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About this blog

I'm starting this blog because sometimes I feel like saying something about (my) Chinese learning that isn't really worth a forum post or is not a question. Somewhere to document my progress. It has been just about exactly a year now of consistent work, so I'm interested to see where my 普通话 is next New Year's holiday. I will try to use this space to post some interesting things I find along the climb!

Entries in this blog


Roadtrip: Beijing to Dunhuang and loop back


Been really looking forward to this roadtrip, setting off tomorrow morning. Tentative(very much just penciled in), trying to stick mainly to smaller cities. Route looks like this:



First stop Datong 大同, around 4hrs drive.


Day 1: 北京-大同


Gorgeous day for driving! Rest stop in 河北, and some rest stop Chinglish



Walking around 大同古城 (old town). City walls are re-built, but still has a really nice vibe. Everyone we talked to today was really friendly, different accent from Beijing. People are much more surprised at me speaking Chinese than in BJ. Actually, they seem friendly in a way that's aiming to make tourists feel happy in their city, not a bad thing at all, just my feeling.


Day 2: 大同 - 太原:



Absolutely beautiful weather at the Yungang Grottos. Definitely a place worth visiting. Interestingly on Trip Adivsor all the comments say you cannot take photos in the grottos, but this is certainly not true anymore(all the comments seem to be pre-covid). Caught a bit of the 山西 section of the Great Wall on the top of the mountain, couldn't get much of a shot from the moving car. Hear a lot of fangyan when the locals are talking amongst themselves, not even recognizable words. A local 山西 beer.


Hsk 1-4 Vocabulary Master 词汇宝典


I was so glad to finally finish this book last night. I started working on the book some months ago and made slow progress, as I was only doing around two pages a day. My pace wasn't so much about lack of motivation, just that I was working other resources at the same time, rather than focusing on only one. When CNY hit and I had some days off, I vowed to finally do the book as it was designed , which is 1 unit a day. I still had 12 units to go at that point. I did my best, but each unit ended up requiting 4 hours and it took me a month to to get through those 12 units. Most days I put in 2 hours on it, there were days I did 4 hours and I skipped a few days altogether. It was an absolutely exhausting activity: 


1) Read the word 汉子 and English (once in a while the pinyin if I needed to doublecheck)

2) Read the English sentence and work out how I'd translate it into Chinese

3) Read their sentence in 汉子,compare to mine

4) Read their sentence few more times (and maybe the English again)

5) Say their sentence without looking until I could do it correctly and fluently - sometimes aloud, sometimes silently

6) On to the next word or sentence, each word had 1-3 sentences

*There are also some exercises and mini-tests and supplementary info, which I also did/read.

**100% of this was review for me, none of the words or structures in the book were "new" to me, other than around 150 incidental new words(non hsk or hsk 6+) that I added to my srs





Sometimes it's hard to know if something is effective or not. I do feel like I was nailing a lot of sentence translations and if not, I was getting the most important parts right. It really forced me to think about the sentences structures and compare them to the English way of saying things. I feel like lately I'm spitting out better and and better sentences. Is that from this, or one of my other resources, or watching TV in Chinese, or my mother in law staying with us over the holiday, or a combination of it all? Who knows.


I'm going to take a break from Hsk for the time being and work on some other things that are Hsk 5-ish, but not actual Hsk materials.





Another Textbook banged out



Completed this book in record time(for me), about 5-6 weeks cover to cover. Felt like an accomplishment as there is zero English or pinyin, and I was able to follow the analysis of all the questions and answers pretty well. This was all review, as I've already taken the HSK 4, though I learned some new vocab that was used for question analysis. My rationale in doing this book was just more repetition or sentence structures and vocab usage. I did 5 complete listening tests, plus 2 hours of audio breaking down listening questions into categories like "place questions", "attitude questions" etc. Also read every tape-script. 3.5 hours of audio with this book. Completed the writing section as well with broke the questions down by grammar type and included 6 practice tests with answers/sample answers. Not the most exciting book in the world, but certainly some good review. 


Next up is HSKK Intermediate. This will again be review, as I've already taken and passed the HSKK Inermediate. However, I took the speaking test with almost no specific test preparation, so I think this will be even more useful for when I take the HSKK again along with HSK 5 test sometime in the future. Over 4 hours audio with this book, and I'm looking forward to hearing the sample speaking answers/photo describing. I'm going to try and knock this one out in the same amount of time, around 5-6 weeks. 



Along with this, I'm still working my way through Kubler (on unit 15 of 24).


