that regularly. 


I will write another post after my exams on how they went, and perhaps a post mid-break regarding how I am getting on with my goals.  It seems that I can upload pictures again, so I will add some random pictures to this post!  Edit - Two pictures uploaded successfully, the rest failed :-(




Week 4 - 生词,量词,动词

So I am going to add a few photos of the campus to this post as was requested, and then hopefully (if I can move my fingers enough to take a picture!), I will grab some of the same shots in mid winter so people can compare. 


I should probably update my blog at the end of each week rather than the start, so I might change that once I start back.  This is our last week before we have a week off.  Things are continuing to go well.  Yesterday one of my teachers lost it at some of the Korean guys at the back.  They were talking all the way through class and it was very distracting for those of us who actually want to learn, or paid our own money to come and study, rather than coming on mummy and daddy's money.  I was speaking to the teacher about it today and she said they won't be here much longer - they are being given one more chance.  But at the rate most of them are missing class they won't be allowed to sit their final exams in January anyway. 

The highlight of last week was a really good method (or at least I thought it was) of learning vocab given by one of our teachers, after we covered some in class.  We hit nouns, firstly what we could see around us in the classroom and all of our stationary, then then things that we have in our rooms.  He said this is a great way for us to learn the names of new things, but then he said don't just leave it at that, learn the measure word for each item, and verbs commonly associated with it, so we did that too.  I have also started doing this in my own room and it has been really helpful.  For example I looked at my scales and learned 体重器 and 称量,although I still need to learn the measure word for scales!


The method I use for my own learning is pretty much rote memorization (which fits really well with the education system here) until I feel I know the word and hanzi (including tones of course), and then after 2 or 3 days of getting the words (5-7 at a time, as many time as needed/possible per day), at which point I put it into one of my anki decks.  I try and go through my decks every day, although there are the odd days that I miss for various reasons.  If I run out of words to learn then I go through the books I have and look for things I don't know, although with this new way of learning household items etc, I don't think I will struggle to find new vocabulary for the foreseeable future!imageproxy.php?img=&key=e74cb0a3ecc063bb


It looks like a couple of the photos failed to upload, but these ones will do for now.  The building with all of the flags outside it is where I study.  This is just a snippet of the campus, it's really big.  There is also another campus, possible even two, although I have never been to them.








Week 11 - 我怎么学习

One of the reasons I now enjoy writing this blog so much, is the feedback and help that I get when I do.  I think that at the end of my first year I might try and make a list of the resources I have used, as it will include many things that get suggested over the weeks.  This week gwr71 was incredibly helpful in suggesting a cultural visual dictionary, one for measure words, and a grammar book, all of which I now have an am beginning to tuck into. 


Last week I was also asked about my schedule, including how much time I spend on homework, and so I will give that here.  Each week we have 20 hours of class, with each class lasting 2 hours.  That is broken down into 4 comprehensive classes, which, as the name suggests, brings all the elements we learn from the other classes together.  We have 2 listening classes, 1 reading/writing class, and 3 speaking classes.  Listening classes can be a bit repetitious, but I think that's just the nature of it, and there's really no way to avoid it.  I also really need it as listening is what I find hardest.  Regarding homework, some days we get it, some days we don't, it's fairly unpredictable for the most part.  What is predictable is our reading/writing homework each week.  In class we cover 2 chapters in the book, and for homework we take the list of new words from each chapter and write them out a couple of times, then make a word of our own choosing, then make a sentence which includes that word.  I really enjoy doing this because it's where I get to experiment a lot and the corrections help a ton.  We also have to do the exercises for each chapter, and then at the end of each chapter there is a text, and we need to write and answer 3 of our own questions relating to the text.  This homework is supposed to be done over the course of the week, but being as it's on a day when I have 4 hours to kill on campus, I just hammer it out then.  As I do other reading and writing throughout the week, I don't think it negatively impacts my studies in any way.  We rarely get any homework for listening, and for speaking and comprehensive it really varies.  Some days we might need to write a dialogue relating to the topic we are studying, or talk about a specific subject.  Most days we have dictation in class, and so we need to learn the appropriate characters.  We have now moved on to phrases (started with single characters, then words, now phrases, and I assume longer sentences will be next).  My assumption is that the idea behind this is so we don't forget characters we have learned previously, and it seems to be doing the job!  Being as we are still looking at very common characters, there may only be one or two that I really need to memorize, and so this doesn't normally take very long.  This frees me up to do more of my own studying.  Random new words that come up in class, and vocabulary that I just want to learn myself, I study throughout the week.  I will attach a picture of what it looks like but I just do it in the way that I have found works best for me (and before it gets pointed out, I know how messy my handwriting is, both in Chinese and English!) - I write down 5-7 characters/words that I want to learn, and then write each of them down 5 times.  A bit later I come back and write them down again, this time in a different colour.  The following day I come back a third time, and again with a different colour I write them down a final time.  How many words I do just depends on the week.  Once I have a full page of words, I put them into Anki. 


For listening I just try and get myself as immersed as possible, and spend time with Chinese people.  I really like tattoos, and so I have made good friends with 2 tattoo artists who have a shop just down the street from where we live.  They don't speak English which is perfect, and they are really fun to hang out with, and have even offered to teach me some stuff!  It's perfect because they speak just like anybody else, which of course is often a far cry from what we learn in the books!  I also find myself reading and writing more with Wechat (although it is of course pinyin input).  I frequently message my current teachers, and my previous ones, with different questions about new vocab and grammar, and I will actually often ask the same question to different teachers, or just make up a question so that I can practice reading when they respond.  Thankfully none of them have let on that they are fed up of me yet hah!


A highlight this week was attending a sort of 'Chinese competition' at the international student center at uni.  Fortunately I wasn't involved, as this is only for the short term classes that I was a part of before I started the degree.  This was a more advanced level than the one I had to compete in, as I was watching my friend who has now moved up to a higher level class.  The reason I was happy not to be involved was that not only did they have to act out a skit of some sort in Chinese, but they had to sing a song, and my voice is unbelievably bad!  It was great to watch, and actually quite funny.  I think it also alerted me to the fact that the previous classes seem to have been much more rigid in the structure they follow.  I feel like in the degree program there is much more freedom and the pace is basically whatever the students make it, rather than very rigidly sticking to the book and having to pack a large amount of content into a short space of time.  I chuckled when I heard the phrases '三天打鱼,两天晒网不行‘ 和 ’在家靠父母,出去靠朋友‘,which I myself learned in the short term class only a few months back!


