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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 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 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!


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 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!


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 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.


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!


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 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!


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!

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