Current study schedule:

1. Kubler Intermediate Spoken and Practice

2. HSK 1-4 Vocabulary Master

3. HSKK Intermediate



Chairman's Bao

《幸福的方向》 (kind of sappy soap opera, but language is easy enough to follow quite well.

Random Youtube videos

Various books




CME series Completed - finally!


A nice milestone tonight: Finally finished the 5 book series of Chinese Made Easier. I started Book 1 with a teacher 5 years ago, the book was recommended to me by the school as being good for someone living "in country" and wanting practical everyday language. The series definitely lived up to that reputation. There is lot's of crossover with HSK books, but CME has plenty of vocab that is very useful in everyday life, but outside the HSK material. The overall level feels similar, CME 5 feeling roughly like HSK 5, with a more practical bent. The book did an excellent job of slowly weening off pinyin and a particularly good with introducing Surnames and given names - new ones in every story, adding up to a lot over the course of 5 books.  There is no "小明“ or ”马克“. Lots of place names, jobs, household items, office, countryside, medical etc language. The author was kind enough to supply all of the pdfs and mp3s free of charge, as the book is out of print. I did book 1 to 4 straight through but took a year break while doing different resources before starting book 5. Altogether it's been about 5 years, all done with various tutors, so it feels like an accomplishment to finally have finished. Tonight, on the last unit of book 5, I couldn't help but noticing how much smoother I was than even Book 4, let alone Book 1. Thank you Martin Symonds for an excellent and fun Chinese learning series!



**I have added a few more observations in the comments section below...


Chinese Breeze done and dusted


Hit another milestone as I finished the last Chinese Breeze Graded reader tonight. Started the first one back when I had just started learning characters and remember really struggling to read it. Got the next level and probably let them sit on the shelf for a long time, read one, let them sit, read one, etc - reading is something I always have to really force myself to do. The last level (4) was kindly given to me by Chinese Forums member Becky82 and I breezed through them (pun intended) very quickly and easily. image.thumb.jpeg.8b9f3c6fc9be89b3bb5236c188d75c88.jpeg


21 books in all, 4 levels. The green ones I already gave to another learner after I finished them. I have to say that although the stories are a bit cheesy, I quite enjoyed reading most of them. There is no question that they are excellent practice for Hanzi, vocab, grammar, listening and even some culture. Also love the illustrations! I'm going to pass them on to Chinese Forums member TaxiAsh when he visits Beijing at the end of this month.


WechatIMG712.thumb.jpg.99952f8fcefaa033fa58a3ded500875e.jpgWechatIMG710.thumb.jpg.4bb07c7267fd8eb361ec24ea9722990f.jpg. T


Now on to some Intermediate Level Sinolingua Readers I bought...




100 LTL Flexi classes done


I just completed all of HSK 4 and 4+ Flexi classes on LTL. 100 classes total, I did them all in about 3.5 months, basically a class a day almost every day. It was somewhat review, as I have already taken and passed the HSK 4, but I wanted some extra speaking practice with limited new vocab. I'd say LTL runs a little harder than the HSK levels though, and I ended up adding at least 400 words to my SRS from those classes. I left a lot of words on the table for later as well. It was good speaking and listening practice with many different teachers, some I liked a lot and a few I didn't care for. Buying 100 classes comes out to exactly 8 usd per 1hr class, and you have six months to use the credits. Pretty hard to beat the price. The pdfs that accompany each lesson are excellent and do not really really follow the HSK format too closely. Lots of lessons on technology , "modern" and interesting topics. The "Free Speaking" classes need to be re-worked in my opinion though. Overall it was well worth it. Now, as I start working on HSK 5, I will go it on my own for a while and may do the LTL HSK 5/5+ flexi classes down the road.




Intermediate Spoken Chinese - Kubler


I've spent 10 days reviewing all the audio drills and role plays in the Basic book. Now time to start the Intermediate book, which feels Hsk 4-5 ish to me. Last night while I was doing the last of the Basic book's role plays (by myself, out loud) my wife came over and peered at the screen. She was very surprised to see that what I was speaking aloud was actually a role-play written in English. She thought I was reading a conversation written in Chinese from a book, and said that my translations sounded really good. She is not one to hand out empty compliments either. I also found that after all the drills, it is very easy to translate the English in the role plays and feels very natural. So I'm psyched to get going on the intermediate! 