The final thing for this week (I feel like there is a ton I want to write, but I want to save stuff for future posts also!), was my reading/writing midterm.  I think it went fairly well.  I kicked myself afterwards at having written 容 incorrectly!  I wrote two characters next to each other to try and compare them and remember which was right, one of them had a tiny extra heng just above the kou, and unfortunately I went with that one and erased the other one!  Other than that, unless I have grossly overestimated my ability, I don't think it was too bad.


Ok, one final, final thing!  As I add pictures each week and describe what I am doing to learn, please feel free to critique, make suggestions, tell me why there is a better way of doing things etc.  I want to learn and I want to do it efficiently, and so far the help that people have given has been really, really useful.  Thank you!


Edit - Please excuse the lack of pictures this week.  I tried 4 times to upload a couple of photos but for some reason it failed every time, even after copying the blog post and reloading the page.  I will try again next week. 


Week 10 - 衣服

Last week was another great week!  I got my midterm results back for listening and speaking - 95% and 96% respectively.  That put me third for listening and top for speaking so I can't complain!  I was somewhat annoyed with myself when it came to my listening though, as I could easily have gotten a better score. The teacher graded something that I had dismissed as unimportant, although that wasn't the case (at least not for this test) - which vowel you place the tone mark over on the pinyin!  It's annoying because we learned it and I could have studied it, but I didn't really think it mattered.  So even though I got the correct tone with a few word like 'jiu', jue' etc., I put the tone mark over the wrong letter and got penalized hah!  I am happy that after our final exam there will be no more pinyin anywhere!  This coming Thursday is our reading/writing midterm, and then that's all 4 out of the way, and we just have finals in January to look forward to!


Last Wednesday was a really fun day in our speaking class - we were on a topic which involved clothes, and so the day before our teacher told us to prepare some items of clothing in Chinese, and she would split us up into 3 groups the following day and we'd have a competition writing as many different items of clothing on the board as possible.  Not overly surprising at this point, but there were only enough students there to make 2 groups, but all in all the groups got 63 and 64 separate things written on the board.  I don't think I know that many in English, let alone Chinese!  My list of 12 that I had prepared seemed somewhat inadequate, but it was great to pick up lots of new clothing terms, and by the end the board was crammed with Hanzi, written by 9 different people, and so it looked awesome (our group actually had to wipe some off to make room for more)!  I also picked up a couple of new words in class, and then some more from my own personal study.  Some personal vocabulary highlights from the week were 发抖,浮躁,后悔,激动,抽象 和 承担后果。


As I write the almost mandatory update on the ongoing student saga, it might become clear why I wanted to know the final phrase!  There was an incident with a Russian student in the 3rd year of the program I am studying.  At a bar, ironically named Russian Size, he had a fight with another Russian student at 3am in the morning.  Damaged the tooth of the other student, was arrested and is spending 7 days in prison.  My assumption is he'll be deported after that.  Regarding the students in my year, this week 9 of them were told they won't be allowed to take the final exam, they will have to resit it next year.  Furthermore, they all had to sign a statement declaring that if they fail to attend 10 or more classes (one week's worth in total) between now and Dec 30th, without any good reason for doing so, they will be expelled.  It seems the hammer has finally been laid down, and now they have to 承担后果!


Week 7 - 听写又来了!

Well I guess I mistook which week we are in, because apparently this is week 7!  I didn't update the blog last week as we had the week off, which was actually really nice and relaxing. 


Anyway, things are continuing to go well as we start back up after our week off.  Still a fair amount of students not coming to class.  Week 9/10 is our mid terms, and it is doubtful whether or not some of the students will be able to sit the exams, as they may not have been to enough classes.  If they aren't allowed to sit their mid terms, they automatically get disqualified from taking the final exams too, so I wouldn't want to be in their shoes!


Yesterday our comprehensive teacher told us that we have a big dictation deal on Friday, covering all the hanzi we have learned so far.  Then today he dropped a 22 word dictation test on us out of the blue, said there will be another one tomorrow, but the one on Friday will be much bigger.  It was nice to be able to see where I am at with no prior preparation or knowledge of what words were going to come up.  Along with 2 other students, I got 100%, so needless to say I was pretty happy with that.  We also had homework for that class which was to talk about our room and what it contains, but for me I had to do my whole house as I live off campus.  This was also really good because it meant looking up new words and their measure words, as well as putting into practice the location words we've learned.  Some of my new words were cactus, scales, drawer, punching bag, and a fair few measure words for those and other items. 


We also had homework for our speaking class.  We just finished up a chapter on time, and so we had to describe a typical day.  I tried to make it interesting and add more than just 'I get up at x o'clock.  I have breakfast at x o'clock.  Class is from x-x o'clock.'  I'm sure there were mistakes in there, but I want to get things wrong in order to learn more. 


I definitely feel like I am improving across the board, but still find listening to be the hardest by far.  I am usually there early so I chat with the teachers, but compared to regular people I meet in daily life, they are so easy to understand!  I also find that I can usually do fairly well in the comprehension type listening exercises, but when it comes to the ones where we are given a sentence in pinyin and there are 3 words or so for which we have to mark the tones, I struggle a bit.  I guess it's just practice, practice, practice!



We are currently in the midst of our midterms.  Last week was 听力,写作和阅读,next week we have 中国文化,语法学,口语和综合。It's good because we get all of our exams out the way before the 5/1 break.  Exams seem to have gone ok so far.


As far as how this semester is going, I am really enjoying it and I feel that I am progressing.  Last week for 口语 we had to explain one of 8 成语 based on its story, and so I chose 愚公移山。I really enjoyed doing this, and was encouraged and how much I must have improved to even be able to consider doing this.  Then a couple of days ago I was in the gym trying to have a conversation and basically couldn't understand a word the guy was saying!  This seems to happen a lot - I will be really encouraged by my progress in one area, then take a hit in another area.  More often than not it's when comparing what is spoken/heard in the classroom, with the authentic stuff that happens outside the classroom.  Regular people are under no obligation to use standard Putonghua and dumb it down for you because you are a foreigner!  I suppose this just needs a lot more time and practice.


I have been trying to increase the input I get, and so I have been watching 男人帮。  I just finished episode 26 last night, and when I have watched all 30 I will find something similar to watch.  I watched this series 2 years ago and understood very little, but now I am getting a ton out of it.  I find that so many of the things I am learning at uni keep coming up in it, and it really helps solidify them in my mind.  This has probably been one of the most useful things I have done so far, and actually although I would always make excuses about being busy, finding 45 minutes every other evening to watch an episode isn't hard.


First Update - 刚刚开始

Suddenly occurred to me that I have a blog on here that I haven't used yet!  My degree started last Monday, so I thought I would give a short update.  Right now in many respects it's really easy.  It's right back to basics, although the teachers are speaking all Chinese for the most part, which is helpful for me because listening is my worst area by a mile.  The basic listening is also incredibly helpful.  Another foundational aspect which is helping me a ton is stroke order.  I never learnt it, and didn't think it was very important.  But now going back to the basics they take us through stroke order, so that's great.  I've picked up a few new words here and there, and I am also trying to learn every character in each of my books along the way (as in all the ones used when instructions are given for exercises etc.), the books have a lot of pinyin, but I also find out the meaning of those, and then try and learn those and the hanzi to go with them.  I don't want to just waste my time while stuff is basic, but really try and learn new hanzi/words that will help me as I move into second-fourth year.  

So yeah, so far not much to report, but all in all things seem to be going well.  My class is composed of me (English), 2 Russians (maybe 1 as 1 guy hasn't turned up almost every day), then all Thai and Koreans).  Breaking into the Korean clique is somewhat of a struggle, but the Thai are all really friendly and easy to get on with.  It also helps that some of them have next to no English, so we have to converse in Chinese.  The students range from those who have been studying Chinese for 8 months, to those who have been studying for 3 years (and really should be starting year 2 instead of doing this year according to the teachers).  This makes it hard for the teachers I imagine, they have to try and even it out so it isn't too slow for the more intermediate speakers, but not too fast for those who only know the basics!


Week 3 - 我们用什么书?

Sure thing!  So the book I was too lazy to grab is called 'Conversational Chinese 301'.  It's not bad, but unfortunately it has pinyin all the way through.  I find it so hard to concentrate on the characters when the pinyin is written underneath, but in theory you don't even need to pass HSK 3 to do this degree so I can understand it.  The degree itself is 'Chinese Language and Literature', and the only requirement was high school graduation, so very easy to get in for.  However, once you're in it seems like they won't have a problem kicking you out if you're not serious.  My teacher was not amused today when a guy strolled in an hour late, and another of my teachers said our class will probably go from the 28 we are out now down to around 20 students or so in the next couple of weeks as they deal with people not coming to class etc!

Tomorrow we will finish the final chapter (8) of the first book of the 'Threshold' level of the Road To Success series, which contains 4 books.  On Wednesday we are meant to have a test on all the characters we have covered in the book (there aren't actually any in there, but we either had to find them or were given them so we could learn them).  By the end of the 4th book in this series we should have studied 1200 words (according to the back of the book).  The next stage then has 2 books, which gets us up to 3000 words, then the final stage has another 2 books, leaving us at 6000 words.  I actually really like this book, in fact I really like all the books we are using, I have found them especially helpful for stroke order.  I am far from perfect, but I find myself actively thinking about stroke order and getting it right much more of the time now.  Also, even though they are beginner books, I find I am having to learn characters that I would never have taken an interest in learning to write otherwise (things like fruit and vegetables).  This is great because it means I'm not getting bored just hearing stuff I have already learned repeated. 

Last Friday I gave a brief description of a family photo.  It was an on the spot thing rather than prepared, so it wasn't until afterwards that I realized how bad it had been!  I pretty much just went through and said who everyone was, pointing at people or using the colour of their clothes to describe them.  I should have been using words like 旁边,前面,后面 etc. but I didn't.  Anyway never mind, it was good fun and reminded me to slow down and think a little bit more before I speak. 


The quality of the teaching at this point is fantastic.  It's almost 100% Chinese which is great (although obviously spoken at more of a basic level so we can understand).  Our 'comprehensive' teacher relies very little on the book, and breaks off into his own little world all the time, which I actually really like as we end up getting all sorts of new words and culture points out of it.  He also teaches us things that we probably wouldn't learn for a while otherwise, like 公主病, 王子病,or how Q is commonly used in place of 可爱 on social media, or 3Q for 'thank you'!

It's hard to know what to put in an update, but as I said, I would love to look back on this in 4 years and remember the start of this journey, so most of this is for me rather than anyone else!  But if anyone has any questions or anything, then please feel free to ask!


Week 12 - 阅读期中考试

This has been an awesome week, and I felt like I really learned a lot.  First of all, for some reason I am still unable to upload photos.  I have sent Roddy a message and so hopefully by next week I can put some up.


I got my reading/writing midterm back, and it turns out I actually did write 容 correctly, and I got 100%!  Obviously I am over the moon with that, but it led to something even more cool.  There were 9 of us who did really well on the midterm, and so our teacher said that after looking at our results, attendance, and homework each week, we don't need to attend class between now and our final exam in January if we don't want to.  She said we are welcome to come, but our time is probably better spent devising and studying our own 内容。  She said we obviously still need to take the final exam, and we need to make sure we cover what's in the book as that will all be on there.  Each week we have to send photos via Wechat showing that we have been studying, and we have to produce 3 paragraphs/articles each week, on whatever we choose.  We can either send photos of those to her, or leave them in the classroom the night before and she will correct them for us (I am definitely doing the latter so that I actually continue to learn).  I am really pumped about this. The remaining Hanzi in the book that will be on the final are fairly common, and so shouldn't take long to learn.  Most of them I can read, I just need to remind myself how to write them.  But it means I have more time to study personal vocabulary, and writing the articles will be really fun and allow for a lot more experimentation with new words and grammar.  Finally she said after our final exams she will reassess and let us know whether she wants us to return to class, or we can continue to do our own thing. 


I just started a thread on sentence structure, so I won't repeat it here, but one of our teachers gave me a brilliant revelation when he was teaching this week - basically, if we know general sentence structures (subj + v + obj) and all that, then when we discover a new word, in most cases we can work out how to use that word by just checking what type of word it is.  I have always struggled with this when looking up words in the dictionary!  Now it seems so simple, why on earth was I finding it so hard, I should have just checked what kind of a word it was and then I would know how to put it into a sentence!


I spent some time hanging out with my friends at the tattoo place on Friday which was fun.  They wrote me a list of vocabulary as I walked around the shop pointing out things I didn't know, and then trying to explain things.  I think (I haven't actually checked them all in the dictionary yet though) I managed to get outline and shading, which I was quite proud of, or at least I will be if they are right hah!