My game plan is to do the book on my own, one 课文 a day, around 5 days a week. I am also doing other stuff simultaneously ie. graded readers, listening, classes, so I can't do more than one 课文 a day. Each 课文 will entail a number of steps:


1. Listen to the conversation

2. Listen and repeat the audio 生词 and sentence build ups

3. Read the notes and grammar explanations

4. Do the Substitution drill - book open

5. Do the substitution drill at least 2 more times- book closed 

6. Do the Transformation drills in the same manner (ie. at least 3 times)

7. Do the Role Plays out loud playing both characters, repeat until smooth, repeat again following day as a warm up to the next 课文

8. Do the Listening Comprehension exercises

9. Do the Translation exercises


From Intermediate Spoken Chinese:





(edit) Tues Sept. 5th:


After having gone through 2 课文 I've decided to split it each 课文 over 2 days , like this:


Day 1:

1. Listen to the conversation

2. Listen and repeat the audio 生词 and sentence build ups

3. Read the notes and grammar explanations

4. Do the Substitution drills - book open

5. Do the Transformation drills - book open


Day 2:

1. Do the Substitution drill - book closed (until mastered)

6. Do the Transformation drills - book closed (until mastered)

7. Do the Role Plays out loud playing both characters, repeat until smooth (repeat again following day as a warm up to the next 课文)

8. Do the Listening Comprehension exercises

9. Do the Translation exercises


Which means I'll be spending some time with it, and doing the audio drills at least 6 days a week.



(edit)  Sept. 13th:


Took longer than I expected to get the drills and role plays somewhat smooth. Just finished the first Unit of Intermediate (unit 11), which took me around 10 days.




Dusting off the Kubler


Thanks to this post about improving sentence structure https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/62960-improving-sentence-structure/page/2/#comment-492407

, I've decided to do the Kubler Intermediate Spoken Chinese book. I purchased the Kubler Basic Spoken and Intermediate Spoken at the same time a few years ago. I finished the Basic and Basic Practice years ago, which I loved:



but never got around to the Intermediate Kubler books because I wanted to move away from Pinyin. Well, now I've embarked on the Intermediate Spoken and Spoken Practice Book.



However, after getting through part of the first unit of Intermediate, I had this nagging feeling that I should re-do the audio drills of the Basic book. I decided to revisit them and go through them at a fast clip, just the audio drills and the translation role plays. I've already finished half of this basic review. I can't decide if I'm wasting time or it's a good check of the foundation. I'm hoping to get through it is quickly as possible, and get back to the Intermediate. I guess about an hour and a half a day for 5 more days should do it.




Saw this book(2009, 235pg) on Taobao, and picked it up. It was a definitely a bit below my level(moving on from Hsk4). According to my SRS, I added less than 50 new words, a few nice ones though. I don't think there was any grammar that was new to me, maybe some slight variations. I did every listening and exercise and still blew through it in two weeks, a unit a day(1 hr a day). I thought it was pretty useful as a review though and could be considered "very" comprehensible input.


I particularly liked the Speaking exercises in every unit, which included prompts to speak about a particular topic as well as role plays. I did all of them on my own, speaking aloud. Another good exercise in each unit requires you to summarize each dialog into a short paragraph, which I did orally(the correct summary is included in the answer key).



There is a volume 2 and I will go ahead and burn through that one as well.


30 day WRITING Challenge Week 3


30 Day writing Challenge: Write something related to my LTL Flexi class topic everyday for 30 days of Journaly.com


Day 15:



Day 16:



Day 17:



Day 18:



Day 19:



Day 20:



Day 21:



30 day WRITING Challenge Week 2


I found an excellent site called Journaly where you can post writing and native speakers will offer corrections, while you help them with your native language. I am challenging myself to write about a topic I studied recently in my online class. One a day for the next 30 days.


Day 8:



Day 9:



Day 10:



Day 11:



Day 12:



Day 13:



Day 14:



30 day WRITING Challenge on JOURNALY.com


I found an excellent site called Journaly where you can post writing and native speakers will offer corrections, while you help them with your native language. I am challenging myself to write about a topic I studied recently in my online class. One a day for the next 30 days.


Day 1:



Day 2:



Day 3:



Day 4:



Day 5:



Day 6:



Day 7:



你为什么做这个挑战? Why did you do this challenge?


30 day speaking challenge, Day 30,the last question. 




Well, that was a real pain in the ass to do that video every night. But it was worth doing.


1) It forced me to listen to my own voice every day for a month.

2) I got a lot of constructive feedback and corrections on my WeChat channel from native speakers.

3) It made me to review vocab or learn new words to answer the questions.


My next project will be a month long video diary, but I won't publish it, I will just send them to an italki teacher for correction.

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