Aside from Chinese study, the weather here has been getting very cold.  Today was -16C, which is the coldest it has been so far this winter.  There has also been some snow which is nice!  Some rather unfortunate news is that we may have to move house.  Our landlord is letting us know by the end of this month whether or not she wants to sell the place (I naively just assumed we'd be here for 4 years).  It's annoying because this place has 3 bedrooms which is perfect with our kids, the location is also fantastic.  It's not too far from uni and we are right by a big supermarket and a great kindergarten for the kids.  The silver lining is that our contract is up mid-Feb, so we will most likely move in January, right in the middle of my holiday!  I think I will stop there for this week, before the post gets too long!


Week 14 - 快要考试了!

Another enjoyable week, although not a huge amount to write about!  Only 4 more weeks now until exams, so for the title of this post I combined that with some grammar we studied this week - 要/就要/快要。。。了。 I have encountered this before but it was good to go back over it and be reminded of things I have since forgotten.  For example, the fact that I can put some sort of time in front of 就要,but not 快要.  This week in my 综合课 we are going to be covering sentences using 把, I am looking forward to this because I am sure I will learn lots of new things, as well as refreshing myself on the stuff I think I already know!


I got my surprise test back and got a 90, which kept me at the top of the class.  It also highlighted areas I need to be sure to cover when preparing for my finals, and just to continue improving in general.  I made a few small mistakes, so I need to be sure to take care when I am writing - I wrote 出发 incorrectly for example, missing off the little down stroke on the start of the horizontal.  Just a small mistake, but enough to get the character wrong!  I also need to spend a bit more time on my grammar.  Our teacher said that as a class he is really pleased with our level, but our weak point is definitely our grammar.  This showed up in the section where we had to read various sentences and simply say if they were written correctly or not.  At this point our grammar is not exactly extensive, so this should have been a very straightforward question, but none of us did particularly well on it.  Anyway, it is a great reminded to go back and look over even what I assume to be the simplest sentence structures. 


Life in general is good!  Our landlord said she isn't going to sell our place this year, so we don't have to move.  It's perfect because we absolutely love this house, the rent is cheap, there are 3 bedrooms (wonderful with our 2 kids), and the area is really 方便。The weather continues to get colder, today was -20C, a couple of days ago was the lowest so far this winter at -21C!  Not that much snow yet, but I'm sure it's on the way!


I really want to get some pictures uploaded but unfortunately I am still getting an error message every time I try.  I am waiting to hear from admin, so watch this space!


Week 13 - 京剧和动物

This week has been a fairly normal week so this post shouldn't be a particularly long one!  Our speaking class unit this week was stuff relating to the Beijing Opera.  It was interesting learning about the masks/face paint and the different characters who generally appear.  Next week we are doing a unit on 'Going to the zoo', and so our homework was to prepare a list of different animals, and we will do the same game we did with the clothing vocabulary (break into groups, see which group writes the most on the board in the given time).  So far I've got 66 animals written down, I may do some more in the morning before class, but I highly doubt there will be time to get them up on the board.  This will be a good list to hold on to and just try and learn a few different animals each week.


Our comprehensive teacher said he was going to give us some exercise questions one day last week, and then dropped a test on us on Friday!  It was basically like our midterm again but a little bit harder.  We weren't allowed to talk, sat one to a desk etc., so it was exam type conditions!  It seemed to go ok, although I dropped the ball on the measure word question with the MW for 电子邮件!  I knew that 封 was the MW for letters, but I remember seeing it (perhaps in my anki deck) somewhere and the definition that sprang to mind was 'measure word for something sealed', and so I just went with 个,in hindsight the chance of a measure word question having ge as the answer is pretty low!  Other than that there were some grammar questions which I wasn't certain on, and then a written piece at the end. 


I find that I am managing to absorb characters fairly well when it comes to reading, but I very quickly forget how to write them down, and just reviewing cards in Anki doesn't really help with anything but recognition.  Not sure what to do about this yet, I suppose the best way is just to keep plugging away until they get stuck in my brain, as the most foundation characters seem to have done!  My listening still has miles to go, so I have decided to start watching a Chinese TV series that was recommended to me in a different thread.  I figure the more exposure the better, so (although I don't actually watch a huge amount of stuff), any time I feel like sitting down and putting a movie/show on, I am going to try and force myself to watch something Chinese!  That's all for now!



The new semester started a week ago, and it's been a great first week.  As far as my goals for this year, I've basically failed them all already!  I wanted to read a lot more, but over the break I went home for the first time in a couple of years, and so unfortunately my Chinese took a back seat.  However, I did get through one and a half books.  Now being back I feel like I have so much more to focus on, and I'd rather do a good job of covering all my class materials well than spreading myself too thin by plodding through a book.  Hopefully I can change this up when the books are a bit easier to read, and don't require constant stopping and note making.  Rather than dwelling on my failure here, I am trying to put it behind me and go all in with everything else!


This semester we have two different classes.  Our 中国概况 and 汉字学 classes are over, and in their place we have 中国文化 and 语法学。  I really like 语法学 and find it to be incredibly useful.  The books we are using are fantastic, and basically contain answers to many questions that keep coming up for me.  中国文化 seems to be fairly interesting, and we have a new teacher for this class.  She's very friendly and asks a lot of questions.  Although our class consists of 40+ students, there's only a few of us that don't sit on our phones and actually participate in the class, so I really appreciate an interactive setting.


On that note, our speaking class has changed slightly.  For some reason all of our exams are now going to be written exams (how someone's speaking can be tested with a written exam is beyond me, but it's out of the teacher's control).  So in light of this our teacher has said he will just teach one of our classes each week, and the other one will be dedicated to us speaking (presentations/reports/skits etc.). 


All in all, I'm really excited about this semester!


Week 15 - 城堡!

This week was a standard week with not much to say.  I don't really want to write posts just for the sake of writing them, so I think this will be my last post until we start our finals, which is 3 weeks from now.  Then I will do a post to finish the semester, including areas I feel I have grown in, and areas that need the most improvement.  Perhaps also some goals for the break.  I will then do a post after my finals, and maybe a mid-break post to try and keep myself working! 


The title this week alludes to a passage we had to write, which was on our dream house if we had as much money as we wanted.  I set up shop in a castle on my own private island!  We didn't get around to 'ba' sentences in the end, but we kept on moving through our book.  This week we will probably finish our speaking class textbook, and then from next week we will do various exercises as prep for our final.  For listening we are going to keep plowing on through our book, as there really isn't much we can do to prepare for listening other than listen!  I doubt we will finish our comprehensive book this semester, but there shouldn't be much left for the start of next semester, and we have already handed our money in to purchase the following book.  For speaking and listening there will be 2 chapters left to finish at the start of next semester.


I have some photos of the campus looking snowy which I will upload in my final post, if possible.  This morning there were huge blocks of ice everywhere and a couple of cranes, as they are starting to build up big ice sculptures.  When they are done in the next few days I should also have some photos of them all lit up to upload.  It certainly adds some character to the campus!


Week 8 - 准备考期中考试

This week we started our midterms - I had my 综合考试 yesterday, and then next Wednesday I have 口语和听力, then the following week is 阅读。The test yesterday was pretty straight forward, I think I will have scored around 90%.  I made a really stupid mistake and kicked myself afterwards - the question gave us 3 sentences, and we had to choose which one was correct.  The two I struggled with were - '同学们送一本书我‘ and'同学们送我一本书’,I kept going back and forth and eventually switched my answer to the first one! I think the reason I did it is that I would usually say something like '同学们把一本书给我‘,and so I made the stupid assumption that I should just leave the 'wo' at the end of the sentence hah! Aside from that think I did ok.  The test itself was broken down into 10 different sections, with 5 questions in each section.  Some of the sections were - convert the pinyin into Hanzi, convert the Hanzi into pinyin, sort the jumbled Hanzi into a sentence, from the response and a word given in brackets, make an appropriate question, give the correct measure word for the noun, and then finally write a paragraph of at least 100 Hanzi about ‘Your School’.


I really liked the section on measure words, I don't know how many there are in total, but I feel like we learned a lot, and even though I knew there were only 5 questions, I made sure I learned them all.  It's nice to feel like I can actually use a lot more than just 'ge' now!


I'm not overly concerned about my kouyu and yuedu tests, I think they should also be fairly straightforward.  My biggest worry is tingli, I find it by far the hardest.  I really struggle with distinguishing tones.  I can handle the pronunciation of the actual sounds, but when we get given sentences to listen to in pinyin and there is a word in there which we have to mark with the correct tone, I usually don't do so well.  Fortunately because the content is still quite simple, sometimes I know what the tones are because I can understand the sentence from reading the pinyin!


I am interested to see what happens with some of the other students after our first tests.  One class this week 10 of us showed up out of 26!  Miraculously, and actually much to the surprise of our teacher, everyone showed up for the test.



First semester is over and exams are finished!  It feels strange to be entering into my big break now, rather than in between years, but it's still a very welcome break.  I was very pleased with how my exams went, and finished with 94, 96, 98 and 99, in speaking, comprehensive, listening and reading/writing respectively.  Obviously those are pretty good grades, but to be honest I don't think they are all that meaningful, and while I do of course want to score high in my exams, the emphasis has to be on actually being able to effectively use Chinese!  I enjoy exams as they are great for showing me my limits and areas that need the most work, but with something as vast as a language I think it is hard to put together a 2 hour test, especially at this point in our learning.  Although I think it changes in the future, our speaking final didn't even have any speaking on it! 


Stand out things across my exams - TONES!  Still the hardest thing for me is distinguishing tones that I hear.  The only reason I was able to do so well on my listening was because I knew the majority of the words that came up in the pinyin sentences, and so was able to mark the tones on them before even hearing them on the audio.  Other than just continuing to listen as much as possible, I am not sure what else I can do to get better at this.


Knowing when something is wrong - although I haven't seen the graded exams, I imagine this was the section I dropped most marks on in my speaking test.  We were given 10-15 sentences to change, and told that some are right and some are wrong.  I only left one sentence unedited.  While I don't think I had too much trouble writing correct sentences, I felt that I probably edited some which were actually written correctly, because I simply wasn't sure enough.


Reading/writing - while I love pretty much everything about Chinese, this is definitely the part I enjoy most.  It's also the part I can do the most self study on!  I was a little bit nervous about this exam as I hadn't been to class, and while I had studied plenty of extra stuff, I wasn't sure that I had spent enough time making sure I did actually know the content in the book.  Thankfully I was fine, and the extra stuff I have been doing has also paid off, as it meant I knew almost all of the characters across all 4 exams (there are always characters included that we haven't learned, which will steadily increase over the next period, until we have learned a lot more in our own time).  It feels good to get a head start here, and I want to try and keep this up.


All in all I am really pleased, and encouraged to keep cracking away and working hard!  I'm not sure how much I will get done over the break, but I am not going to punish myself if I don't do a ton!  My family are here and so we are going to be spending lots of time out and about, and having fun sledging in the snow here!  I am trying to do at least something every day though, even if it is just reading over a text.  I am also taking new vocabulary/characters and putting them into sentences, which I send to a Chinese friend to edit (trying to hit an average of 5 a day), then put into Pleco flashcards and reread those sentences every day to absorb the new stuff.  This is to try and continue to build up my base of characters, as well as new vocabulary.


I know this post is getting a bit long, but I have to say I am feeling the effectiveness of some of the things Imron wrote in a couple of threads.  Since getting rid of my Anki decks and starting to only input vocabulary that I am actually reading, all of the new words have been coming up again and again!  I heard one word in a song, so made a sentence to learn it, then saw it in a notice on the door of our building.  I can definitely see the truth in words that are important for me to learn now appearing frequently in real life, and how an SRS is meant to mimic that process.  Very cool!


I believe I said in my first entry that this blog was actually mainly for myself, so that I could look back four years down the line and see how far (hopefully!) I have come.  I do of course hope this may be of help to others also, and because of that I will just apologize in advance for any time that I may repeat myself, as it is bound to happen!


With that out of the way, I can talk about week 9!  I got my results back from my 综合考试 and I got 91%, which was also the best grade in our class, so I am pretty pleased with that, especially in light of the stupid mistake I know I made.  I even got a present - one of those ornament things you hang on the wall with the tassles on the bottom, and it has HIT etc. written on the back!  Around half the class failed (less than 60% here), with some getting as low as 20%.  Unsurprisingly it was mainly the students that haven't been coming to class that failed, surprisingly, I attended classes this week with less than 10 out of the 26 students in my class, after we had gotten our results!  Our teacher said overall he was 不太满意,which I think is completely understandable.  For those of us that did well though he was incredibly encouraging, and he both shared the areas many students did really well in, and areas which we want to work on to improve.  The rest of my 综合课 this week was going back over a lot of the new words we have studied in the second book, lots of dictation stuff, finishing up with a sort of practice test on Friday.  Next week we start the third and final book that we bought at the start of the semester.  I assume we will move on to the second level of this book series next semester.  My teacher told me to just start going through the vocab at the back of the new book and learning any Hanzi I don't know.  I had a look through and there's maybe 20 or so new ones, so I will learn those along with all the other vocab I am picking up in class.


My listening exam seemed to go ok.  I really struggle with hearing tones, especially differentiating 2nd and 3rd.  There were a few questions where we had to mark tones, and thankfully I knew most of the words from the context, even though they were written in pinyin, and so I was pretty much able to mark the tones before even hearing the audio, and then just confirm them when I heard them.  I guess that's helpful for an exam, but no good for new words!  That actually reminds me of a point my teacher made when he gave us our results for 综合 which I found quite interesting - I had asked in a previous class what happens if we write pinyin instead of a Hanzi as we don't know how to write it, and I was told we get half marks (only at this stage, not later on).  So I then asked what about if we try and write the Hanzi but get it wrong, and was told we don't get any marks.  Once the exam was over, our teacher said during exams, just go with what we know and make it simple.  He said it's better to write a simple text of 200 Hanzi than a shorter, more complicated one with lots of mistakes, as it'll really knock our score down.  He said anytime EXCEPT for exams, we should be doing it the other way round - try new words, new grammar structures etc.  I found this to be very helpful, because at first it annoyed me that you could get a better mark for going back to pinyin than for at least attempting to write the correct Hanzi, but now I understand the reasoning behind it and it makes much more sense. 


Coming back from that rabbit trail, the speaking test also felt like it went quite well.  The hardest part was actually reading broken up bits of pinyin!  If it's a full 'word' then I am fine, but I always forget when I have to read the most foundation pieces, and so I mispronounced the 'un' I had to read.  The two topics I had to talk about were 'My family' and 'My school'.  It's hard to know how I did as I'm not really sure of the criteria by which she grades it, but comparing myself to what I heard others saying I think I was of a similar standard.


Finally, our reading/writing exam will be on the 9th of next month.  It covers the first 14 chapters of the book we are using, which are mostly Hanzi I know fairly well.  There are 5 sections, each worth 20 points.  I can't remember them all, but there is one where we are given a single Hanzi and we have to make a word using it, then use that word to write a sentence of at least 10 Hanzi.  One section with 20 Hanzi, we write the pinyin, another section which is the opposite.  One section is a passage that we have to answer some questions on.  The fifth section I have forgotten, but there's nothing on there that seems really difficult or far from the kind of exercises we have been doing in the book.


Well, that's it for this week.  Until next week!


Week 5-7 - 期中考试

I am a week late in updating my blog for a couple of reasons.  Firstly because of the week off, and secondly because we moved house last weekend.  Our landlord wanted to sell her place, and we wanted to move out before it gets really cold.  We have found an awesome place, cheaper and bigger than the last one. 


Mid-terms are fast approaching, and I have 5 out of 8 of them over the next two weeks.  Speaking was last week. 


For someone Chinese, our speaking teacher is very direct when it comes to telling us how we are progressing.  I can't remember if I mentioned it in my last post or not, but we had to do a dialogue with a friend, and then do a short powerpoint presentation on a topic that we were allowed to choose from a selection of 7 topics.  I felt that it went ok, but because of nerves my pronunciation was even worse than usual (my tones are pretty bad at the best of times).  The teacher said the presentation was fine, but my pronunciation was pretty bad.  I already knew that, but being told it by the teacher was discouraging!  However, I am glad he hammers me on this because it challenges me to improve.


For our midterm we were randomly put into groups, and then given 3 words.  We had to do a 10 minute presentation.  The first task was to explain each of the 3 words, basically as if we were teaching the class.  Then we had to write a dialogue which included the 3 words, and present that.  Having been blasted for my pronunciation, I made sure to practice this over and over so it would be better.  I got a 98 on the exam and my teacher said that this time there were no major tone mistakes, and that it was way better than before.  I was really encouraged by this.  In general my pronunciation isn't really any better than 2 weeks ago, but because I have seen that I am CAPABLE of having much better pronunciation, this has sort of re-energized me to put more effort into getting it correct.  The task now is to get to a point where I can speak like I did after 3 days of continually practicing the same 10 minute talk, without having to think about it.  It wouldn't surprise me if this takes a lot longer than my time at university here!  However, I have to start somewhere!  I got some advice from my teacher, as well as trying to follow some points from one of Imron's posts on improving speaking.


I am also really encouraged to be hearing more words I know in general conversation.  Over the past few weeks these are a few of the words/phrases that I learnt, and then heard/read and immediately recognized when chatting with Chinese people - 露一手,侵略,急于求成,结巴,挖.


Until next time!


Weeks 8/9 - 口语和听力考试

Last week was our speaking and listening midterms, and on Thursday we have our reading/writing exam.  We also had another comprehensive exam (our teacher is giving us 3 to make up our midterm, one on each of the 4 chapter units that make up our book).  The comprehensive seemed to go quite well, although there were less questions, so mistakes will be more punishing than usual.  I was pleased to see that there was also more extra content than usual, and so I felt like the extra study I do by myself is really paying off.  One set of questions had us complete sentences using whatever word appeared in brackets, and 除非 showed up, which we have never studied before.  Thankfully I've looked at this in my own time and so had no issues with it.


Speaking went really well.  Our midterm is a spoken test, which to me is what one would expect in a SPEAKING exam, yet isn't the case for our final.  We had to read a short passage, read a list of pinyin words, and then talk about whatever topic was on the test paper we randomly picked.  I actually wasn't thrilled with my topic - a friend takes you to the airport as you are flying home, what would you say to them?  It had to be at least 10 sentences, so it wasn't overly difficult for our level, but I just found the topic a bit strange.  Again here I felt the advantage of living off campus and using Chinese everyday, and so being able to diverge a little bit from the standard book answer.  Most of the other students live on campus, and they have lots of friends from their own nations, and therefore only really speak Chinese in class for now. 


Listening was so-so.  The final 20 questions were all comparing the written pinyin + tones to the audio and saying whether it was the same or not.  This is my least favourite thing about listening.  I find I can usually understand the stuff at our level without too many issues, but I really, really struggle with distinguishing tones.  Thankfully I think this will be the last time that we have to do that, as these questions seem to fizzle out of our listening book now.  That being said, they are replaced with having to mark the tones on words in the middle of sentences, and I don't think I'm going to find that much easier!


Regarding my progress at this point, some days I feel really encouraged, and yet at other times I feel hugely discouraged.  We had some Chinese friends round last night and I was shocked at how much I understood and was able to communicate, for the first time I really felt like I have made a huge jump.  Then earlier on the bus a lady didn't understand when I was saying 'I'm a student here'!  So lots of ups and downs, but generally I'm feeling really good and excited to push more and more!




Weeks 4/5 - 还是‘了’

I can't believe 5 weeks of this semester have already gone by!  Next week we have Thursday and Friday off, and then our midterms will be within the next 2 or 3 weeks.  These last 2 weeks have had some really helpful grammar, and also helped to clarify some things I sort of knew, but never really knew why I knew!


The first was more on the usage of 还是.  So far we had learned about using it when phrasing an 'or' question, but nothing else.  I felt like I knew how to use it as an adverb, but not really why.  The way our teacher explained it was incredibly helpful - you can use it when you have compared things and then come to a decision about which is best.  You don't need to mention any thing else in the decision if you don't want to, and whatever you think the best choice is will always become evident when you use 还是. 


For example: 我还是坐飞机去。 I am heading to Shanghai and, whether I have stated it or not, have compared the pros and cons of taking the train or flying.  For whatever reasons, I have decided that flying is still the best option.


We also covered more on using 了, this time on the rules of using time.  For example


我看电视一个小时 is wrong, but 我看电视看了一个小时 or 我看了一个小时(的)电视 are both ok.  There were also various other rules/exceptions which we covered.  I still find 了 to be tricky, as there just seem to be so many uses and rules regarding it, but this grammar has made me feel I understand it much more now than I did previously!


The ongoing student saga has now resulted in 3 students being kicked out, and 3 more down to a last warning, where if they miss one more class they are done.  This came from admin rather than our teachers.  None of them took it seriously before, but now that some have been given the boot they have come to every single class! 


Year 1 Semester 2

This week was my first week back after a lovely, long break.  The Chinese New Year holiday was fantastic.  My parents came to see us and their grandkids, and we had lots of fun going out together and sledging!  The weather here is starting to warm up a little bit (comparatively), and my teacher reckons that we will be into the positive degrees in the next couple of weeks.  This year was definitely colder than last so I'm looking forward to it getting a bit warmer!


I'm disappointed that I can't say how well I did hitting all my goals over the break.  I pretty much failed all of them!  I got half way through the book I wanted to study, watched maybe 3 Chinese movies, and didn't learn all the words I wanted to.  I don't want to make excuses but I just found it hard with having visitors and wanting to do things with my family.  On the plus side I was using Wechat for voice and text conversations very regularly, and I do think that at least some input every day has helped.  I joined a couple of big Chinese groups as a kind of support method, so that I always have a way to get in some practice each day, if for whatever reason I haven't been able to talk/listen to people outside.  This is of course not a main method of studying, but just intended to increase my exposure to and use of Chinese.


Starting back was really fun, and I am happy to be back at it!  The ongoing absent student saga continues, with one class this week hitting an all time low of 5 students out of 26!  On the plus side, it's much more focused for those of us that do go!  We have started on some new books, and I am pleased that our comprehensive book will now use texts with no pinyin.  Our reading/writing book seems to have taken quite a big jump in the size of the texts.  Unfortunately our speaking book still has pinyin with the characters, which I find to be a real distraction, but never mind! 


I also wanted to comment on what I have discovered to be a new, and quite specific, challenge for me.  I'd like to see how I improve in this area over time, and also if anyone has any helpful advice!  I find reading multiple 3 tone characters in a row to be especially challenging.  I think in part it's because my recognition is poor enough that I haven't registered the following 2/3 characters which are also 3rd tone, and so by the time I have noticed the 3rd character along, I have already read the first or the second as a low third tone, and not as a second tone as it should be.  This gives the whole sentence a really weird, stunted type feel.  I am hoping this will just change with time as my recognition improves, but for the moment it's really annoying.  If anyone has any specific advice I'd really appreciate it!


For the most part uploading photos seems to be working for me again now, so I have uploaded a few from the break!







Week 10/11 - 好好儿读问题!

Over the last 2 weeks I had my reading/writing midterm, and then next Friday is the last of my 3 comprehensive midterms, and this one will cover the whole book we have been studying, rather than just one of the 3 units.  My reading/writing midterm went great, apart from one really stupid mistake on my part.  I misread the question and thought we just had to give the pinyin for the characters listed below, but we were also meant to make words.  Unfortunately that mistake cost me 10 easy marks, but I still managed to get an 88% so it's not the end of the world.  A couple of other students made the same mistake as we just assumed the question was the same as we cover each week in our book.  Well, we all know what they say about assumption!


One of our teachers frequently encourages us to get to know each other better, which makes sense, and so this weekend I invited pretty much all the students from my year over.  We had a blast, there were 14 not including us, all crammed into my our apartment, and each made food from their own nation.  Thai, Korean, English and Russian food!  I felt like it opened the way for more relationships, because we were basically forced to use our Chinese to communicate, rather than in class where each nation uses their own language.  If nothing else it was at least good speaking practice!


In class at the moment we are basically just continuing to slog through our books.  Listening is pretty mind-numbing, comprehensive class is the most fun.  We have covered a selection of grammar, including where to put nouns when you are dealing with the number of times something has happened, how to use 从来,the use of 地,要是...就, and a couple of other points that have slipped my mind!  I do have a test to photo and upload, but I've gone and left it in the classroom, so it will have to wait until next time! 



I just got home from my final exam of third semester, and so my first year is over!  The exam today was quite difficult.  It consisted of 5 questions which had long answers, basically like essay questions but much shorter.  They were based on what we have covered this semester in our week of class, and the places we went to visit. 


I am feeling really good about how this first year has gone.  I have a very long way to go, but I can feel that there has been a big improvement since I started, and that I have a good foundation for the next 3 years.  I'm not sure that there is one stand out area that I need to improve a lot more than anything else, but rather just that I need to keep continuing right across the board.  I was at a little show thing yesterday that my kids' kindergarten put on, and one of the teachers was speaking at the front and I understand almost everything she said.  Then when we ate together later on she was talking and I understood next to nothing!  This may have been because slower, more 'formal' type Chinese is easier for me to understand than dialect laced chit-chat, but it was both a great encouragement at being able to do something I never could have a year ago, and a reminder that there is so much more I need to learn, and so much more time I need to spend practicing.  The same rings true of my speaking, reading and writing.  I'll express myself really clearly, and then be misunderstood when I try to tell someone I'm from England.  I'll write something my teacher says is great, and then forget how to write 年 or 唱歌 in an exam!  I'll find a sentence out and about that I can read and understand, and then find one where I don't know a single character. 


Over the break I want to try and keep up with study, but I haven't yet thought out exactly what I am going to do.  I think I will try reading texts from a text book that I haven't used yet, in order to keep my reading up, and also to pick up new vocab.  I will try my best to speak Chinese at home (not just out and about), and try to do things where I can increase how much I am listening. 


I think this might be my last post until September when we start back up again, although I may drop a mid-break post if I remember. 





Week 2/3 - 了

I have decided to update my blog every 2 weeks instead of weekly, as otherwise I don't really have a ton to put in here from week to week.  These last 2 weeks have been fun, and I feel like I am back into the swing of things now.  It was a shock starting back up and not being able to remember how to write out simple characters I have written many, many times before!  We are doing more 'activities' in class now.  By this I mean that for our dictation our teachers will have us up to the front in groups so that one group is writing on the board, and one group on paper as before.  In our comprehensive class we have also started doing 复述,where we have to retell one of the two texts from class from the front of the room.  These just spice things up a little bit and keep it from getting boring.  It's also a nice added challenge to have to try and put my Chinese to work while standing in front of the class.  I've always hated public speaking so this is a great push for me.


The main grammar point we hit this week was 了.  It was good to get some more clarification here, as we had already covered the idea of 了 showing a completed action or a change of state.  I had been wondering why sometimes 了 would appear directly after the verb, whereas other times it would be right at the end of the sentence, and now I know why!  If the object after the verb contains any extra information, a continuing sentence, or measure words, then 了 is generally going to go straight after the verb, but if the object appears alone, 了 will generally go at the end of the sentence:


1. 我买了两个苹果。

2. 我买苹果了。


We also looked at the placement of 了 in sentences with more than one verb.  All in all this doesn't seem to difficult, but it's nice to understand WHY something is the way it is!



I am now two weeks into year 2 of my 4 year degree program.  The level has increased notably!  The content of each class is considerably more than it was, and we now have 7 subjects instead of the 4 we had last year.  We now have speaking, listening, reading, comprehensive, writing, general survey of China, and character study.  Our class has also increased in size to 44 students, so it's absolutely massive.  These are students who have studied at HIT for a year, switched major etc.  We now have more Russians, one student from Turkmenistan, and lots more Thai and Korean students.  I'm not sure how I feel about the number of students.  Obviously it's way too many, and although it won't impact listening much, I think it will affect how much I get to speak to some degree.  The flip side of this is that interaction is generally by choice, and some people just seem to scared to say anything, and so I've been speaking/reading in class just as much, if not more than last year. 


The China survey class is quite interesting, and I am definitely looking forward to learning more about the history, geography and culture of China.  Character study is fun, but probably the hardest class of them all.  This is because we are looking at stuff like myths regarding the origin of Hanzi, and so of course there are lots of new words, a large portion of which appear to be fairly specialist, and probably not all that useful to us at this point in time.  Along with writing and listening, we only have one class per week of these subjects.


Speaking is great, as we now have our comp teacher from last year, and he is all about us speaking all the time.  He's already had us up the front talking which is great practice.  Our teacher last year was terrible, and we hardly ever talked in class, so this is really refreshing, and I feel like it is only going to help my speaking.  I'm still not a fan of listening, but at least we only have one class a week now.  Comprehensive is awesome, and I love the new teacher that we have for it, her teaching style is excellent. 


Nothing too specific for this first update, just a general overview.  I will give more details on what I am learning in the following updates. 


Weeks 6/7 - 综合期中考试

Over the course of these two weeks we had another of our word competitions, where we are split into two groups and have to write as many words relating to the topic on the board as we can.  This time the topic was sports, and we are no longer allowed to use pinyin.  We are all looking at words we have prepared beforehand though so it doesn't make it that much more challenging, but it's good to have moved away from pinyin!  I am pretty sure my group lost the last time, but this time we won!  We had 60+ types of sport written down, which I think I'd struggle to think of in English, let alone Chinese. 


On Friday we had our comprehensive midterm.  I always find it hard to judge how I might have done, but it seemed to go ok.  If I get it back I will try and snap a photo of the questions, but in the meantime I will add a couple that I can remember.  The first section was just choosing the correct words to fill in the blanks in various sentences - fairly straightforward.  The next section was making words.  This was weird because it was almost too easy, leaving me concerned that I wasn't doing it correctly!  Normally when we have to do this our teacher just gives us a single character and we can make whatever we want, but here it was words like 满意,清楚,热闹 etc., and so there were lots of 不太,很,非常!


The next section we were given lots of sentences and had to say whether they were correct or not.  For example:


我再想去那个饭店 - incorrect because, in contrast to 又,再 has to come after 想。

昨天我买了衬衫 - This one was difficult, because our book (using the exact same sentence) teaches that this is basically incorrect, and you only put 了 immediately after the verb if you have more than a single object following it.  So it would have to be 昨天我买了一件衬衫。However, I know that in reality this construction is actually fine, so I marked it incorrect and then put a note next to it.  Not really sure why our book says this sentence is incorrect. 


After this was a comprehension section.  And then the final question was writing a 200 word piece on 介绍你的购物习惯。I have since heard from some students that they didn't know what 购物 meant and so wrote something completely unrelated.  I feel a little bit sorry for them, but at the same time we had this question for our homework a couple of weeks ago, and our teacher told us before the exam that the final question would be a repeat of something we have written for homework in the past few weeks! 


This is turning into a longer post than I anticipated, but I just want to briefly talk about some grammar we hit on this week, which was approximate numbers.  An interesting point, which completely makes sense, was that while you can say 两三个,五六个等,it's never ok to say 九十个!After this the new thing for me was the positioning of 多.  Even though I don't really understand why, I now feel more comfortable using 多,knowing that with a multiple of 10 多 comes immediately after the number, whereas with other numbers it appears after the measure word/noun - 十多个月 vs. 九个多月。


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